Lovers Rock


Epic, 2000

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


By the time Sade began working on their fifth studio album, which would become Lovers Rock, it had been eight years since their stunning Love Deluxe album had been released. That disc’s huge success saw the group embark on their biggest and most expansive world tour up until that point. By the time the tour wound up in 1993, anyone hoping for the band to capitalize on this wave of success and get to work on a follow-up were let down by the announcement that the group was taking a much needed break and had no immediate plans ahead of them. 

It was during this break that the group’s leader Sade Adu had a daughter and settled into a harmonious and fairly reclusive family life. As the ‘90s were drawing to a close, though, both Sade’s label and management were making increasingly desperate requests for the group to get back to work. Adu is always the hold-up, as she has frequently admitted to having to be dragged into recording studios, not quite kicking and screaming, but almost. Late in ’99, however, the band returned to the studio and a year later had created another outstanding album, which I still consider to be equal with their best ever work. 

Lovers Rock saw the band take the more prominent R&B flavor that they had used for my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Love Deluxe and develop it with the acoustic guitar becoming much more a focal point over the synths. Just by slightly updating their sound but remaining true to their roots, Adu and her boys (Stuart Matthewman, Andrew Hale and Paul S. Denman, as well as their regular added players) delivered the goods in style. 

The lead single for the album is a great exponent of this and also one of their finest ever moments. “By Your Side” is a beautifully soulful track thanks to Adu’s heartfelt vocal performance that greatly enhances the song, and along with the sweet “All About Our Love,” it represents the record’s most accessible moments. “Flow” is one of my favorite tracks on the album as it features some fantastic harmony vocals Leroy Osbourne, who is part of the group’s touring band, and a more prominent groove than most of the tracks here. 

The gorgeous “King Of Sorrow” is melancholic but so well crafted that unless you’re paying attention to the lyrics, you could be forgiven for confusing it with a sweet love song. “Somebody Already Broke My Heart” is another great track on which Adu laments past heartache as a warning to a new potential suitor. “Slave Song” is one of the smoothest takes on reggae that I have ever heard, but the song is serious in content as it speaks of slavery and Adu’s spiritual response to the horrors of the past. “Immigrant” also touches on racial conflict and pleads for the love and acceptance for all of our brothers and sisters that inhabit this planet. 

“Every Word” again reflects on Adu’s broken heart, but the title track comes along in time to lighten the mood a little after the heavy-hearted previous few songs. “The Sweetest Gift” and “It’s Only Love That Gets You Through” are the album’s quietest and most minimal moments, and if I can find one criticism of the record at all, it’s that maybe the latter is a little too minimal. But that’s about the only thing I can think of that would come close to a criticism at all. 

That’s because Lovers Rock is so damn brilliant and remains a great record today some fourteen years after it came out. In that time, Sade has only released one studio album (Soldier Of Love in 2010) and toured the world twice behind each record. Maybe the fact that the group only comes together after such extended periods away from each other is the reason that when they do work, the results are always almost brilliant. The downside is, of course, for hardcore fans like me, the waiting is agonizing and we could potentially be only four years into another decade-long wait.

Rating: A

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