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Ghost Canyon

Title - No Ordinary Love: The Music of Sade
Artist - Bill Kwan

For those not in the know, this is no ordinary jazz album and it is not just that San Francisco vocalist Bill Kwan delves deeply into the songbook of one of the 20th centurys most popular female singers either.

Slated for release on April 16th, 2021 No Ordinary Love: The Music of Sade captures an artist boldly redefining himself. Collaborating closely with a brilliant cast of New York players, he brings a confidently sensuous male sensibility to material defined by the Nigerian-born superstar, whose cool, understated style and regal persona has largely kept other artists from interpreting her songs.

Working again with veteran producer Matt Pierson, whose credits range from Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman and Kirk Whalum to k.d. lang, Laura Benanti and Jane Monheit, Kwan is both reverent and resolutely unprecious in reimagining Sades music.

In many ways, No Ordinary Love builds on his previous project with Pierson, 2015s Poison & Wine, a pensive and often riveting collection of contemporary indie rock songs by the likes of Beck, Bjork, Bon Iver, Gillian Welch, and The Civil Wars.

1. The Sweetest Taboo
2. Flower Of The Universe (from Disneys A Wrinkle in Time)
3. King Of Sorrow
4. Jezebel
5. No Ordinary Love
6. The Moon And The Sky
7. Love Is Stronger Than Pride
8. Haunt Me
9. The Big Unknown (from Widows)

Having decided not to tackle all of Sades bigger, better know hits singles from around the world, instead Kwan settles for just four of her more hypnotic hits - The Sweetest Taboo, King of Sorrow, Love is Stronger Than Pride, and the title track.

Opening with the joyously melodic, and now sultry The Sweetest Taboo, Kwan then walks us into the ornate nature of the delicate Flower Of The Universe, the slow motion balladeering hipsway of both King Of Sorrow and Jezebel, before delivering a gently sped up, yet quite stunning rendition of Sades gently pulsating No Ordinary Love.

Kwan then digs deep into the Sade catalogue for the Latin-flavored The Moon And The Sky, from their sixth album, Soldier of Love (2010), before the mid-tempo rhythms and flow of Love Is Stronger Than Pride are brought forth.

The album rounds out on the slow and easy, trumpet-imbibed Haunt Me, from the third Sade album, Stronger Than Pride (1988), before choosing to close on their soundtrack cut for the 2018 feature film Widows, the earthy, organic and mesmerizingly sculpted The Big Unknown.

It is very different tackling these songs from a male perspective and I could only sing pieces where I could identify with the lyrics. The key was maintaining the intimacy and not over-singing. We maintained the fragile quality of Sades music even though the feel is very different, Kwan says.

The challenge is that her music is so identifiable, Kwan explains. Even if some of the original productions, like The Sweetest Taboo, may not have aged well, her phrasing and approach is so hip.

I adopted a very specific rule, singing like you are not singing, while trying to make sure there is enough emotion. What makes her music interesting is the repetition.

The magic is that hook or melody. Often times [veteran producer] Matt [Pierson] would dial me down. He really did guide me with the dynamics of each song.

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