- Sade’s Best Album returns with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Both sides of this UK disc are guaranteed to be amazing sounding compared to whatever you’ve heard
- There’s no denying the power of Sade’s sultry voice when you can actually hear it – she is on fire on this album
- Her best song is on side one here – Is It a Crime – and the big band arrangement will surely send chills up and down your spine, especially with Triple Plus sound quality
Not many copies manage to have this kind of consistently sweet sound across both sides. Here are the kind of present, breathy vocals this music absolutely requires to work its magic.
If you know this album at all, you know that most pressings are just too damn dark sounding. Sade herself is typically recessed in the mix and veiled; it takes an exceptional copy such as this one to make her voice both present and breathy.
This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of Promise have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1985
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
You can be sure this album was a big hit at the audio shows back in the day; this music can really bring out the best in a stereo — especially on a killer copy like this one! We played a big stack of copies this week, and most of them just didn’t do it for us. Most lack transparency. Most are recessed, with the sound stuck behind the speakers. A few of them really open up spatially the way the best can, showing you a huge room full of players with space surrounding each and every one of them.
Another quality we found wanting on many copies was rhythmic energy. Some pressings had it and some just laid there on the turntable. The best copies really bring out the percussion and bass; you find yourself moving with the music.
We love Sade, but she loses much of her charm on most pressings. (And these are all originals. The reissues we used to sell and recommend back in the ’90s are really not competitive sonically with the early pressings in the least. Apologies to all concerned.)
What We’re Listening For on Promise
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitars and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Highs Are Key
This copy has the highs that are missing from so many of the pressings we heard. When you play this against most copies there is an extension to the top end that you don’t hear very often. Since this album is heavy on percussion, that difference is critical. The HARMONICS of the percussion are crucially important to this music. When they go missing it’s almost as if the music seems to slow down, a strange effect no doubt but a fairly common one with rhythmically dense music such as this. With an extended top end, the sound is SWEET, not HARSH.
Don’t Be Ashamed To Enjoy Yourself
Hey, part of the fun of audio is appreciating different sounds and different styles. Sure, we get a lot more out of Led Zeppelin and The Beatles, but if we played their records every week we’d be bored to death of them (and deaf) by now. There’s a lot going on here for audiophiles to appreciate — tight production, innovative arrangements, and, of course, lovely female vocals — so don’t let this music’s mainstream success turn you against it. This is music worth listening to.
Is It a Crime
The Sweetest Taboo
War of the Hearts
Never as Good as the First Time
Sade’s second album improved on the performance of her debut, as “Sweetest Taboo” was a huge hit and “Never as Good as the First Time” landed in both the R&B and pop Top 20. She was once again the personification of cool, laid-back singing…
Between February and August 1985 the band enlisted the same team of producers they worked with on their debut. Some of the album’s sessions took place during a two-week sojourn in Provence, utilising an SSL E-series console housed at the barn-shaped, concrete-built Studio Miraval. However the majority of the album was recorded at the Power Plant where the project commenced in February 1985 and ended seven months later.
Like their debut album Promise was recorded live. However, Promise featured the use of technology, sampling drums by way of an AMS with a lock-in feature.
The album’s lead single was created in Power Plant’s Studio One, where a 30 x 25 x 18-foot live area was complemented by a 36-channel Harrison Series 24 console, Urei 813B main monitors and a 24-track Studer A820 recorder running Ampex tape at 30ips.
Mike Pela explained the process saying “We had Urei monitors in all of the rooms so that there was some continuity, and we also had Acoustic Research AR18Ss, which we discovered at that studio and which I’ve still got a pair of. They were like hi-fi speakers, they only cost about 80 quid, and once we’d started using them the company stopped making them. They were really nice and natural-sounding, not designed to carry super-low heavy frequencies, but absolutely fine.”