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6 Degrees Entertainment

Title - 'Sweetback' [Vinyl]
Artist - Sweetback

For any one not in the know, like myself, to be quite honest, Sweetback is an English band composed of members from the band Sade, not including the front woman Sade Adu. They are a jazz/funk band with R&B overtones and if you know the music of Sade, well, you know even if you removed her vocals that the songs are vibrant, alive regardless.

Indeed, Stuart Matthewman (guitar, saxophone), Paul Spencer Denman (bass) and Andrew Hale (piano, keyboards) had been recording with female vocalist Sade Adu since 1984. The group Sweetback formed in 1994 at the conclusion of Sade's Love Deluxe World Tour and their subsequent albums feature a host of guest vocalists such as Leroy Osbourne, Amel Larrieux, Maxwell, Aya (Lysa Aya Trenier), Bahamadia, Chocolate Genius, and El Debarge.

Now, and in celebration of its 20th Anniversary, Sweetback, the band's eponymous debut album celebrates it's 20th anniversary in 2016. In honor of this milestone it is being reissued on vinyl for the first time, freshly remastered, on double LP.

Remastered and pressed on vinyl for the first time anywhere (well, save for the promo version that did the rounds in the record stores at the time), their debut album Sweetback is a wonderful jazz / funk / R&B ensemble project that came together in New York in early 1996. Released on Epic Records in October that same year, the guest artists on this highly impressive, highly addictive, and very underrated album include Maxwell, Bahamadia, and Amel Larrieux of Groove Theory.

I think that it's well worth reiterating that Sade's boys just don't get enough credit. I couldn't imagine her velvety vocals casting as powerful a spell without wrapping itself around their smooth jams. And yet, listening to this delightful debut album from them, minus, of course, Sade herself, it's as if the spirit of Sade hangs in the background, ready to ease into a vocal moment at any given time.

So, and while Sade decided to return to her regular life after Love Deluxe, the guys decided to set off on their own. Some of the songs here sound like they would fit perfectly on any Sade record, but most stretch themselves out to embrace traces of chill-out, dub, and Arabic influences. The criminally underrated Amel Larrieux graces the mystical "Gaze" and inspirational "You Will Rise".

Maxwell's buttery falsetto sizzles on "Softly, Softly" and Bahamadia drops some tight rhymes on the laid back "Au Natural". Sade's back-up singer Leroy Osbourne also, and deservedly so, gets a rare chance to shine solo on the midnight glow of "Hope She'll Be Happier". Instrumentals like the dreamy "Chord" and rockish "Arabesque" are highlights as well.

In closing, Sweetback is a collective of great, thoughtful, soulful and yet upbeat jazz to reflect upon, to relax to after a long day or preparing to read a book on a rainy afternoon.

Side A
1. "Gaze"
2. "Softly Softly"
3. "Sensations"

Side B
4. "Au Natural"
5. "Arabesque"
6. "You Will Rise"

Side C
1. "Chord"
2. "Walk of Ju"
3. "Hope She'll Be Happier"

Side D
4. "Come Dubbing"
5. "Cloud People"
6. "Powder"

'Sweetback: 20th Anniversary' [Vinyl] Purchase Link