After almost a decade of absence - 25 years into her career - the elegant soul /jazz siren is back with ˝Soldier Of Love˝.
The new album sees Sade reunited with the same musicians (Stuart Matthewman, Paul Denman and Andrew Hale) who performed on her 1984 debut ˝Diamond Life˝, which became the classic yuppie dinner party soundtrack. It catapulted her to the forefront of the 1980s soul jazz scene and spawned the singles ˝Smooth Operator˝ and ˝Your Love is King˝.
But despite the success of ˝Diamond Life˝ and her follow-up albums - selling a total of 50m records worldwide - Sade has shunned the limelight and has lived in ˝self-exile˝, including stints in Spain and Jamaica.
Now 50, she remains one of the most iconic female vocalists alive - partly because of the stylish image she fostered in the fashion-conscious Eighties.
The title song is the least Sade-like track here - with its metallic, shiny, marching band-style drum beats not far from trip hop/Tricky territory, it’s the toughest-sounding thing she’s ever done, though the lyric posits the idea of the relationship as battleground.
The track is a bit of a revelation - a rich, atmospheric pop symphony with, as the title suggests, a military theme. What’s impressive is how fully-realised that theme is, from the marching band percussion to the cadence call-style hooks, the guitar riffs that ape the sound of gunfire to Sade crooning lines like ˝I’ve lost the use of my heart˝.
The remaining nine tracks can’t quite match it for shock value.
They glide by elegantly, registering subtle variations.
My highligts: ˝Baby Father˝, a gentle reggae-tinged confection apparently extolling the constancy of paternal love. It’s in marked contrast to the wounded bittersweetness and the overall melancholy of the remainder of the tracklist: the feel-good beat will have you shaking your booty.
It all gets a little too cosy on ˝In Another Time˝, a waltz-time slog where a saxophone and string quartet provide an orchestral extravaganza. Pure magic.
˝Be That Easy˝: Sade’s soaring hypnotic voice leaves listeners in a zombie-like trance.
As usual, the album is immaculately produced, and Sade oozes class and sophistication, although seemingly offering variations on a single theme. Recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio, this album ˝illustrates the dilemma of the long-term artist: whether to alienate fans with a radical departure or risk the charge of repetition˝. - Paul Lester
All in all, it’s a pleasant and sonic balm, which will make her fans immensely happy, even if there’s nothing quite adventurous, rare, powerful and intelligently written as the title track may imply and suggest.