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Sade's "Lovers Rock"

Mixes Intrigue with Sedation

Striking back onto the charts with her first complete collection in eight years, Nigerian-born Helen Folasade Adu (but you can call her "Sade") renews her sedative powers with "Lovers Rock." Being the first new complete collection from this Nubian beauty in eight

years, the effort brings a promise of depth and potential yet untapped and unventured by the widely acclaimed songstress.

Sade's press people claim the album is "deceptively simple," and after a precursory listen, that has to be the understatement of the year. Song after song at the beginning of the album flows from one tear-jerking, sleep-inducing ballad into another. At one point, I thought to myself "this is one long-ass song" only to discover that the CD had played through two consecutive tracks.

The first single is wisely chosen, as it is obviously the strong track on the album. Sade's breathless and exquisite vocals that gave her such critical acclaim in the mid-1980s ("Smooth Operator" and "Sweetest Taboo" come to mind) are most applaudable on this track, and fortunately, it's right at the beginning of the CD, so aimless forwarding won't be a problem in getting to the "good" stuff. 

Of the other 9 or 10 tracks on the CD, her voice is often lost amid the strange machinations of musical distortions. Guitar tracks that warble back and forth on pitch and annoyingly repetitive bass and percussion lines distract the listener from the real showcase: Sade's remarkable vocals.

Noteworthy additions on this album other than the lead-off single ("By Your Side") are the more vocally centered tracks "King of Sorrow" and "Slave Song." Though neither is comparable (in terms of "pop" value) to her success of the mid-80s with "Operator" or "Taboo," they each provide eclectic and differing viewpoints of Sade's musicality. "Sorrow" is yet another sad ballad, but her vocals move to the forefront and carry the listener into her heart where she beckons them to let her "cook you a soup that warms your soul."

"Slave Song" presents an entirely different image. Perhaps a statement on the oppression of her people, the song is a collage of vocals somewhat pasted together in melodic harmony. Most definitely a dark sounding tune, the mere fact that the vocals conjure up startling images with tremendous power and depth makes the song stand out. With lyrics like "he who knows me not takes me to the belly of darkness," it's hard not to sit up and take notice of the message, at the very least. Thankfully, the message is delivered with the sure calmness and levity embodied by Sade's amazing voice.

In an attempt to appease those who fell in love with Sade's popular sound of the mid-80s, "Every Word" captures the spirit and tenacity of her major hits "Operator" and "Taboo," if nothing else. It's a melodic "hum-along" tune that might otherwise go unnoticed. If "By Your Side" bombs quickly, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see "Every Word" step up to the plate as the second single (assuming there will be one).

Which brings me to the title 

Sade has come back to the charts after an eight year absence

track "Lovers Rock." For what it's worth, the song jumps out immediately if only because you can actually snap a finger to it without falling asleep between snaps. Sade's vocals are again the dominant force, but the performance lacks the clarity or the power of even the less groove-laden tracks. She certainly sounds pretty, but the song fails to make good on the promise of its title. "You are the lovers rock, the one I cling to" is a sentiment that certainly seems to deserve more spirit and conviction than Sade delivers here, and again the distorted orchestration and way too bouncy percussion distracts from her vocal quality.

The final track on the album "It's Only Love that Gets You Through" could be the most prophetic title on this roller-coaster of promise and talent. You'll really need to be a Sade fan (in other words, you'll need to "love" her) to make it through the first 10 tracks, and even if you are a Sade-lover, bring a large coffee along for the ride. You'll need it.

Review by Jim Jarrell

Click here to purchase any of Sade's CDs from Amazon.com

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