Diamond Life is the debut studio album by English band Sade, first released in the United Kingdom on 16 July 1984 by Epic Records and in the United States on 27 February 1985 by Portrait Records. After studying fashion design, and later modelling, Sade Adu began backup singing with British band Pride. During this time Adu and three of the original members of “Pride” – Paul Anthony Cook, Paul Denman and Stuart Matthewman – left the group to form their own band called Sade. Following various demos and performances, Sade received interest from record labels and later signed to Epic.
Recording for the album began in 1983 at The Power Plant in London and took a total of six weeks to complete. The album’s content was written by the group Sade whilst the production was handled by Robin Millar. A total of fifteen songs were recorded for the album with the use of live instruments that used sonically experimental material. The album contained a variety of musical elements including soul, jazz and sophisti-pop, with lyrics revolving mainly around themes of love.
Upon release, Diamond Life was met with acclaim from music critics and went on to win the Brit Award for Best British Album in 1985. Commercially the album was a success charting highly in the UK and US, and was later certified multi platinum in both regions. Diamond Life went on to sell over six million copies worldwide, becoming one of the top-selling debut recordings of the ’80s and the best-selling debut by a British female vocalist, until Welsh singer Duffy released her debut studio album, Rockferry in 2008. The album spawned four singles including the hit singles “Your Love Is King” and “Smooth Operator”.
After studying fashion design, and later modeling briefly, Sade began backup singing with British band Pride, during this time she formed a songwriting partnership with Pride’s guitarist/saxophonist Stewart Matthewman; together, backed by Pride’s rhythm section Paul Anthony Cook and Paul Denman, they began doing their own sets at Pride gigs. Her solo performances of the song “Smooth Operator” attracted the attention of record companies, and in 1983, Adu and Matthewman, split from Pride, along with bassist Paul Denman and drummer Paul Anthony Cook to form the band Sade. By the time she performed her first show at London’s Heaven nightclub she had become so popular that 1,000 people were turned away at the door. In May 1983, Sade performed at Danceteria Club in New York, NY, United States, it was the first US Sade show. On 18 October 1983 Sade Adu signed with Epic Records, while the rest of the band signed to her as contractors in 1984.
Prior to signing the record deal, the group recorded Diamond Life in six weeks. It was recorded at The Power Plant in London. After cutting the proposed singles “Smooth Operator” and “Your Love is King,”, the first album track recorded was “Sally,” a song about the Salvation Army. During recording the band worked collectively on the musical direction, rehearsing each song in details and then recording it. . The song “When Am I Going to Make a Living” was started by Sade on the back of a cleaning ticket after she picked her clothes up from the cleaners. She had no money and she wrote down, “When Am I Going to Make a Living.”
Producer Robin Millar met the band in 1983, and the band members had never worked in a professional studio and only had demos and recordings from the BBC studios and EMI publishing studios. Millar booked a week’s worth of studio time and noted that the limitations of recording before computers had an impact upon the sound. “We used a real piano and a Fender Rhodes piano, painstakingly synching them up.” They recorded fifteen songs, all written by Adu and members of the group, except “Smooth Operator” written exclusively by Adu and Ray St. John. They also recorded a cover version of “Why Can’t We Live Together” (1972) by Timmy Thomas.
For the recording of “Cherry Pie” the band had no mixing desks with automation, each member had their job of putting a bit of echo, delay, or changing a level. Then Millar would edit between the different mixes. Speaking about this Stuart Matthewman said “Very often, we would have six people at the mixing desk at the same time.”
Lyrically the album revolves around themes of love, discussing both the positive and the negative of relationships, the music features jazzy textures, built over prominent basslines, smooth drums and subtle guitar. The album also features heavy use of brass instruments and keyboards. According to Paul Lester of the BBC, the album is “sufficiently soulful and jazzy yet poppy, funky and easy listening,” Lester described the album is being predominantly a quiet storm album with elements of mellifluous R&B. Sade’s vocals on the album were described as “deliberately icy, her delivery and voice aloof, deadpan, and cold” while Ron Wynn of All Music, stated that the album contained “slick production and quasi-jazz backing”.
In a contemporary review, Stephen Holden of The New York Times said Diamond Life, “eschews the synthesizers that dominate British pop to make music that resembles a cross between the rock-jazz of Steely Dan and the West Indian-flavored folk-pop of Joan Armatrading. Smoldering Brazilian rhythms blend with terse pop-soul melodies and jazzy harmonies to create a sultry, timeless nightclub ambiance.” Rolling Stone called it soul music with “self-possessed sophistication”, and described Sade’s vocal as “thick and rich”.
The album opens with the single “Smooth Operator”, musically song cross between R&B, jazz, adult contemporary, pop and dance music over a light production. The song contains a Latin-style percussion and lusty saxophone and features lyrics about an “international playboy.” “Your Love is King,” is a dynamic smooth ballad, that contains wrenching vocals performed by Sade and saxophone solo by Stuart Matthewman. The following song on the album is the uptempo track “Hang On to Your Love”, the song contains a thumping groove with lyrics that revolve around someone holding on to a relationship when things are going bad. “Sally,” is a haunting laid-back, bluesy ballad that was compared to the work of Billie Holiday might have recorded, the album closes with a remake of Timmy Thomas’ 1972 song “Why Can’t We Live Together.”
“Your Love Is King” was released as the album’s lead single on 25 February 1984, the song was a success in European territories charting at number-seven in Ireland and number-six on the UK Singles Chart. The song was less successful in the US where it peaked at number 54 on the US Billboard Hot 100 “When Am I Going to Make a Living” was released as the album’s second single in the UK on 26 May 1984, the single was less successful than its predecessor charting at number 28 on the Irish Singles Chart and number 36 on the UK Singles Chart. However the song did fare well else where peaking at number 12 on the Dutch Top 40.
The third single “Smooth Operator” became the most successful song in the US from the album, “Smooth Operator” was first released on 15 September 1984. In Europe the song fared well peaking at number 19 in the UK, the song also reached the top twenty in Austria, Switzerland, France and Germany. The song was a huge success in the US where it peaked at number-five on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the US Billboard Hot Black Singles, as well as peaking at number-one on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
The album reached number-two in the UK Album Chart, and sold over 1.2 million copies in the UK The album was also a hit internationally, reaching number-one in several countries and the top ten in the US where it has sold in excess of 4 million copies. Diamond Life had international sales of over 6 million copies, becoming one of the top-selling debut recordings of the 1980s and the best-selling debut ever by a British female vocalist until Duffy’s Rockferry in 2008. The album has sold 983,000 copies in the United States since the introduction of Soundscan. The album was a commercial success in France where it peaked at number-one on the French Albums Charts and was later certified double platinum after selling 1,348,400 copies.
Diamond Life won the 1985 Brit Award for the Best British Album. The video for “Smooth Operator”, directed by Julien Temple, was nominated for two MTV Video Music Awards in 1985, Best Female Video and Best New Artist.
Sade and the band were credited as being Influential to neo soul, the band achieved success in the 1980s with music that featured a sophisti-pop style, incorporating elements of soul, pop, smooth jazz, and quiet storm. The band was part of a new wave of British R&B-oriented artists during the late-1980s and early 1990s that also included Soul II Soul, Caron Wheeler, The Brand New Heavies, Simply Red, Jamiroquai, and Lisa Stansfield. Allmusic’s Alex Henderson writes that, “Many of the British artists who emerged during that period had a neo-soul outlook and were able to blend influences from different eras”. Following the coining of the term “quiet storm” by Smokey Robinson, Sade was credited for helping give the genre a worldwide audience. (by wiipedia)
Sade Adu (vocals)
Paul Denman (bass)
Andrew Hale (keyboards)
Stuart Matthewman (guitar, saxophone)
Terry Bailey (trumpet)
Paul Anthony Cook (drums)
Martin Ditcham (percussion)
Dave Early (drums, percussion)
Gordon Matthewman (trumpet)
01. Smooth Operator (Adu/St. John) 4.57
02. Your Love Is King (Adu/Matthewman) 3.41
03. Hang On To Your Love (Adu/Matthewman) 5.55
04. Frankie’s First Affair (Adu/Matthewman) 4.39
05.When Am I Going To Make A Living (Adu/Matthewman) 3.27
06. Cherry Pie (Adu/Matthewman/Hale/Denman) 6.20
07. Sally (Adu/Matthewman) 5.23
08. I Will Be Your Friend (Adu/Matthewman) 4.45
09. Why Can’t We Live Together (Thomas) 5.28