Tag Archives: Sade

88 On The Longplay: ‘Stronger Than Pride’ by Sade

Sade’s first two albums Diamond Life and Promise were both enormous successes. Their respective hits being all over the place-that former album even ending up represented on a breakfast cereal premium sticker I had growing up. It was hard to believe that the band themselves-including the regal beauty of their lead singer Sade Adu herself, were very much unlike most hit musicians of their time period. They were straight out of the same UK jazz/funk scene that had spawned Loose Ends, Incognito, Level 42 and Spandau Ballet.

Despite succeeding on a level that perhaps exceeded the best that any of their contemporaries did, Sade always kept themselves just a little bit behind their own public face. Which was almost totally related to their music. And their music videos with a strong cinematic scope and stylish live performances. They had always possessed a very distinctive quality about their music-almost to the point where they deserved a genre all their own. When this third album, and final of their first decade, arrived in 1988 I have vivid memories of Sade albums somehow being an event.

Over the years I’ve actually had to do much growing into this album-somewhat like a pair of shoes that were just a tad too big for me. “Love Is Stronger Than Pride” itself is nothing like any Sade song I’d ever heard up to that point. There is a wide, empty void in the middle of the songs rhythm-extremely subtle percussion with only a stronger little heartbeat on the choruses. With its atmospheric,ethereal keyboards and sustaining melody it very much encompasses the feeling of a humid, sensuous encounter. Maybe even a mildly distant one at that.

Of course the rhythm is entirely absent from “I Never Thought I’d See The Day”,which flows right along with its moody melody as far as it can take it. “Paradise”,”Nothing Can Come Between Us”,”Keep Looking” and the closing instrumental “Siempre Hay Esperanza” all embody this grooving, heavily stripped down funk sound that has since become most strongly associated with Sade. They are filled with heavy percussion and some of the fattest and locked down bass lines Paul S. Denman has ever thrown down. And he’s thrown down many.

“Turn My Back On You” is a particular favorite of mine-built on a strong,subtle variation of the James Brown-like bass/guitar interaction following each vocal and instrumental chorus. “Haunt Me” is a pretty Flamenco flavored Spanish guitar ballad while “Clean Heart” takes a jazzier pop mid tempo ballad cue-a bit like a more stripped bare variation of some of the music on their debut. When I first heard this album? I didn’t really understand it. Though relatively intelligent by the age of 8, this album contains more adult oriented outlooks on romance. And melodies that were somewhat harder to hum.

During my earliest years of adulthood, I rediscovered this album By that time of course having absorbed a lot of Prince, Crusaders, Miles Davis and an entire myriad of jazz/Afro/Funk hybrids. So one day I found this album on CD,with my father having had the cassette for years and listened to it-as some point near or around the summer of 2003. All of a sudden this album leaped out at me in a way that it never had before. While present this album doesn’t focus in on the horns and piano as much as the first two Sade albums.

The entire album is very much oriented around a very spare type of funk. It was a groove which emphasized Sade’s singing as well as bringing the bass/guitar accents more out front. What I didn’t realize at the time was this Sade were laying the groundwork for all the music they’ve since created on this particular. And for the most part? That hasn’t been a bad thing at all. So in the context of where this took Sade rather than in comparison to what came before,this album is a resounding,romantic and hard grooving success.

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Anatomy of The Groove: “Turn My Back On You” by Sade

Sade are a band who’ve maintained a very distinctive musical sound. Always stripped down and always seductive,this London based group had an instrumental styling that made them seem like a chamber jazz group playing funky soul music. As Henrique pointed out to me at one point,there sound actually paved the way for 21st century neo soul in that regard. Even so,that special musical quality they continue to have just gives them a “Sade Sound” as it were. Mostly deriving from the Latin pop band Pride,they named the band after its lead singer Helen Folasade (Sade for short)  Adu after she joined in 1982.

Somehow,Sade were always a very big deal in my family. Even one breakfast cereal prize in the mid 80’s was a magnet depicting the cover art for their 1984 debut album Diamond Life. And songs such as “Smooth Operator”,”Hang On To Your Love”,”Sweetest Taboo”, “Never As Good As The First Time” and “Paradise” were a big part of how my view of music is shaped. The latter of those songs came from their 1988 release Stronger Than Pride. Over the years,its become one of my favorite Sade albums. And a favorite song from it for me has turned out to be “Turn My Back On You”.

A snare heavy Afro Brazilian drum shuffle,accented by percussive clavs with a deep 8 note bass line provides the intro to the song over two bars. By the third and fourth bars,a deep jazzy guitar plays a 14 note riff before a higher pitched rhythm guitar accentuates it with seven notes in a slightly higher chord. This represents the basic chorus of the song. On the refrains,Sade’s breezy vocalese is accompanied by a minor chorded keyboard part with the lower jazz guitar does some more improvisational solos underneath it. After several turns of this pattern,an extended version of the chorus fades out the song itself.

Most of Sade’s songs featured a conventional pop song structure with a hook filled chorus (usually with Sade’s own backup harmonies) and appropriate refrains. Many of them were very much funk and soul based with their jazzy quiet storm atmosphere. “Turn My Back On You” is one of the few Sade songs that takes their very distinctive sound to the musical land of heavy naked funk. The Afro Latin flavor is still a major part of the rhythm. But the groove stays on the one very completely. And doesn’t give way to any radio friendly pop structure. On the funky side of things,this might be Sade at their grooving best.

 

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Andre’s Amazon Archive for Valentines Day 2015: ‘Love Letter’ by R.Kelly

Love Letter

Hard to believe this guy is already in the middle of his second decade in music! In his some eighteen years of recording history he’s taken us down some very interesting and often innovative roads and,unfortunately some controversial ones as well. When it seemed that he’d gotton lost on his musical path on the releases following his excellent Chocolate Factory and Happy People / U Saved Me,both albums that were able to effectively blend some of the modern musical stylings with the melodic and rhythm textures of 70’s and early 80’s funk/R&B/disco he released this album that shows in every respect that the muse that inspired the creation of those two excellent albums is not only very much still there but still has enough room within it to grow and develop.

From the cover art to the music this album actually is a fitting tribute not only to “retro” styles of R&B,funk and soul but has the advantage of maintaining that flavor throughout,without the addition of hip-hop guest stars and any variation of that “”WHOA HO WHOA HO” chant over a digitized beat” style of contemporary R&B that has long since become overused even by Kelly himself. The title song,”Lost In Your Love”,”Just Can’t Get Enough”,”Radio Message” and the Chrisette Michelle duet of “Love Is” all are heavily indebted to that sound that bought the “stepping” revival into play during 2003/2004 and represents a style that works extremely well for R.Kelly’s style of singing,writing and lyricism-which here represents a turn toward elaborately chorded melodies and passionately sung lyrics that showcase a great deal of maturity and outward realization about love and life that the typically lustfull R.Kelly often skims over and/or ignores. The only time that (sort of) shows up is on the lusty “Taxi Cab” which is also the closest thing this album gets to contemporary.

Another highlite of this album is the light jazz-funk flavor of “Number One Hit”,which finds Kelly in his classic style comparing a lady to music by Michael Jackson and Sade and (even though not credit) the harmony vocals of the hook sound a lot like Sade in fact. The latter half of the album showcases Kelly putting a spin on the 60’s Motown/Vee-Jay style of soul balladeering (with the JB influenced mixed in) on “When A Woman Loves”,”Music Must Be A Lady” and “How Do I Tell Her”. Even though this style of R&B would’ve seemed retro even in the 70’s they showcase a very decent and human outlook on romance that speaks to Kelly’s more mature state of mind at this time and aware as I am of the duel sides of his romantic/sexual outlook I can only hope that this is more an outlook on the future than yet another sidebar. The album ends with his own version of “You Are Not Alone”,a song so linked with Michael Jackson that people tend to forget R.Kelly wrote it.

So all and all,considering the high level of musical and production quality that went into it this album might be looked at as a runner up for R.Kelly’s most impressive overall album. Now fans of his more sexually aggressive hip-hop/R&B style of music will not find exactly what they’re looking for on this album. But this album actually eludes lyrically to the fact that what constitutes for radio airplay has grown steadily more shallow over the years which,of course leads to a certain amount of self commentary in this case. One can only hope that the twin sides of R.Kelly’s nature have reconciled themselves to the point where him producing music of this quality can become the rule as opposed to the exception but we will just have to see what happens when his next album comes out.

Originally Posted On January 19th,2011

Link to original review here*

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Filed under Funk, Jazz-Funk, Michael Jackson, R.Kelly, Sade