Sade it should not be forgotten - and their eponymous singer has always insisted so - are a band whose singer Helen Folasade Adu happened to abbreviate her name about 30 years ago to the one-word iconogram Sade. Anyway, the lady herself would graciously argue that her massive success (over 50 million records sold) would not have come had she not been accompanied by the three gifted professionals - and indeed close friends of hers - who are Stuart Matthewman, Andrew Hale and Paul Denman.
These lads have stuck with her since the early 80s core of three in an expandable band which, with the air of lots of careful, and unshowy money at its disposal, drafts in guest members for the tours, making for an expensive-sounding ensemble indeed.
On this updated Greatest Hits collection, the variegated richness of the Sade back catalogue is gathered on two discs - tracks from her last two studio albums are represented generously on the second CD. So, that disc is for you, if you like the decidedly rootsier, more mainstream (dare I say, less complicated) musicianship that characterised her last two studio records. And many it seems do, indeed, like the mellow, simpler arrangements Sade now favours.
Nevertheless, I do not understand how 'Somebody Already Broke My Heart' from her penultimate album 'Lover's Rock ' (2000) - surely one of her very best songs ever - could be omitted in favour of the dully plodding 'Immigrant.'
And what in fact is so anthology-essential about the cutsey, irritating 'Babyfather' from the most recent 'Soldier of Love' album? To pick a further two at random from the great archival store, one queries why 'Bullet-Proof Soul '- way better surely than the featured 'Feel No Pain' - is not included in the selection? Similarly, the deliciously soaring 'Kiss of Life' does not make the grade either. On the other hand, a fine bonus track on the second CD is the band's version of Thin Lizzy's 'Still In Love With You', which taps in a tactile, stylish way into into this wistful classic.
One gets the sense that Sade has decided that the glittering troupers of the Eighties and early Nineties (up to and including the album 'No Ordinary Love', shall we say, as cut-off point) were all very well. So, to honour that, those killer melodies, exquisite sax solos and drum machine-enhanced percussion are given their due place on the first CD in this collection. It is easily understandable - bands logically prefer recent stuff, it's still being worked out in live situations, there is experimentation and a bit of daring going on. Sade probably feel they have milked every possible musical permutation and variation out of the old hits.
And it probably all seems a terribly long time ago. Yes, yes, we tumbled over with melody spilling from our song-writing sessions back then, they seem to say. But, listen here, you must accept Sade is a globally-aware mother who writes quieter, more sensitive songs now. These songs aren't necessarily all about falling in and out of love, or meeting louche types in big-shouldered suits on a dance floor in 1984.
Fair enough, and thousands surely agree. But somehow there was something more spontaneous about the London fashionista with all that kittenish, smouldering soul and lipstick, who, with her cool shyness or self-possession - you never could quite make out which it was - only wanted to be mildly famous in the first place. Imagine getting away with that kind of diffidence nowadays, or, more to the point, imagine even encountering it? The times that are in it do not allow for shrinking violets.
But Helen Folasade Adu never envisaged it getting this big and when it did, she had to ponder more the musical direction in which to take the thing. There were long gaps between albums, slow germination and all that. When that kind of delay happens, you run the risk of taking the music in a mildly ponderous, even sanctimonious direction. This I believe has happened. Nevertheless, it has not diminished her place in the world one whit.Paddy Kehoe