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Jes G. (jesgear) from DAVENPORT, IA
Reviewed on 11/13/2013...
"Is it a Crime"
"The Sweetest Taboo"
"Never as Good as the First Time"
Ms. Sade's blues
rmcrae | Houston, Texas | 03/29/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I used to say that my all time favorite Sade albums were Stronger Than Pride and Love Deluxe. Now I have to add Promise to that list. Released just 9 months after Diamond Life (unfortunately the gap between albums would spread further and further), Promise continues the cool cat jazz of their debut while exploring more Latin and exotic influences. All of these songs give off an air of intimacy. Like being transported to a smoky jazz club in the 30s.
The brassy torch song Is It A Crime finds Sade obsessing over an ex and asking herself "is it a crime?/That I still want you?/And I want you to want me too?" even though she knows he's not worth it. He has a new lover, but Sade reminds him that what she's got is better. "My love is wider/Wider than Victoria Lake/My lover is taller/Taller than the Empire State!" For the critics who blast Sade for having a "thin" voice, give this track a spin. The girl can belt when she wants to.
Now who doesn't know The Sweetest Taboo? It's easily one of the group's signature songs along with Smooth Operator and No Ordinary Love. The sound of rain (no, this isn't a Janet album) opens and closes this delicious island flavored jam about a man who makes Sade believe that "everyday is Christmas and every night is New Year's Eve." I'm not sure what the sweetest taboo actually is, but it sounds amazing.
Using the "love as a gun" theme, War of the Hearts is about being ready to let a lover go, but at the same time wanting to call a truce and mend fences. "I'm loaded/Don't know where to point this thing/It's a sin/How we hit where it hurts/Who's calling the shots/One of us must end this masquerade/To have or to have not/Let's heal the wounds that we've made." Sade's voice has just the right amount of emotion and the music is hypnotic. One of the best songs on the whole album. Sade comes to realize that the guy she fell in love with is not who she thought he was on the sultry You're Not the Man. "You're not the man/Who threw me a lifeline" and "You're not the one/Who said he'd never leave/Couldn't breathe and could not sleep/Without me!" Stuart's sax (which is legendary!) brings the feeling of disappointment home.
I love Sade's "people" songs. She's one of the few artists that can tell a spellbinding story with so few words. The haunting Jezebel is one of them. The title character is a beautiful girl who uses her looks and body to get her through life. In other words, she's a hooker. "Reach for the top she said/And the sun is gonna shine/Every winter was a war she said/I want to get what's mine!" Sade simply shares the story, but there's a hint of sympathy in her vocals. A light scat opens the cold as ice Mr. Wrong. A young woman has fallen in love with a man who "don't care where's he's been playin'/He doesn't hear a word she's sayin'", but she refuses to leave him. Sade implores her to "get out on your own, girl/Show him how/You can be strong, girl/Don't need him now/Run away, pretty girl!/Say so long/Mr. Wrong!" I love how it starts off quiet with just some bongos and a guitar, but then builds up to Stu's sax exploding with passion.
Speaking of the sax, it's able to take over the spotlight on the electric instrumental Punch Drunk. Sade's other bandmates Paul and Andrew join Stuart in bringing the house down with such elegance and class. Makes you realize they're just as amazing performing without Sade. Sweetback's the name and I highly recommend checking out both of their efforts, but I digress.
The album version of Never As Good As the First Time is a bit more dated than the single version and doesn't include backup singer Leroy Osbourne's vocals, but it's just as good. Sade reflects on the thrill of falling in love for the first time. "So we rely on the past/The special moments that last/Were they as tender as we dare to remember?" My favorite part is the middle where Sade sings "Natural as/the way we came to be/Second time/won't live up to the dream" with the funky keyboard jamming away along side her.
Who knew Ms. Adu was bilingual? Well she is on the Spanish inflected Fear. In both English and Spanish, she tells the story of a matador's wife who fears for her husband's sport might lead to his death. "Blue is the color of the red sky/Will he/Will he come home tonight?/Blue is the color that she feels inside/Matador I can't hide/My fear anymore!" The track is steeped in cinematic drama from the start and then reaches an intense climax, but Sade's voice never loses it's cool. The smoothly arranged Tar Baby is about a mixed race baby born to a mother who is at first ashamed of it ("Tar baby told the secret she conceived"), but then accepts that "Honey it's with me/That you belong" and celebrates it's existence. "A golden thread/Inside of a web/That I got caught in/Oh, it's a lover's revenge, but out of the pain/Come the best things."
Musically Maureen is upbeat and happy, but the lyrics and Sade's voice are tinged with sadness. Reminiscing about an old friend and the fun times they shared growing up, Sade remembers that "I'm never gonna see you again, Maureen." Maybe her friend passed away. I'm not sure. It's a sad track that makes you feel down, but puts a smile on your face at the same time.
Sade's next album Stronger Than Pride would limit Stuart's sax to only a few tracks and strip away the jazz cafe styling of the first two albums, but still drip with soul. They always do."