Where, oh, where has soul music gone?
It’s barely audible on the radio, unless you’re a regular “Jammin’ Oldies” listener. A few songs, in the tradition of classic 1970s soul, pop up here and there on R&B stations, but more often than not they get lost between all the indistinguishable and in-your-face hip-hop and rap tracks.
To the rescue recently come the likes of Remy Shand, with his stirring “Take a Message,” Angie Stone and her “Back Stabbers”-sampled “Wish I Didn’t Miss You,” and Tony! Toni! Toné! veteran Raphael Saadiq, who’s making his solo mark with the single “Be Here.”
“This is something I grew up around,” said Saadiq, who packs plenty of self-described “gospeldelic” sounds into his debut Universal album, “Instant Vintage” (released June 11). “I dig soul music and all types of music, period. My album is definitely full of soul music, though, and I’m glad people enjoy it.”
People enjoy it so much, “Instant Vintage” debuted at No. 25 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart in the June 29 edition.
Saadiq knows more than a thing or two about soul music. The Oakland, Calif., native kept the soul spirit alive as the frontman of Tony! Toni! Toné! They scored several R&B hits that crossed over into mainstream pop in the late 1980s and early ’90s – such as “Feels Good,” “If I Had No Loot” and the sexy-cool “Anniversary.”
But don’t tell him soul music doesn’t exist anymore.
“I don’t get frustrated with soul music because I can always find it,” he said. “If somebody’s not making it, I can always go find it. It’s always in the stores. I can’t help it if nobody’s making it to sell, but it’s always there to buy.
“People get frustrated because there isn’t any new soul music, maybe, but I’m hoping they change their minds after hearing my album. I wanted a record that a lot of people could appreciate, a lot of different sounds, a variety of songs for different styles.”
He achieved that goal with “Instant Vintage,” which blends soul, R&B and hip-hop with funk, rock, gospel-influenced doo-wop and jazz. Saadiq wrote all the songs and co-produced it with Jake and the Phatman and Raymond Murray. He also performs a wide range of instruments, including bass, keyboards and tuba. Guests include Angie Stone (who sings background on “Doing What I Can” and a duet on “Excuse Me”), TLC’s T-Boz (“Different Times”), and Saadiq’s older brother, Randy Wiggins (“People”).
“My main focus is always starting, finishing and delivering,” said Saadiq, born Raphael Wiggins. “And in between, there are no perimeters. There’s a lot of expectations I expect from myself. I wanted to have a good time making the record and make a good one, one that you could take on the road and for people to appreciate. I don’t think about what the sound should be, because whatever’s in me is the sound that’s going to come out.”
Saadiq has been ripe for a solo career ever since Tony! Toni! Toné! split up in the mid-1990s, but it got sidetracked when he formed Lucy Pearl with ex-En Vogue member Dawn Robinson and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
“Honestly, we didn’t think Lucy Pearl would last past 30 days,” Saadiq said. “It was a bad deal from the get-go. It was my deal, really, but from the start, it was difficult. Dawn wanted to do her solo record. No one really had a problem with that; we understood that she was doing us a favor by doing the record with us when she really wanted to do a solo record in the first place. Knowing that, we thought there was a possibility for a second record, but then egos got into it. After that, everybody thought it was me who made the record happen, instead of being smart and making it work. Sometimes people don’t think until it’s all over; I just feel bad for the fans who really got into Lucy Pearl.
“It wasn’t made to last. It was like the Traveling Wilburys. You put an album together and maybe you might do an album two or three years from now. But it got off to a great start, and people had different ways they wanted to go. And, I’ll tell you what, I have nothing but great things to say about Joi, who took Dawn’s place on the road.”
When Lucy Pearl disbanded, that’s when Saadiq knew it was time to look out for No. 1.
“We pulled the plug on Lucy Pearl and I grabbed the wire and started the lawn mower and got rollin’,” he said. “I needed to do a solo record and put the focus on myself. Before, I was always focusing on other people and everybody else’s needs. It was the best decision I ever made.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: ” ‘Bustin’ Out’ by Rick James. That’s the first one I went out and bought myself; I had records before, but they weren’t really mine, but I acted like they were mine.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Grand Central Station at the Oakland Coliseum. We were all from the same church district as Larry Graham and Sly Stone.”
THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “I worked at a car dealership for one day. This guy I played in a group with when I was younger, he used to detail cars at this car lot, but he was working as a salesperson, too. When I first got there, the first thing they asked me to do was to go get them some coffee, and I just wasn’t that kind of person. I said ‘Okay’ and walked out the door and never came back.”
ON THE WEB: www.raphaelsaadiq.com.