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Sade, "Soldier of Love" (Epic) [3 STARS out of 4]

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The queen of "quiet storm" R&B from the mid-'80s through the early '90s, Nigerian-born, British-raised Helen Folasade Adu has been missing from the pop world for nearly a decade, since the release of her fifth album "Lovers Rock" in late 2000. Sade--which, like PJ Harvey, has always been the name of the singer as well as her band--seemed to have said everything she wanted to say, varying the formula of intimate, sultry vocals and exquisitely recorded but minimally arranged instrumentation very little on signature hits such as "Smooth Operator," "Hang on to Your Love" and "The Sweetest Taboo," but nonetheless selling 17 million albums in the U.S. alone.

A staple in the then-new CD players of Reagan-era yuppies, some detractors branded the former fashion designer with epitomizing that era's sleek, superficial and materialist values. But there always were many facets to the diamond life Sade sang about, with a bottomless reservoir of soul obvious to anyone who really listened to her work instead of treating it as mere background music. So it will come as no surprise to those fans that Sade is exploring a much darker vibe on her long-awaited new disc.

As the title might indicate, the theme of love as a battlefield dominates these 10 tracks, and Sade certainly has earned her stripes: During her Greta Garbo-like exile, she endured the dissolution of a marriage in Spain and another relationship in Jamaica that produced a daughter before finding true love with a former Royal Marine in the English countryside. But like Mary J. Blige, she has emerged as an optimist, though one whose eyes are wide open. "There's no way I can find peace and the silence won't cease," she coos in the lovely "Morning Bird," though over a martial beat in the title track, she adds, "I've lost the use of my heart, but I'm still alive."

While the song "Soldier of Love" has a harder, angrier edge than anything Sade has recorded in the past, and her voice has become a little deeper and huskier at age 51, most of the other tracks settle into that familiar late-night groove as the singer reunites with her longtime band mates, including key player Stuart "Cottonbelly" Matthewman, who spent some of his long vacation working with another neo-soul great, Maxwell. Sony is banking on this album to duplicate the sales success of Susan Boyle, believing it's tapped a new market for "adult" (some would say "senior citizen") sounds. But don't let that stop you from enjoying these sophisticated and soulful grooves: Sade may not be giving us anything radically new, but it's a pleasure just to have her back doing what she's always done so well.

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7 Comments

This lovely ladie came into my consciousness in the middle 80's while was studying in England. Smooth Operator was introduced to me by a roommate and I never stop listening to her. I had just arrived in London at the tender age of 22, alone, frighten, my first time in a another country and I was very blue and moody. But when I heard her voice, I immediately felt all there was to hoping, wishing and pressing on - scars and all. Having live a life of emotion (love) abused, I was dying to discover the realness of it and I did, thank God.
Soldier of Love is another ballad tha speaks to my heart. Several times, I have "lost the use of my heart, but I am still alive," speaks volumes of a lot of people in this world. Sade's music helps you to acknowledge that pain and move forward still banking on the possibility that love awaits you after you've discovered what it is not!
I know I will go through several copies before I not listening to this album. GREAT!

Sade has done it again. Soldier of Love is off the chart. I was driving, and the song came on. I wanted to stop the car in the middle of the road and start dancing. WOW!!! she is THE BOMB. I just love anything she sings.

My Sade is back in full force. I just love her so much. I was driving when I heard Soldier of Love, and at the golden age of 72 I wanted to stop the car in the middle of the road and start dancing. Her words are so true to me as I am going through so may mental battles in this stage of my life. She has given me inspiration to forge on and keep on keeping on. I can't wait to get the album. Just know that I better make copies, because I will be playing this song out. LOL

Not sure if music should be made by anyone over the age of 50, or listened to by anyone over the age of 40. Like the rolling stones, let the dinosaurs die. couldn't listen to a single song because I am ageist. Old people can't relate to young people and yuppies don't exist but if they do they've evolved into sport, flashing cash and mobile phones and personal satellites orbiting planet earth whilst sipping mai tais and enjoying the wonders of Kim Kardashian who in my opinion is the 10th wonder of the world whilst the big show Paul Wight is the 8th and producer 9th wonder is the 9th if you do not agree there must be something seriously wrong with you and your eyes but you did enjoy the sade see-dee cbell is a lunatic lunatic coming from lunar which is the moon where they have secret bases were they make this sort of music to brainwash sentimental 50 plus' where are all the bees where is the spread of pollen going to come from because i can tell you my LRG jacket will not be covered in pollen if we got to fill in for the bees and the colour of the wire will be blue but your eyes will see red and i will see the purple as the purple is the code to the whole.
PHANTOM.ZIP.CODES.


thanks great blog.

The racist can count on not changing color, but the "ageist" is sure to become the thing he hates (if he's lucky!).

The bad news is, this will happen much faster than he expects. The good news is, the part of him that gets the chills from a good song, that loves to sing and dance, the youthful part of him, will still be inside him, no matter how he looks on the outside.

My husband and I were talking about young female performers today, how they fling themselves around onstage without sensuality or grace, desperately trying to make an impression, and he reminded me how Sade can command a room by simply walking onstage. Anyone's voice may reach the ears; only the soul reaches the heart. Keep growing in Spirit, and sing on, Sade!

I'd like to thank Pitchfork's "David Drake" for giving this woman her due as well.

I count those days, I keep track of the calandar, I booked my vacation just for "SADE" the whole time she's in California, I'm dieting just because she's my insperation, -- already got my ticket , I still don't know what to wear but I know what I'm looking for - Not gay, but I love her so much - I've done everything in advance to be READY for her and that wonderful talented group of hers "SWEETBACK" I hope though that I get to meet them, I did say I hope, did I?

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on February 2, 2010 11:37 AM.

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