SADE: Soldier Of Love (Label: Sony)

SADE: Soldier Of Love

No doubt about it, Sade Adu is a true original. She might not have been blessed with an inspirational, Aretha-like, voice that could erect the hairs on the back of your neck but she’s achieved great mileage from her rather modest vocal talent (and I don’t mean that unkindly) and her elegant brand of smooth, jazz-inflected soul. Her 1984 debut, ‘Diamond Life,’ established a stylistic template that she’s religiously adhered to ever since, with little deviation or variation. Some might opine that her music is a case of style over substance but it’s served her well and she’s done what many pop and soul music aspirants have failed to do: patented her own distinctive sound as well as look. ‘Soldier Of Love’ is only her seventh studio album in 26 years – and her first in a decade – and offers no sonic surprises. But then Sade fans don’t want anything alarmingly new or different from their 51-year-old heroine – they want Sade to be, well, Sade. And Sade does Sade very well. As with most Sade albums, the mood is nocturnal, downbeat and tinged with melancholy. There’s nothing too uptempo that would stimulate an adrenalin rush in the listener. It’s all rather sedate – her detractors might use the word ‘comatose’ – and laid back and so unobtrusive as to be almost background music. But there’s something deliciously mellow and mesmeric about some of the grooves, like ‘Bring Me Home’ – one of the album’s livelier cuts, even though it bubbles along at a mid-tempo pace. ‘Babyfather’ has a Lovers Rock feel to it and there’s a piquant Latin-flavoured ambience to ‘The Moon & The Sky,’ one of the set’s best cuts. Listen out for a gorgeous ballad, ‘In Another Time,’ which is enhanced by violin and sax solos. Another stand out is the title cut (and album’s first single), which with its military-style snare drum patterns, chunky bass line and chanted chorus, is the nearest Sade gets to a contemporary dance floor number. Even so, it’s still unmistakeably Sade – thanks in no small part to her distinctive voice, which like, say, Donny Hathaway and Phyllis Hyman, seems imbued with an achingly poignant sense of sadness and loss. And talking of loss, it’s probable that after this album, Sade will disappear again into the ether for another decade. But guess what? She won’t be forgotten and when she does return – even if she’s in her sixties – I wouldn’t bet against her conquering the top of the album charts. If you like Sade, you won’t be disappointed by ‘Soldier Of Love.’
(CW) 3/5