Sade’s “Ultimate Collection” Isn’t.

"I'm very excited by this album.. Can't you tell?"

Did the world really need a new Sade “best of” album? Possibly, since it has been 17 years since The Best of Sade (Epic,1994), even if there has only been two albums worth of new material since then. But actually it’s Sade who needed to put out this double disc. The timing of The Ultimate Collection is in no small part related to the fact Sade is off on her first world tour in a decade and since Soldier of Love (Epic, 2010) is a year old now she needed to some “new” product to whet the appetite of the fans.

Despite there being twice as many songs on The Ulitmate Collection than the The Best of Sade, there is still some noticeable padding included with three unreleased (and mostly unremarkable) tracks and two remixes, including Sade’s first collaboration with another artist other than her typical bandmates. Unfortunately, she chose the rapper, Jay-Z and the result of this duet that really isn’t a duet at all is a train wreck of two totally incompatible styles colliding headlong (yes, it is THAT bad).

All the expected hits are here (“Smooth Operator,” “Hang On to Your Love,” “Never As Good As the First Time” “No Ordinary Love”) while dropping “Like A Tattoo” and “Please Send Me Someone to Love ” to be replaced with the new additions “Feel No Pain” and “Bullet Proof Soul” from Love Deluxe, five tracks from Lovers Rock and three from Soldier of Love.

The inclusion of five selections from the leaden Lovers Rockis a small mystery, but a bigger one is why three of the album best songs, (“Lovers Rock,” “Somebody Already Broke My Heart,” and “Every Word”) aren’t here while three of the most sparse tracks, (“Flow,” “King of Sorrow” and “The Sweetest Gift”) are.

The three “new” songs are likely leftovers from the Solider of Love and Lovers Rock sessions. It’s hard to tell as the track information doesn’t make it clear. “Still In Love” is a ballad by the late Phil Lynott, the frontman of the rock band Tthin Lizzy. It’s okay, if not particularly dazzling. “Love is Found” has a bit more energy along the lines of “Soldier of Love” though Sade still delivers it with her customary world-weariness, but it’s far superior to “I Would Never Have Guessed,” a trite trifle which should have stayed locked in whatever vault it was left in.

A "duet" nobody asked for and nobody wanted.

WhySade decided her first collaboration with another artist should be Jay-Z is anyone’s guess (was Beyonce busy?) , but it is obvious at no time were they even in the same time zone when he added his pointless contribution to the remix of “The Moon and the Sky.” Sade has never cared before about trends and the “rent-a-rapper” gimmick has become commonplace. If she really wanted to create a buzz for she should have whistled up a true peer like Prince or Maxwell for a guest appearance.

All things considered there’s not much “ultimate” about this collection. There’s no liner notes detailing anything more than musicians, producers and studios, no observations from The Lady herself or even a hired essayists to muse of the larger meaning to Sade’s music. There’s only two photos of Sade in the eight page booklet and none of her bandmates. So much for the “Sade is a band” line The Ultimate Collection could have lived up to title with less skimpy packaging and if it had finally collected one of Sade’s few genuine “jazz” performances, “Killer Blow” from the 1986 film Absolute Beginners.

No such luck. As things stand, a more accurate title would be “The Adequate Collection” because there’s little ultimate about this bare bones piece of product.