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SadeSade, Lovers Rock (Epic 2000) - Sade Adu returns to the recording studio after an eight-year absence. Lovers Rock has landed in the top ten with a set of late night ballads that emphasize intimacy and sensitivity.

Now age 41, Sade (born in Nigeria, but raised in England), rocketed up the chart in the eighties with such hit singles as "Your Love is King" and "Smooth Operator." With a voice that mixes beauty, sensuality, and elegance, Sade achieved icon status alongside Annie Lennox.

SadeThe musicians on Lovers Rock include Sade on vocals, Andrew Hale on keyboards and programming, Stuart Matthewman on guitars and woodwinds, and Paul S. Denman on bass.

There's not an uptempo tune in the lot, just gentle ballads that recall the embers of a love affair. (Sade married a Spanish film maker in 1989, they parted company some years ago, and she now lives in London.) Tracks like "Every Word" and "Somebody Already Broke My Heart" set the tone for the album - full of keyboards and studio shine.

Sade plays her cards close to her chest, too close for my taste: I'd like more of the dance floor material. Lovers Rock is a well-made album, but wake me up when it's over.

Beautiful SouthThe Beautiful South, Painting it Red (Ark 21 Records) - British pop rockers, The Beautiful South, return with Painting it Red, their seventh studio album. Part northern show band, part Stax soul revue, The Beautiful South are established stars in the UK; their greatest hits album, Carry On Up the Charts (1995) went triple-platinum and debuted at number one.

Beautiful SouthThe Beautiful South is headed by songwriting partners Paul Heaton (vocals) and Dave Rotheray (guitars). The band is rounded out by Dave Hemmingway on vocals, Sean Welch on bass, David Stead on drums, and Jacqueline Abbott on vocals. (Abbott replaced the former vocalist Biana Corrigan, who appeared on the masterful, 0898.)

Jaqueline AbbottPainting it Red was issued overseas as a double-disk set, and was pared down to one (very long) album for stateside release. With songs like "'Til You Can't Tuck it In" and "Hot on the Heels of Heartbreak," The Beautiful South mix a deceptively easygoing style with sometimes biting lyrics. And I particularly enjoy the voice of Jacqueline Abbott on such glowingly subdued tracks as "Masculine Eclipse."

Beautiful SouthThe Beautiful South focus on the issues of everyday life: aging, sexual politics, and loneliness. Explains Heaton, "If anything, Painting it Red is our back-to-basics album. There's not much brass, no strings, and no gospel choirs . . . There were so many tracks that we concentrated on getting the takes right rather than looking for other ways to embellish them."

As the press materials explain, "No one has sex to The Beautiful South, nor do they cruise, top down, around city streets with The Beautiful South pumping out the speakers. Instead, they paint and decorate, drive to the shops, and prepare dinner to The Beautiful South."

Not a bad way to go. Adults will enjoy Painting it Red.

Paddy CaseyPaddy Casey, Amen (so be it) (Columbia Records 2000) - 24-year-old Paddy Casey, a busker from the streets of Dublin, has soared to chart success in his native Ireland with Amen (so be it). Will Paddy reach the same heights in the states with his moody, acoustic debut? Probably not.

Paddy Casey has spent a dozen years writing and performing and it shows in his songs, which have an earnest feel. There are elements of Amen (so be it) that I really like, especially the atmospheric opening track, "Fear." While you'll find elements of Mike Scott from the Waterboys, the more apt comparison is folk rocker Ron Sexsmith, who knocked around the hard streets of Canada for years before landing a major label record deal.

Paddy CaseyPaddy's success in Ireland has surprised even him. He explains that, "The album was just demos, basically, so there were only a couple of tracks recorded with an album in mind. There was no real plan. I just had little vibes in my head."

Those "little vibes" are apparent on tracks like "Would U" and "Everybody Wants." And while Paddy is a big star in Ireland, the songs have a decidedly down-beat feel. Says Paddy, "I was so nervous walking down the street with my face on all those posters. I haven't been in Dublin for awhile and every time I come back, people have heard me songs and seen me video and now there is posters."

Paddy CaseyPaddy also recognizes the somber influences of Amen (so be it). Says the artist, "It's a mishmash of all the different stuff I like, with acoustic guitar, of course. Wait until you hear the band. I think people are gonna run a mile!"

The Irish troubadour has a sound that is entrancing to the Emerald Isle. Parts shine through (especially "Fear"), but overall, the album is too down.

- Randy Krbechek © 2001

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