All it takes is one Raphael Saadiq song to make you recognize the depths to which a woman can take a man, if she's the right woman and the man's not careful. Just one Raphael Saadiq song can make you recognize how completely and how possessively that man can be had, and for a fraction of the effort that it should reasonably take. It's not hard to fall onto that slippery slope, where there's nothing to hang on to that will slow down the drop, that will keep that man from smashing into a million splintered pieces when he finally hits the ground. It's easy to succumb to the wiles of these long-legged, partially dressed, good-smelling, smiley and styled women, walking around all puckered and pouty, like loaded weapons, ready to strike whenever the moment's hot enough to make it advantageous. Saadiq, one of the great modern masters of soul and R&B assumes more of the bluesman and southern guitar man's feel on his latest album, a barnburner named "Stone Rollin'" that makes us believe that there was a devil at those crossroads that Robert Johnson wound up late that one night, decades and decades ago and we've half a mind to believe that the surest way that the devil would have been able to assume possession of that man's soul, in exchange for those magical guitar-playing abilities, would be if he arrived looking like a beautiful woman, with long brown hair and a skirt that didn't stretch down far enough. Johnson would have handed over a thousand souls had he been stuck out there in the dark with one of those creatures. The devil? Maybe not so much. We feel as if there are some half-truths or holes in the devil's story. One thing that we feel confident in believing - if we're to use Saadiq as our guide - is that a woman wouldn't think twice about making such a deal with a man. She'd take that soul in a second and she'd clumsily keep it, forget about it, as if it were a used tissue. He admits to dulling out the female issues with plenty of grass and beer, for there's only so much that can be taken, but them again, the choice is always made to get close enough to these mysterious and conniving women to see what they smell like, taste like and what they're up to. It's through all fault of his own that he's testing the waters, seeing what the worst is that can happen to him and, over so many years, there's no doubt that the threat exists, but it doesn't usually kill. It just hits like a ton of bricks, knocks out some teeth, grabs your wallet and then splits with you on the ground, showing off a few shiners. These women will leave you dizzy, keeping you through all the mood swings and all of the chatter until you just can't get away and then just look at yourself. You're buying them expensive gifts that you can't afford, feeling like a captive - a receptive prisoner to this woman who holds all of the power over you. Saadiq is resilient in his quest to provide us with as many scenarios as possible of these temptations of unavoidable ladies - those who were going to find you or you them at some point in your life. He sings about the emotional pick-pocketing with a huge smile on his face, as if recalling those memories of the actions and those before the fateful ones with a degree of fondness that would primarily be reserved for the equivalent of a piece of divine comedy, as if there was never going to be a way of avoiding this one. You see it coming and you open your arms for her, absorbing the full blow. Saadiq always makes us feel like it was love - at least for a good while it was.
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