Category: Soul Stories

The Glorious Sorrow of Sade…

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Beyonce is not my queen. “Love Deluxe” is an actual cult. And this is no ordinary love…

As musical terms go,”baby-making music”, is a particularly execrable one. Okay, we all know that every situation in life, can be, let me see, “enhanced” or “benefit”, from a finely tuned playlist…but throwing Sade onto “The Ultimate Babymaking Playlist” is actually the height of laziness…because while there’s soft focus love in some of the songs in her canon, like say “By Your Side”,  the most common features of a typical Sade song are unadulterated pain, misery, and loss ( cumulatively known as “the good stuff”). Fact is apart from a handful of tracks spread over her 6 studio albums, she is the true embodiment of pop despair, the veritable Queen of Sad ( or as she once sang, and declared, the “King of Sorrow”). As emotionally distraught as Ian Curtis, Nico,or Kurt Cobain. Desperation, obsession, and complete mental unrest : those are the main features of the average Sade song. Not I’m so happy and in love, or do you take this man or woman. Nope. It’s don’t doubt me, I keep crying, the war is still raging inside of me. You can’t really put on the Love Deluxe album, and party. You can cry, drink too much, beg for another chance, or an actual chance, or contemplate earthly existence.That’s what Sade can provide the soundtrack for. She’s here to envelope you in glorious sadness, and you’re gonna like it.

One of the cooler things that’s happened over the past 10 years, is all the open faced praise and worship that’s been thrown at her emanating from the rock and indie universe…and for the contents of Love Deluxe in particular.  The Rosebuds went so far as to cover the whole damn thing in 2012, and Iron & Wine, Pink, and Deftones are among the artists, who have done cover versions of tracks from it . What is it about Love Deluxe that so perfectly encapsulates what she’s about? It’s the sparseness, the melodies, the infinite space of the whole thing. It’s the way the way the guitar leads into the chorus of “No Ordinary Love”, which itself is 7 minutes of the most beautiful despair. It’s that 7 of the 9 songs are not happy ones. Sade is here to hold your hand and share war stories. It’s gonna be okay.

And so a communal bow to the queen of sad, poet of the rain, and all that. Ain’t nobody like her.

Here’s a handpicked playlist of Sade’s deepest and darkest if you feel emotionally up to it. Go get the headphones.

And here’s Love Deluxe on the Spotify :

Donny Hathaway & the greatest live performance ever (ever)…

Warning: What follows is really over the top.

I have a friend who thinks Lynyrd Skynyrd’s One More from the Road is the best live album ever. Out of every live recording in the world that’s ever existed. Better than James Brown’s Live at the Apollo or the Who’s Live at Leeds. All of them. Maybe I’ll get him to explain why here soon, since I kind of want to know myself. If I had to guess, knowing him, I would say it’s probably related to the feeling of the whole thing. The emotional elements, the heart and soul, the Artimus Pyle of it all (the bands hairy drummer) as opposed to its tightness…which leads us here, to one of the greatest live performances ever to appear on an LP. As in, staggeringly incredible. As in, you guys go on ahead, I need to sit down for a minute.

Here’s the scene: Donny Hathaway, one of the finest singers earth has ever been blessed with, is playing at LA’s Troubadour in August of 1971. He hits the opening notes of his cover of Carole’s King’s “You’ve Got a Friend”, on the keyboard. It’s just been #1 in the charts, as sung by James Taylor, and of course features on Carole’s mega-selling, gigantic Tapestry LP, that every person alive that year owns a copy of, or at least their big sister does. It is beyond ubiquitous. The notes instantly trigger maniacal, unhinged, Beatle-esque screaming from the ladies in the audience. Donny starts singing with his usual soulful beauty, like always. When he gets to the line in the first verse, “close your eyes and think of me”, one of the intensely hyped up ladies answers back with, “I’m thinkin‘ !”. There is a burst of laughter. And then it’s time for the chorus. At this point, the whole audience takes the mike from Donny…and he graciously lets them. Beyond let’s them. They completely take over the song, while awestruck Donny guides, leads, embellishes, and backs them up for the rest of the way. I’m telling you, it’s just, damn….

One of the most mind-blowing things about this recording, is the closeness of all of it: it sounds like the crowd is onstage with him, all clapping, screaming, breathing, and chattering, while completely surrounding him at his keyboard (at least that’s the way I’ve always pictured the scene in my head). That moment, when the first verse transitions into the chorus, and everyone starts singing, gives me chills every single time I hear it: it is positively transcendent. You’ll actually feel your heart expand inside you.

At one point Donny says “Y’all sound awful good to me”, then,” this might be a record here”.

Yeah, thank God for that.