Soldier Of Love


Sony, 2010

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


Ah, some things just never change –  and when it comes to music, that’s not always a good thing, but for a select few it works a treat. AC/DC has been serving up the same brew for over thirty years now, and they continue to expand their ever-growing fan base with each new generation of diehards raised on their music. Another vastly different group that also adheres to the age-old saying of “if it ain’t broke…” is Sade. Twenty-five years after their stunning debut hit the big time and ten years since their previous LP, the band has just released their sixth album, which – according to Billboard – has sold a staggering half-million copies in the US alone in just its first week.

That should come as no surprise, given America’s love affair with the group and Sade’s insistence on leaving massive gaps of time between new material. This year found the faithful hungry for more, and with the current state of pop music being particularly woeful, some sophisticated, smooth, and emotive pop music was a welcome treat on radios the world over when lead single “Soldier Of Love” hit the airwaves. That song is really the only departure in style from the group in some time. Its military theme is driven by a drum march-styled beat that Ms. Adu weaves some of her most personal lyrics around beautifully.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The band – which consists of Sade Adu, Stuart Matthewman, Andrew Hale, and Paul Denham – is as slick as ever (if somewhat restricted by some emotionally heavy lyrics), and when joined by an array of session players adding everything from trumpets to ukuleles, they are given a slightly more worldly sound than on previous records. Case in point: the album’s title track.

Another very personal song from Adu here is “Babyfather,” written for her daughter about the child’s father. It’s backed by a laidback reggae-influenced groove that keeps the focus firmly on the lyrics: “For you he’s the best he can be / Oh, child, don’t you know / Your daddy don’t come with a lifetime guarantee.”

Another clear highlight is opener “The Moon And The Sky,” which is more of the same chill-out R&B the group dished up on their superb Lovers Rock disc. Adu is again digging deep for the lyrical content, which I’m guessing is also directed at Babyfather again. “Morning Bird” is a jazz-influenced, piano-led tune that closely resembles the band’s early sound, captured best by their stunning debut LP, Diamond Life. This one is a little more abstract, but a common theme emerges as it appears the beautiful Adu may be a single lass these days.

“Long Hard Road” and “Be That Easy” simmer along gently, and Adu’s vocal range (which she rarely explores) is on display for an all-too-brief few minutes. “Bring Me Home” picks up the pace again with a mid-tempo groove that harbours some very dark lyrics – uncharacteristic of Adu, but it does add a new dimension to her performance, which again is a pleasant surprise. “In Another Time” is the one song on the disc that I have yet to warm to; this album is awash with Adu’s emotional musings, and it’s probably just one downtrodden song too many.

Overall, this is a genuinely strong album from Sade that shows the band have matured wonderfully and maybe, just maybe, could have had a little more fun with things. My only real criticism of this record is that there are a few too many songs – as beautiful as they are – that sound too similar to each other. Soldier Of Love will no doubt be one of the year’s biggest sellers, but as for Sade, I’m convinced they have done and will do better than this.

Rating: B+

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