SADE (HELEN FOLASADE ADU) — Stronger Than Pride (review)

SADE (HELEN FOLASADE ADU) — Stronger Than Pride album cover Album · 1988 · RnB Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
After putting out two excellent albums that made her and her top-notch band international stars in 1984-85 Sade took almost three years to write, arrange and record their third disc, “Stronger than Pride.” While not identical to the pair that preceded it, its similarities didn’t disappoint the millions of fans who’d anxiously awaited the next installment of their career. Though one can tell that their commitment to their music is first and foremost, their devotion to their loyal following is just as impressive. This group’s sound is so unique and so individualized that to this day no one has been able to competently imitate or even draw fair comparisons to their admirable way of doing things and that’s what legacies are made of.

The album opens with the title cut. A subtle drum pattern establishes the pulsating hue that gives an inviting personality to the track’s underpinnings yet it’s the melodic mien that makes the song transcend the norm. As only a handful of female vocalists can do, Ms. Adu controls and manipulates the dynamics of the tune via her amazing phrasing and undeniable presence. “Paradise” is next and strong rock and R&B elements regally distinguish the number. This band never tries to get overly clever or cute in their approach to their craft, they simply allow Sade to operate her voice in ways that defy convention. The result is musical art that is timeless. “Nothing Can Come Between Us” follows and here the funk flavoring is so understated that it seems clandestine in nature as it gently cradles Adu’s confident delivery effortlessly. “Haunt Me” offers a fine change of pace in that the emphasis shifts to Andrew Hale’s acoustic piano and Stewart Matthewman’s Spanish guitar work that so beautifully support Sade’s breathy singing. The piano solo is delicate and thoughtful, the light orchestration never smothers the song and Stewart’s saxophone ride is suitably dreamy. “Turn My Back on You” tosses in yet another change-up pitch to the plate with its rhythm scheme being based on a novel, stick-on-a-paper-bag snare effect that provides a true departure from their routine motif. This cut causes me to imagine how Sly Stone (in his peak, lucid years, that is) might’ve interpreted Adu’s charismatic technique and style.

“Keep Looking” possesses a funky bass line courtesy of Paul S. Denman that, along with the ever-steady but conservative drumming of Martin Ditcham, drives this tune relentlessly. Sade enchants with her cool voice, demonstrating how sexy is done right. The hypnotic atmosphere they concoct is their forte and no one does it better. “Clean Heart” is next, sporting a smooth, jazzy lilt. Adu, as usual, casts an unavoidable spell on the listener while subdued horns add a classy ambience to the proceedings. Perky, motivating congas set the pace for “Give it Up,” drenching the number in a powerful African aura that will have you dancing in your heart of hearts. “I Never Thought I’d See the Day” follows. Here Hale’s liquid Rhodes piano spreads out below Adu’s inimitable timbre and the song flows freely on its own accord. The track is quite ethereal, with no perceptible beat in evidence. That decision shows clearly their confidence and maturity because why add what’s not necessary? The closer is an entertaining but curious instrumental, “Siempre Hay Esperanza.” It’s an uncomplicated piece where the swaying groove reigns supreme and Matthewman’s saxophone flourishes are sensuous enough yet, taken as a whole, it smacks of filler material. Perhaps they just couldn’t get the vocal to work to their satisfaction (Ms. Adu is listed as one of the composers) or whatever, but it does give the record a strange “unfinished” feel as it comes to an end.

“Stronger Than Pride” topped out at a very respectable #7 on the US album charts, further solidifying Sade’s position as a major player in the confusing 80s music scene. Their refusal to bend to the current trends in the industry paid off once again and continued to set them apart from the madding crowd. If you want consistency and quality in your pop-tinted jazz you need look no further than any of the offerings of this exemplary ensemble of talented musicians.
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