The first time I heard Sade’s dulcet tones I was sitting in the nasty kitchen in Perkins Hall at Brown University, with a bunch of other 17-year-old freshmen, trying to act grown. See, that Friday night, instead of going to the Ratty (the dining hall), we decided to cook in our dorm, so there we were, eating pasta and drinking wine, with the evening’s soignée entertainment consisting of a boombox playing some new artist whose name many of us were pronouncing as if a “Marquis de” came in front of it. It was Sade’s first album, Diamond Life, which took us all by storm that night, and in me, created a lifelong Sade fan. Flash-forward a coupla years and I’m driving back to Providence from NYC with my friend Gordon, and we sing along, many many times, to what would end up being maybe my favorite Sade recording: “Nothing Can Come Between Us”. I think I love this song so much because, not only does it seem to be about a close friendship as well as love affair, it displays Sade’s playful side without losing the elegance and lush emotion so much of her music trades in. And also (mainly?) because of the incredibly indelible backing vocals of Leroy Osbourne, especially that sexy-as-hell “yeah, yeah” that he interpolates into the second chorus like a suave little eighth-note of love. This song is the closest Sade’s ever come to a full-on duet and with its samba-like rhythm and in-the-pocket bassline it gives the sorta-meandering Stronger Than Pride album a firm and meaty anchor. As beautifully as Sade’s lead vocals caress her typically lovelorn lyrics, there’s also a roundelay of haunting improvs and choral shouts accompanying the vamp that closes the song, giving it even more power and resonance. This is the kind of record you have to play three or four times in a sitting; it makes you happy, it sounds like heaven, it’s sublime.
Listen to it here: