Raphael Saadiq has never been shy about his love of old-school soul.
As a producer, he's given the classic treatment to albums by Joss Stone, John Legend and Anthony Hamilton. For his latest project – his third solo album, “The Way I See It” – the former Tony! Toni! Tone! member went even deeper, channeling doo-wop, beach music and Motown for a true slice of '60s and '70s soul.
“It was a normal pathway for me. I always loved that sound,” he said in a phone interview last week. “It's so detailed people wonder why I'm doing this record. It was more of a challenge to me, to mess around and get the sound (of that era) correct. It's the most popular black music ever made in the history of music – the most commercially popular.”
Saadiq, who plays Amos' Southend on Friday, was inspired after visits to the Bahamas and Costa Rica during which he encountered people listening to those oldies.
“Everywhere I went, I would hear this music. No matter what color people were, they loved that era of music, whether it was Motown or the Beach Boys' ‘Pet Sounds,'” said Saadiq, who was born in 1966 at the height of the soul era. “I was really inspired to know it had that longevity. I wanted to do something that would resonate for a long time, not be out for a month and everyone forget about it.”
Released in September, his work on “The Way I See It” is drawing comparisons to the Temptations, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. Saadiq approached the album much like he does other projects, using his 1962 bass guitar and other vintage instruments that he regularly plays (although he did buy an old drum set specifically for the record).
Interestingly, the world's current crises resemble those that the artists who inspired Saadiq – the Temptations, the Four Tops, Al Green and Stevie Wonder (who makes a guest appearance) – were facing when they recorded their classics. Saadiq's song “Keep Marchin',” for instance, carries a positive, make-a-change vibe that sounds like it could have been made during the civil rights movement.
“I've always paid attention to the state of the world. … If you read and walk around and hear things that are going on, you naturally go from there,” he said. “It makes you want to do something that's not too serious, but has some substance to it.”
And “The Way I See It” does just that, balancing feel-good music with social consciousness.
“I don't know what people need, but as a musician, that's what I need,” he said of creating music with a message. “Friends have called and said it's a great time for this record. What I'm hearing from people is that they do need to hear something like this.”