Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Song of the Day: Sade, "No Ordinary Love"

MAY 9, 2017

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This essay refers to the full 7:20 recording, not the edited version released as a vinyl and CD single. The difference is like a sundae with topping versus a sundae with no topping.

By the time of Sade’s fourth album, 1992’s Love Deluxe, the British foursome had matured from their roots as fashionable, occasionally icy pseudo-jazzers into a real live R&B act, drawing their beats and song settings from classic soul, island rhythms, funk, and jazz.

The foursome had also begun to write complex, impressionistic, and catchy songs. The best material on the third LP, Stronger Than Pride, had shown a way ahead, a separation from the pack. Four years elapsed between Pride and Love Deluxe, years in which the band made huge upgrades in song craft, arrangement, production, and performance, drawing on all sorts of unlikely inspirations.

Somehow, using the same technology that has badly dated many records of the early 1990s, Sade crafted a timeless one. Love Deluxe, which the band produced with Mike Pela, is gorgeous, artful funk, the kind of record that influences other records. And the songs were better, reaching out toward rock and pop while retaining their R&B roots. Ms. Adu’s lyrics leavened unpolished straight talk with nifty turns of phrase; the band got looser, funkier.

“No Ordinary Love” leads off the album, its unfolding melodies making room for lyrics soaked in tension, love, and grief. The sparse, funky rhythm track and spectral keyboards carry the song to orbit before several overdubbed heavy metal guitars drop by. Throbbing, stabbing, caressing, moaning, it’s simply a jam.

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