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Sade's 'Soldier of Love' has breathtaking moments

In this CD cover image released by Sony

In this CD cover image released by Sony Music, Sade's "Soldier of Love," to be released Feb. 8, 2010, is shown. (AP Photo/Sony Music) Credit: AP Photo/

The brilliant title track of Sade's "Soldier of Love" (Epic) was practically a seismic shift in the band's 25-year history, with its hip-hop elements and almost timely production.

Could the notoriously unflinching Sade somehow have been swayed by more current musical concerns? Was it possible that Sade's new album - her first since 2000's "Lovers Rock" - somehow sounds like something other than a Sade album? Of course not.

At her worst, Sade makes first-rate cocktail party music, stylish aural wallpaper that conjures a certain mood, more than a specific time or place. At her best, though, Sade can be breathtaking, wrapping pain in a steely resolve and a nonchalant exterior, communicating complexities while stripping away extraneous musical layers and emotions.

"Soldier of Love" has a few more breathtaking moments to add to the collection, after the stunning title track, which finds the band at its most defiant. "Babyfather" takes practically the opposite tack, a breathy bit of island-kissed sweetness that also explains to a child how her parents met and split. "Skin" feels even simpler, with its laid-back vibe and a groove that would suit Maxwell.

Sade, the band - which includes Stuart Matthewman, Andrew Hale and Paul Denman as well as singer Helen Folasade Adu, aka Sade - does one thing exceedingly well and sticks to it. It's no accident its sound helped launch the '80s British R&B revival and the American neo-soul movement of the '90s. No telling what "Soldier of Love" could spark for the new decade.

SADE

"Soldier of Love"

 

THE GRADE B+

 

BOTTOM LINE Sleek, timeless jazz-tinged pop

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