Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be 50 fantastic first solo albums recorded by artists who departed—or simply took a temporary hiatus from—their respective groups, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
RAPHAEL SAADIQ | Instant Vintage
Selected by Patrick Corcoran
Having toured with Prince and Sheila E. at the age of 18, broken new ground with Tony! Toni! Toné!, refreshed an entire genre alongside the other pioneers of neo-soul and formed the triumphant triumvirate Lucy Pearl, it should have come as no surprise that Raphael Saadiq’s solo debut was as essential as it turned out to be. Almost every track here comes courtesy of the mellifluous groove that resonates from his bass strings—it is dynamic and smooth at every turn.
Beyond the bass there is a full palette of classic soul instruments—see-sawing strings cut swathes through “Doing What I Can.” The Rhodes piano on “Body Parts” is so laid back it’s almost lazy. And the fuzzed up Funkadelic guitar of “Tick Tock” knocks the edges off a straight love song.
But at the pinnacle stands “Still Ray”—one of that decade’s best soul tracks and that is in part due to the totally unexpected, utterly perplexing and brilliantly inventive use of a tuba at its heart. Once the delicate, feathered piano riff has stolen your heart, halfway through the song the tuba kicks the door down and 3 minutes and 3 seconds of pure joy finish far too soon.
The album title really does say it all.