Late last year, Boyz II Men released a respectable Motown-remake album with a lousy title that only could've been worse if they'd added an exclamation point to it (Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA). This year, Raphael Saadiq sees that tribute and raises the game.
On The Way I See It, rather than merely rehashing actual classics, the crooner, songwriter, producer and bassist does some neat paraphrasing, offering his own slick approximations of the tender tunes that kept black America bopping and grooving through the '60s.
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In his earlier days fronting such vintage-friendly acts as Tony! Toni! Toné! and Lucy Pearl, Saadiq crafted a solid soul foundation, which he builds upon here via retro revisions better suited for finger-snapping than clapping. Such reminiscence is easy, thanks to jukebox-worthy cuts like "Big Easy" and "100-Yard Dash" ("My heart is pumping but still running in place"). Saadiq's juke joint is all horn stabs, tambourines, Temptations-inspired rhythms, doo-wop pathos and patient pining-after ballads like "Oh Girl," "Callin'" and "Never Give You Up," which sees Stevie Wonder dust off the ol' harmonica. And even while Saadiq pays homage to soul's golden era, his telltale tenor brings its own flavor.