Tony! Toni! Tone!
Tony Toni Tone, formed in 1987 in Oakland, California, enjoyed a number of chart hits and good album sales for a considerable part of the nineties. The line up was a family affair with brothers Dwayne and Raphael Wiggins teaming up with Cousin Timothy Christian.
From a whirlwind start in 1988 they enjoyed an R & B number one hit with "Little Walter," a song that generated some criticism from gospel audiences for its use of the melody from "Wade in the Water." When they followed this up in 1990 with the smash album The Revival they became mega-stars due in part to the hit singles, the fresh ballad "It Never Rains (In Southern California)" and the club dance tune Feels Good' that were lifted from that album.
When Sons of Soul followed in 1993 it contained the epic track "Anniversary" written by Raphael Wiggins and the bands keyboard player Carl Wheeler. It featured Gerald Albright on sax and weighed in at a massive nine minutes and twenty four seconds. Shades of Isaac Hayes and no mistake! This original length version can also be found on the 2000 compilation â€˜Heart of Soul'although truncated forms abound. Their next CD, House of Music, was released in 1996.
The band eventually sold over six million albums, but by 1996 Raphael was long gone to pursue a solo career under the name of Raphael Saadiq.
Raphael Wiggins was born in Oakland, CA, in the spring of 1966 and was playing music by the age of six. He played bass at church and school and at various local events. His big break came quickly and on leaving high school he got the chance to join Prince and Sheila E on their 1984 â€˜Parade' world tour. Not surprisingly this experience inspired him and not too long afterwards he formed Tony Toni Tone.
With his metamorphosis into Raphael Saadiq success came just as quickly. Two singles for movie soundtracks, the 1995 â€˜Ask of You' from Higher Learning and 'Me & You' from Boyz in the Hood got him off to a flyer. For his next project he got together with En Vogue's Dawn Robinson and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest to form the R & B â€˜super group' Lucy Pearl. Effectively it was a one album event although they returned in 2001 with a live selection. Saadiq continues to use his considerable talents to write and produce for other artists. His hand is on recent work by Macy Gray, TLC, the Roots and D'Angelo, for whom his 2000 song â€˜Untitled' won a Grammy.
Despite his super stardom it was not until 2002 that he got around to releasing his debut solo CD Instant Vintage. With an old school feel that is described by Saadiq as a mix of samples, soul, gospel, and R&B, and dubbed by him as "gospeldelic", it was hailed as an instant classic and earned him five Grammy nominations. A personal highlight of the album is the appearance by Angie Stone on the dance floor-worthy track, 'Doing What I Can'.
His follow up, the slightly funkier Ray Ray, released in 2004 on his own Pookie Entertainment label, serves as something of a reunion. Not only does he have Dawn Robinson there on vocals, Dwayne Wiggins is also featured, creating, in effect, a mini Tony Toni Tone get together.
Both Tony Toni Tone and the solo performing Raphael Saadiq have proved themselves durable guardians of the soul and funk tradition who, by appealing to urban contemporary audiences, have succeeded in keeping the faith alive.