The uniquely British band is rightly celebrated on this fine collection.
Lloyd Bradley 2011
Sade is probably the most underappreciated of all British acts. Yes, they shifted lorry-loads of their first LP, Diamond Life, but it was too often palmed off as being artistically invalid: a musical manifestation of the mid-1980s. It was seen as highly polished, aspirational, London elite, ever so slightly empty; an accessory for those new-fangled, yuppified CD player thingies.
But the truth always was that Sade (the band is named after their charismatic singer) were a unique and uniquely British jazz/funk band, in their way as innovative as Soul II Soul, choosing to represent soul music as having a life beyond street credibility. Now, almost 30 years on since Sade’s breakthrough, a collection such as this is a timely reminder of just how important this music remains and just how much it progressed within its smooth soul sound.
Early tunes like Your Love Is King, The Sweetest Taboo, Never as Good as the First Time and Is It a Crime are quite rightly Quiet Storm classics, but showed an eagerness to please that sells them short. Smooth Operator stood out in this period, and here it’s the one that eschews the big sax solo for a smarter arrangement. Three LPs in, and 1988’s Stronger Than Pride had a real confidence about it, as the swaggering, sinewy Paradise and Nothing Can Come Between Us demonstrate. Kiss of Life and Feel No Pain from Love Deluxe (1992) have a subtle jazziness that is deftly taken to the dancefloor, understanding exactly how funk is supposed to work. Pearls and Cherish the Day bring an almost orchestral dimension to the cooler side of this. By the time we get to Immigrant and Flow from 2000’s Lovers Rock, there’s a sparseness that doesn’t need all the gaps filled in to know the music will make its point.
The group would wait 10 years to release their next studio album, Soldier of Love. Its title-track, Babyfather and The Moon and the Sky are bolder than previous numbers, but in a different way – they do exactly what they like, from messing about with a military sound to a flirty, reggae-ish feel, and with a cool Spanish tint to so much of it. Bonuses here are a shimmering remastering, four previously unreleased tracks including a drum-heavy remix of The Moon and the Sky featuring Jay-Z, a super-sharp Neptunes remix of By Your Side, and a DVD of 16 classic Sade videos.
It was a good thing the Americans worked out what Sade were all about, and encouraged them to develop as grown-up, sophisticated funkateers. The best thing about this set is it’ll allow anybody who didn’t quite get the band first time around to catch up.