It’s refreshing in an era of music bandwagon jumping that Sade has managed to glide through the last two decades seemingly untouched by anything resembling change. Their (and they are a band) sound has become synonymous with ’80s sophistication and yet it’s also strangely unique to them and them alone, elevated above most smooth R&B by Sade Adu’s sumptuous vocals.
Given this context, it’s not surprising that Soldier Of Love – only their sixth album in 25 years – doesn’t mess with the formula too much. The excellent title track and first single is the only real curve ball, featuring a startlingly insistent drum pattern. Elsewhere, Babyfather is a dubby, near-reggae concoction that features some neat vocal interplay and shows what can happen when the band explore different horizons.
But if you’re looking for stark experimentation then Sade aren’t the band for you. With most acts this kind of militant denial of evolution would seem counter-productive. Yet somehow this hermetically sealed way of working suits them. Tracks like the gorgeous Morning Bird and the swirling In Another Time are as comforting as slipping on an old jumper.
As with all of their records, there’s an obvious sense of hiding their light under a bushel. These are songs that can sashay straight past you if you’re not careful, but producer Stuart Matthewman (whose work with Maxwell sounds equally poured over) slips in subtle moments such as the twinkling percussion on Morning Bird and the slow-burn backing on opener The Moon And The Sky. This unfussy backdrop allows Adu’s voice to shine; to cloak it in anything more isn’t really an option.
Whilst it’s difficult to work up a sweat about Soldier Of Love – and there are stretches where the album fades into obscurity, the epitome of background music – it’s a beautifully constructed album from an enduring band unafraid to mess with a sound that has influenced many. It’s best to remember, however, that if you are disappointed with this then the next one isn’t due for another 10 years.