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Sweetback: Sweetback

Better known as Sade’s backup band, the members of Sweetback (pianist Andrew Hale, guitarist Stuart Matthewman and bassist Paul Spencer Denman) step out on their self-titled debut album (Epic 58:14). Like their sometime employer, these cats’ tastes lean toward the smoky side, codeine-haze ambiance taking the place of Sade’s slightly loungy Afro-Latinisms. And like some of Sade’s stuff, this disc has a little more attitude than it needs. Everything is in place-the dubby basslines, the languid keyboards and retro-soul touches. And “You Will Rise” and “Hope She’s Happier” are showcased for vocalist Amel Larrieux (of Groove Theory) and Leroy Osbourne, respectively. But when left to its own devices, the group’s pseudo-cinematic tableaux tend to drag. With a little more focus and hooks, this album could have been a real gem.

Originally Published