Album: Sade, Soldier of Love (Sony)

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The Independent Culture

Sade (the band) now re-convenes only every decade or so to top up the world's dwindling fund of bubble-bath boudoir soul.

The formula worked a treat on 2000's Lovers Rock, but Soldier Of Love suggests the wheels are coming off the wagon. Sade (the singer), of course, has one of those voices that could render recital of the phone-book arousing – which is just as well, given the vapidity of some lyrics here. It's not so much a case of the usual mooning and juning, as of striving too hard to avoid such clichés, only to end up with locutions as unprepossessing as the erotic geography of "I'm at the borderline of my faith, I'm at the hinterland of my devotion". No such striving is evident in either the vocals or the music, naturally: poise has always been Sade's byword, but this time the understated restraint has started to sound too mechanical, the musical equivalent of a sex toy. More problematically, Sade Adu's calm, measured delivery simply can't convey the more traumatic disruptions, which narrows the emotional range. Fortunately, that range encompasses a few saving graces: the country-soul warmth of "Be That Easy", the ruminative Astral Weeks tone and texture of "The Safest Place", and best of all the playfully reassuring featherlight reggae of "Babyfather", in which an anxious child learns that "your daddy's love comes with a lifetime guarantee".

Download this Babyfather; Be That Easy; The Safest Place