I don’t remember why I despised Helen Folasade Adu. It may have been the ubiquitous presence of the song The Sweetest Taboo on radio, TV and bar of 1985. It may have been the perception that this seemed an altogether manufactured musical substance… the good-looking, but exotic (to me, anyway) singer, surrounded by the band from Simply Red or Culture Club.
This wasn’t genuine.
Nothing could change my mind. I was in that finger-in-the-ears “I can’t hear you!” position… Helen, now just Sade, was just the worst of the other one named female singers of the time, without the vocal gymnastics. A friend, and American Sargent, newly transferred from England (after a lengthy stay) to Tacoma, sang the praises of Sade… (To be fair, he always alluded to her physical charms alongside her musical acumen, but I would have none of either!).
Fast forward 10 years or so. I found myself the 2nd owner of Sade-Promise (on CD) and also the owner of a 3500 watt stereo P.A. system set up in a acoustically ideal, 70 seat theater. This P.A. was no slouch, JBL mains and subs, bi-amped and rung out with pro mics and EQ…
(I used to do live sound for some small bands) I had set up the sound system for some show and decided to put Promise on to see if everything was working OK… From the first track, the sound that came out just blew me away! Jazzy, but not pretentious, funky but poppy, not muddy, and those vocals… more torch than Tesh!
Why had I missed this?!? confirmation bias? Who knows, the bottom line was I was hearing some 10-year-old music for the first time. I listened, then I increased the volume, and I listened again… eyes closed, sitting in the “sweet spot” of the theater, and was blown away! A friend who owned a neighboring store heard this music resonating from the theater and came in to investigate… she sat next to me in the sweet spot, shook her hair out-of-the-way and smiled… “nice!” she said… although I couldn’t actually hear her.
Since then, I’ve acquired several Sade CDs… but thanks to RRR Auction/Estate, I now own Promise for $0.05!
This vinyl record is a unicorn… (as close to pristine as I have found, proving that unicorns DO exist). 95% out of 100% low surface noise, tracks all very dynamic and full of “life”, just a joy to listen to! I did notice that there was a “for promotion only” stamp over the UPC… I assume this was a DJ or promoter copy of the record that was played very little, if at all.
The Sweetest Taboo is the hit on this record, but the standout song is side #2, song, #1, Mr. Wrong. I’m always searching for vinyl that I can count on to give the best possible impression to a visitor that asks “which is better…”, now I have one more in my arsenal to help answer that question.
(it rains a lot on the windows in this desert!)