- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2002

SADE

Lovers Live

(Epic)

"Especially in these times, I feel really privileged to be up here on this stage and to sing to you," Sade Adu tells the crowd on her new live album. Recorded in September, the words hint at tragedy and another emotion wholly absent from most pop acts: humility.

Sade has showed herself a class act since her 1984 debut, "Diamond Life," and that's still clear on "Lovers Live." The Nigerian-born singer delivers a powerful performance in her unmistakably lush, husky voice. Even in the rare moments when it cracks, such as in the line "the sun is gonna shine" (in "Jezebel"), its flaw adds only pathos.

Sade has a great blend of vocal range and emotional depth. In her sad songs, she wails plaintive notes with operatic verve, like the heart-twisting chorus of "Jezebel" and the coloratura finale of "Is It A Crime?" She lilts through love songs, such as the gentle melodic slide in the line, "There's nothing like/you and I/baby" in "No Ordinary Love."

Sade's band strongly enriches her sound. The slow-jazz grooves of bassist Paul Denman and the effervescent solos of saxophonist Stuart Matthewman provide the perfect accompaniment (and counterpoint) to her sedate crooning.

It's a shame that the musicians don't improvise more live; the songs don't deviate much from their recorded arrangements. Even the sound effects, like the thunder rolls of "The Sweetest Taboo," are reproduced. Don't expect any surprises on "Lovers"; there's no new material.

The album was recorded during Sade's first tour in more than a decade, and the audience is obviously enthusiastic. But the shrill applause should have been subdued through production; it ruins the mood. But it makes it easy to imagine you were there.

Bruce Hamilton


VARIOUS ARTISTS

I Am Sam

(V2 Records)

Imagine if you can, some 30 years from now, a movie with a soundtrack made up entirely of the songs of, say, Ja Rule or J.Lo. This is unlikely to happen. But three decades after the Beatles disbanded, the soundtrack of "I Am Sam" includes 17 of the Fab Four's songs a tribute to the timelessness of their music.

The artists who have "come together" to contribute to the anthology are an eclectic collection, ranging from the well-known among them, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan and Ben Folds to Chocolate Genius and Howie Day. The songs here are mostly Beatles B-sides and album cuts, and with just two or three exceptions, are covered both respectfully and respectably.

Particularly good are the Wallflowers' toe-tapping take on "I'm Looking Through You," with backing vocals from Jackson Browne; Eddie Vedder's "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," on which the Pearl Jam frontman provides all the instrumentation via the miracle of overdubbing; and the disc's opener, the whimsical "Two of Us" by Aimee Mann and Michael Penn. (The latter's brother, Sean Penn, is the film's title character, who is made to look more than a bit like John Lennon on the back cover of the disc.)

Mr. Folds' fine "Golden Slumbers" is the first part of a medley not with "Carry That Weight" and "The End," as in the original, but is paired here with the Vines' "I'm Only Sleeping." Somehow it works, despite the abrupt tempo change.

Two tracks that don't work, however, are Grandaddy's just plain weird, alternately manic and depressive "Revolution" and Nick Cave's lounge-lizard take on "Let It Be," which belongs on a Rhino Records "Golden Throats" compilation alongside William Shatner's rendition of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." Peter Parisi


QUEEN ESTHER

MARROW

God Cares

(EMI Gospel)

For gospel fans getting a little weary of listening to the overproduced, slick sounds of contemporary gospel, Queen Esther Marrow's new disc, "God Cares," is a heavenly treat.

Unlike some gospel tunes that could double as club mixes, this is straight, simple, yet undeniably powerful church music.

Miss Marrow doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles on this disc, and she doesn't need them. All she needs is that great, husky voice and the simple, soulful backing of an organ and a guitar to make listeners want to sing and clap along.

Especially moving are the songs "You Believed in Me," a ballad that best showcases her deep, stirring voice, and the Bible-thumping "Working on a Building." AP


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