by Eric Tullis
Last week marked the 20-year anniversary of Sade’s classic, Love Deluxe. In tribute to the original, Raleigh-based band The Rosebuds (now living in New York) have released their own version of Sade’s Love Deluxe, recorded while frontman Ivan Howard spent some time on the North Carolina coast polishing up demos for The Rosebuds.
Sade’s discography has always strongly resonated with the duo, explains co-founder Kelly Crisp in an essay, influencing the breadth of the band’s work over the years. The album was recorded independent of Crisp, but it still reflects all of the swooning moods and romantic battles that the two have expressed during their career as a couple and, following their breakup, just as bandmates.
In a recent three-part article for the magazine Wax Poetics, journalist Nelson George examines the arc of Sade’s discography, starting with 1984’s Diamond Life and ending with this year’s CD release of live material, Bring Me Home Live 2011. He points out that Sade’s 1992 classic Love Deluxe LP was “mixed almost like a dub album with the silences between the notes as powerful a presence on the record as the instruments themselves.” Later, George calls Love Deluxe “the apex of this balance between rhythm and space, melody and arrangement.”
The friends who helped Howard achieve The Rosebuds’ take on this balance—Rob Lackey on drums, Matt Douglas on saxophone and Jon Yu on keys—don’t mutate much of the original’s jazz and dub undertones. Instead, they fill in those shadows between notes by fogging songs like “Bullet Proof Love” with chords and a sax that reinterprets the blues and erogenous vibes of Love Deluxe .
While missing the percussive droplets that lead the original through themes of joblessness, despair and hatred, The Rosebuds’ take of “Feel No Pain” still captures the song’s social consciousness. The question in the lyrics “Do you ever see a man break down?” is left dangling in both versions, but with Ivan Howard singing it, we hear the testimony of a stand-in man whose past losses in love and life re-teach him how to walk with his head held high. Even if Howard can’t match Sade’s goddess-like incantations, he casts his own spell over this material; he presides with the universal voice of the blues.
Artists from jazz legend Herbie Hancock to neo-soul singer Pru have covered Sade songs in the past; this year saw the release of jazz/ hip-hop virtuoso Robert Glasper’s Black Radio, which featured Lalah Hathaway’s cover of Sade’s “Cherish the Day.” Head-to-head with The Rosebuds’ version of Love Deluxe’s “Cherish the Day,” the two couldn’t be any more different: Howard is almost daring his lover to abandon him, whereas Sade pleads with and preps her lover as she’s gliding towards him. Hathaway and Glasper’s version, on the other hand, leans more toward reunion-worship and doesn’t out-beg The Rosebuds’ call-to-rescue.