Now when you buy as many albums as I do, you tend to end up listening to the music you’ve just bought, at the expense of some of the older music that lurks in the corners of my music collection. With fifteen-hundred or more albums to choose from, then finding just the right album can be both tricky and time consuming. You end up spending time looking through piles of albums at the expense of actually listening to music. What do I want to listen to I find myself asking? Do I want to listen to soul? If so, do I want to listen to deep soul, Southern Soul or the Philly Sound? Maybe I decide that I want to listen house, but will I listen to soulful, funky or tech house. Then again, what about US Garage, but will I listen to eighties of nineties US Garage? For a hobby, music isn’t quite as simple or restful hobby as it seems, especially when I’m in an indecisive mood. What’s the solution to this then? Well, what I either find myself doing is either putting my laptop of iPod on shuffle and see where the musical journey takes me. Sometimes this can take you on a really unusual musical journey, where you end up hearing tracks from albums that you’ve not heard for ages. Other times, you end up hearing those hidden gems that are just waiting to be discovered on a long forgotten album. However, sometimes, your musical journey isn’t as exciting, and becomes predictable, making me wonder just how random the journey is, after three tracks in quick succession by the same artists. The last time I decided to allow my iPod to take me on a magical musical mystery tour it truly was a magical experience. I was taken on a journey where I heard some of my favorites, with a few hidden gems and tracks I’d long forgotten about. One of the tracks I came across was Sade’s I Couldn’t Love You More, a quite beautiful track from her 1992 album Love Deluxe. After hearing this gorgeous track again, I decided to have a listen to Love Deluxe and reacquaint myself with one of Sade Adu’s finest albums. Having thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Love Deluxe, I thought I’d review an album that’s unbelievably, is now twenty years old.

Love Deluxe was the fourth album by Sade, and was released in November 1992, four years after 1988s Stronger Than Pride. The album was recorded in a variety of studios in England, Italy and Los Angeles. With sessions taking place at both Ridge Farm and The Hit Factory in England, Studio Condulmer in Venice and Image Recording in Los Angeles, while remastering took place at Sterling Sound in New York. In total, nine songs were recorded by Sade, with each of the nine track co-written by Sade Adu and a variety of songwriting partners. The album was arranged and co-produced by Sade and Mike Pela, who co-produced 1985s Promise and 1988s Stronger Than Pride. With Love Deluxe finished, the album was scheduled for release in October 1992 in the US and November 1992 in the UK. Would Love Deluxe match the success of its predecessor Stronger Than Pride which had reached number three in the UK, number seven in the US Billboard 200 and number three in the US R&B Charts?

On the release of Love Deluxe, it reached number ten in the UK and was certified gold. Over in the US, the album fared much better, reaching number three in the Billboard 200 and number two in the R&B Charts, resulting in Love Deluxe being certified platinum four times. This meant Love Deluxe had sold over four million copies and was even more successful than its predecessor which sold over three million copies. 

In total, four singles were released from Love Deluxe, with No Ordinary Love the first of these released in October 1992. The track reached number twenty-six in the UK, but when it was released in June 1993 reached number fourteen. No Ordinary Love won a Grammy Award for the best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals in 1994. Feel No Pain was released in November 1992, reaching number fifty-six in the UK, while it reached number fifty-nine in the US R&B Charts. Kiss of Life was the third single released from Love Deluxe, reaching number forty-four in the UK, number seventy-eight in the US Billboard 100 and number ten in the US R&B Charts. Cherish the Day was the final single, released in July 1993, reaching number fifty-three in the UK and number forty-five in the US R&B Charts. Overall, Love Deluxe had been a huge commercial success and critically acclaimed upon its release, but what does it sound like? That’s what I’ll now tell you.

Love Deluxe opens with the Grammy winning single No Ordinary Love, co-written by Sade Adu and Stuart Matthewman. Crisp drumbeats, keyboards and percussion combine with a moody bass line, before Sade’s beautiful, heartfelt vocal, tinged with sadness enters. Acoustic and later, electric guitars accompany Sade,with the electric guitars later growing in power when they soar, almost growling. With backing vocalists augmenting her vocal, this mid-tempo track sometimes has a slightly overpowering, dramatic sound, that works well with the lyrics about a relationship breaking up. The use of effects on the vocal and drums, namely delay and echo also works well. As the song progresses, Sade combines a emotion with sadness and regret on this beautiful epic track lasting nearly seven and a half minutes.

Like the previous track, Feel No Pain was released as a single. It has a quite different slightly Jamaican sound and influence, especially in the drum and bass sound that opens the track. After that, Sade’s vocal enters, with keyboards and guitars accompanying her. As Sade sings lead vocal, her vocal is multi-tracked so that she also sings backing vocals. Her vocal is impassioned, full of frustration at the poverty, unemployment and lack of a future for people in the ghettoes. As the arrangement is pared back to just the rhythm section and occasional bursts of guitar, Sade asks “why, why, why,” with a mixture of frustration and anger. Although quite different from the previous track, it’s hugely powerful and even more relevant today than twenty-years ago,

I Couldn’t Love You More is the track that made me write this review, and I loved the subtle, understated arrangement that accompanies Sade’s gorgeous vocal. It’s just simple chord changes on an electric piano, with handclaps and a gentle rhythm section that accompany Sade’s tender and beautiful vocal. The tempo is really slow, with synths bubbling under the arrangement, like the bass and drums. Nothing is allowed to overpower the vocal, and even the saxophone solo has subtlety. For just under four minutes, the arrangement meanders along with Sade’s sultry, almost sensuous vocal sitting above it.

Like A Tattoo has a similar understated sound to the previous track. This is a style of music perfectly suited to Sade. Her voice is really effective singing gently and tenderly. It makes you focus even more on her vocal. Again, the arrangement is slow and subtle, with an acoustic guitar, keyboards and even strings combining. Meanwhile the rhythm section play with a similar subtly to Sade’s vocal. The result is beautiful, yet sad song, that’s one of Love Deluxe’s highlights.

After two songs with a really subtle arrangement, Kiss of Life follows in a similar vein. The arrangement sees keyboards, rhythm section and subtle strings combine with occasional bursts of horns. Again, the chord changes are simple and effective, while there’s a tenderness in Sade’s vocal as she sings of finding someone she loves, whose made her life so much better. Later, as the arrangement meanders along, Sade’s breathy vocal drops out and is replaced by a sultry saxophone played by Stuart Matthewman. This is just the finishing touch to another quite beautiful track, with a lovely understated arrangement.

Cherish the Day was the final single released from Love Deluxe. It’s another track where the arrangement has a subtle sound, with the spacey drums most prominent in the arrangement, while strings sweep in and out and keyboards augment the sound. Like the strings, Sade’s thoughtful, emotive vocal drops in and out of the arrangement as she longs for the day when the man she loves will be with her. Later, brief bursts of guitar join the arrangement, and as are played with care and subtlety as if fearful of overpowering or spoiling this excellent arrangement. Similar to the arrangement, Sade’s vocal is of the highest quality, a combination of emotion and longing.

Sade Adu and Andrew Hale cowrote Pearls which opens with sad sounding strings, sweeping slowly in. They give way to a thoughtful vocal full of sadness as she sings of people starving and dying in Somalia under the scorching hot sun. A cello joins the arrangement, adding to the sadness of the arrangement, while Sade’s vocal is heartfelt and impassioned, frustrated and angry at the unfairness and poverty she’s singing about. When this simple and uncomplicated arrangement is combined with the sadness and frustration in Sade’s voice the result is a hugely powerful and moving track.

Bullet Proof Soul has a slow tempo, and an arrangement that sees keyboards, rhythm section and a wailing horn combining. This provides the perfect backdrop for Sade’s vocal, about how she loved a man and would’ve done anything for him, but ultimately, he let her down and left her. Here, the arrangement is slightly fuller, but is by now means overpowering. Similarly, Sade’s vocal is louder, due to the emotion, sadness and regret in her voice. Bursts of guitar, join the sad sounding horn, keyboards and slow spacious drums in accompanying Sade on this emotive and sad song. This song perfectly demonstrates not only the quality of musicians playing on Love Deluxe, but the standard of songwriting too. Both are of the highest quality making this a hugely satisfying and beautiful album.

The closing track on Love Deluxe is Mermaid, which opens with a sound that’s reminiscent of the beach, while a guitar plays slowly and thoughtfully. It’s joined by keyboards, percussion and saxophone. Drums join the percussion, as the saxophone sails above the arrangement. Gradually, this instrumental track reveals its beauty. Although, it’s an unusual way to end Love Deluxe, it has a lovely ambient quality, and is much more like a soundscape than the rest of the tracks. However, it’s a welcome surprise to close the album, including the various sound effects towards the end of the track.

Love Deluxe was the fourth album of Sade’s career and to me, is the best album of her near thirty year career. It matched the commercial success of 1984s Diamond Life, 1985s Promise and her previous album 1988s Stronger Than Pride. Not only that, but Love Deluxe was critically acclaimed upon its release. What I love about Love Deluxe is the subtle, understated sound of many of the tracks. The arrangements just sit in the background, neither threatening nor daring to overpower the beauty of Sade’s vocal, which is a combination of tenderness, thoughtfulness and emotion. She can bring a song to life, getting across the emotion portrayed in the lyrics. Whether this be love songs like Couldn’t Love You More and Kiss of Life, or the hugely powerful and moving Pearls, Sade manages this with aplomb. Many of the songs benefit from lovely, understated arrangements played by a band full of really talented musicians, who also cowrote the songs on Love Deluxe. Each of the nine tracks on the album are flawless, there’s neither a song that you’d call filler, nor a track that you’re tempted to skip past. This makes Love Deluxe something of a rarity, as usually, there’s an average track on even the best albums. Another thing I like about Love Deluxe is its timeless sound. Even twenty years after its release, the album has a contemporary sound and the lyrics are just as relevant in 2012, as in 1992. It hard to believe that twenty years have passd since I first heard Love Deluxe, and in that period, Sade has only released two further albums, Lovers Rock in 2000 and Soldier of Love in 2010. However, given the quality of both albums, i’m sure her next album will be worth the wait, especially if it’s anywhere near as good as the beautiful and quite brilliant Love Deluxe. Standout Tracks: No Ordinary Love, Couldn’t Love You More, Like A Tattoo  and Kiss of Life.


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