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LABEL: Virgin Records RELEASE DATE: October 15, 1990 GENRE: Ambient, New Age, World
// review by SoyBomb

Sade, is that you?

I've reviewed many Enigma releases on this site, but it's time to go back to the beginning! Enigma was originally the brainchild of Michael Cretu, Frank Peterson, and David Fairstein; the latter two would leave the project over time, and the goal was to create a new age and world-oriented sound coupled with some modern production techniques. "Sadeness (Part I)" was the initial culmination of that goal, and it helped skyrocket the first Enigma album, MCMXC a.D., to the top of the charts, eventually selling over 14 million copies worldwide.

The track is called "Sadeness" not as a misspelling of "sadness" (although some North American releases thought so and changed the spelling prior to release). Instead, it is a nod to the Marquis de Sade; the track is loosely based off the legendary sexual desires of the man. The sensuality is definitely felt throughout the song. The song also prominently features Gregorian chants, as well as sensuous spoken word vocals by Sandra, Michael's wife at the time and a pop icon in Germany.

The Radio Edit gives us everything we need in a smooth transitioning package: Gregorian chanting, funky rap beats straight out of 1990, and soft bellowing pads, melding together for a common theme. Additional bells and a potent shakuhachi flute melody add to the experience, and Sandra's wispy vocals add an additional mystique. Even Michael Cretu gets his voice in there, speaking in French and sounding all gruff... It's a powerful song and despite certain elements sounding rather dated (that beat is absolutely early 1990s, no doubt about it), the charm and glamour of the original has stayed strong since its release almost three decades ago.

There's also a weird Violent US Remix where, after the initial Gregorian chants, someone starts screaming and it turns into a cornball rap beat over additional freaky cries for help. The heck is this? Evil Mortal Kombat-style guitar riffs flap about like leaves in the wind. Things do sometimes get back to normal, but yelps of pain continue to haunt this weird remix. It's not bad, but any mystique of the original is often replaced with roughness.

The Extended Trance Mix serves if you just couldn't get enough of the Radio Edit and need more, more, MORE! Lastly is the Meditation Mix with a greater focus on organic percussion than anything else, though the chants, flutes, and vocals are still present. The song just feels slower and more chilled, even if it's the same BPM.

Sadeness (Part I) is a genuine classic, both in the Enigma library and for new age music as a whole. Anyone who is a fan of new age music, of classical music, or of mysticism and wonder should give this track a spin for sure.

(It would be 26 years before we received a Part II, by the way.)

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