STING — Brand New Day

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3.56 | 6 ratings | 1 review
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Album · 1999

Filed under Pop/Art Song/Folk
By STING

Tracklist

1. A Thousand Years (5:57)
2. Desert Rose (4:45)
3. Big Lie Small World (5:05)
4. After the Rain Has Fallen (5:03)
5. Perfect Love... Gone Wrong (5:25)
6. Tomorrow We'll See (4:48)
7. Prelude to the End of the Game (0:20)
8. Fill Her Up (5:38)
9. Ghost Story (5:29)
10. Brand New Day (6:20)

Total Time: 48:54

Line-up/Musicians

Backing Vocals – Althea Rodgers, Darryl Tookes, Dennis Collins, Janice Pendarvis, Joe Mendez, Ken Williams, Marlon Saunders, Tawatha Agee, Veneese Thomas
Bagpipes [Northumbrian], Fiddle – Katherine Tickell
Clarinet – Branford Marsalis
Drums – Manu Katche, Vinnie Colaiuta
Goblet Drum [Darbouka] – Ettamri Mustapha
Guitar – Dominic Miller
Keyboards, Drum Programming – Kipper
Leader [Strings] – Gavin Wright (tracks: 1-03, 1-06)
Organ [Hammond] – Dave Hartley, Don Blackman
Percussion – Mino Cinelu
Piano, Clavinet – Jason Robello
Steel Guitar [Pedal] – B.J. Cole
Strings – Kouider Berkan (tracks: 1-02), Moulay Ahmed (tracks: 1-02), Salem Bnouni (tracks: 1-02), Sameh Catalan (tracks: 1-02)
Trumpet – Chris Botti
Vocals [Additional] – James Taylor
Vocals, Bass, Synthesizer [Vg-8 Guitar Synth] – Sting

About this release

A&M Records ‎– 0694904432 (US)

Principally recorded at Il Palagio, Italy and Mega Studios, Paris, France

Thanks to snobb for the updates

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Chicapah
When, in late September of 1999, Sting released this album after over three and a half years had transpired since putting out his mediocre and somewhat depressing “Mercury Falling” it was evident that he’d made some drastic yet necessary changes in his approach to his art. I’m happy to report that those adjustments worked out for the better because “Brand New Day” is an excellent record. While not on the lofty level of his masterpiece, “Soul Cages,” it’s as consistent in content as was “Ten Summoner’s Tales” and that’s a very complimentary assessment, indeed. The dour mood that surrounded his previous effort had dissipated and, as if Sting had been attending seminars featuring motivational speakers like Zig Ziglar, he stepped out from the dark shadows and seemed to glow with a positive, can-do attitude that was both refreshing and timely as the freaky 20th century came to a close. Maybe he’d been on vacation, touring the four corners of the planet in the interim, but the confident Sting was back and he had a slew of jazz/rock songs liberally dusted with savory world beat seasonings to share with his hungry fans.

The most surprising professional career move he’d made was to part ways with Hugh Padgham, the producer who’d guided him through his last three albums, hiring a guy who went by the nickname Kipper to man the helm. To his credit Kipper, protégé and one-time bandmate of new wave star Gary Numan, brought an un-jaded point of view into Sting’s endeavors and the results are sometimes breathtaking in their boldness. And, with Kipper-the-capable-musician on board, also gone was the considerable keyboard/synthesizer acumen of Kenny Kirkland but Sting wisely kept both Vinnie Colaiuta and Manu Katche (thereby availing himself of their extraordinary and vital drum skills) on the payroll. Plus, retaining the services of the versatile Dominic Miller for guitar-related duties insured that a continuous recognizable identity would be maintained no matter which direction Sting’s exploratory and daring muse led him in.

A droning fog bank of sound drifts in from nowhere to lead you into “A Thousand Years,” the disc’s opener that sports a repeating central theme streaming over simple drums and percussion. The dreamy aura Sting adorns this track with is hypnotic to the nth power, putting emphasis on the song’s spiritual message pronouncing that, despite the immensity of the universe and its “million doors to eternity,” he has “…kept this single faith/I have but one belief/I still love you/I still want you/a thousand times the mysteries unfold themselves/like galaxies in my head.” The tune’s jazzy motif marks a welcome return to the side of his music I like most. “Desert Rose” follows and it’s one of Sting’s most exciting numbers ever. Injecting what sounds like both Indian and Arabic influences into the song’s ambience lays a novel twist on his usual mode of operation and Algerian singer Cheb Mami’s warbling gives it a unique character. I love the crisp drums that fuel the track’s underlying energy and the cavernous depth of sound arising from the combination of Kipper’s synths and an actual string section. “Sweet desert rose/the memory of Eden haunts us all/this desert flower, this rare perfume/is the sweet intoxication of the fall,” he sings. Rarely do singles this foreign perform well on American radio but this one made it to #17. The jazzy “Big Lie Small World” is next, a Latin-tinged samba of sorts in a tricky 9/8 setting that has a luxurious rhythm to indulge in. The shimmering keyboard effect on the bridge is scintillating and guest Chris Botti’s muted trumpet adds a brilliant touch of class. One of Sting’s most endearing qualities lies in his storytelling ability and in this tune he relates a humorous tale of a jilted lover who pens a letter exaggerating his fun-filled lifestyle, mails it to his ex, has second thoughts and then goes about forcibly intercepting it before it reaches her.

On “After the Rain Has Fallen” funk/rock is joined to snapping tablas, an intriguing mix that struts under the verses, and the chorus is so cheerful and uplifting that it’s akin to having sunbeams warm your soul. The dynamic bridge section gives the track a delightful build-up to the climax. Via a story of a smitten princess who begs a handsome thief to take her from her prescribed existence into a life of adventure on the run, Sting delivers some of his most sanguine lyrics ever. “After the thunder’s spoken/and after the lightning bolt’s been hurled/after the dream has broken/there’ll still be love in the world,” he assures us. “Perfect Love… Gone Wrong” starts out as another journey deep into jazzland but when he lets it drop into some kind of French hip-hop nonsense it weirds me out completely. Each descent is short-lived but its mere presence ruins an otherwise cleverly-worded, entertaining song. I know what he was trying to achieve but it’s a failed experiment as far as I’m concerned. A ghostly mist begins “Tomorrow We’ll See.” Its wry, spy-flick air provides a nice change of scenery but the sober words about a transvestite prostitute costumed in a slick, contemporary AOR persona may be a turn-off for some. I find guest Brandon Marsalis’ clarinet and the arrangement’s silky strings keep things from getting stale. I’m not exactly sure of the purpose behind “Prelude to the End of the Game” but it’s nothing more than a 19-second long WTF? moment.

Sting’s fascination with American C&W (the same that reared its ugly head on his last CD) is almost comical but he caters to it once again on “Fill Her Up.” His British voice, even with the aid of James Taylor, will never work in that regionalized genre but he won’t listen to reason. To his credit he doesn’t belabor the issue and the tune’s saving graces arrive in the form of a wild 7/8 gospelized movement and a hot, jazzy jam session that carries on into the fade out. “Ghost Story” has a folky acoustic guitar foundation that’s beguiling and it’s good to see that he hasn’t lost touch with that earthy side of his upbringing. I appreciate how he allows the song to evolve and expand into something more substantial bit by bit. Offering a possible clue as to where his head’s been since “Mercury Falling” he sings, “What is the force that binds the stars?/I wore this mask to hide my scars/what is the power that pulls the tide?/never could find a place to hide.” A flowing Indian vibe saturates the beginning of “Brand New Day” and then Stevie Wonder’s glorious harmonica pricks up your ears as the tune’s loping shuffle groove engages your heart. In the hands of a lesser artist such an upbeat message of hope and of starting a relationship over with a clean slate would border on being hokey but Sting’s beaming, bright-eyed vocal makes it not only acceptable but contagious. The song’s trippy musical epilogue reminds me of the sort of thing George Martin would’ve suggested.

With this album Sting redeemed himself in the ears of his legion of admirers who feared he’d tragically misplaced his mojo and he was rewarded with it climbing up to #9 on the Billboard chart and garnering multiple Grammy nominations. It contains a high level of jazz to satisfy even the most skeptical of our hard-to-impress fraternity of jazzers yet avoids pretending to be something it ain’t. It’s a fine piece of work, that’s what it is. How fitting that, as the incoming millennium loomed dead ahead for our shaky and unbalanced planet, Sting urged us to summon the courage and resolve to make it an opportunity for a fresh do-over for mankind. He prodded us to “stand up all you lovers in the world/stand up and be counted/every boy and every girl/stand up all you lovers in the world/we’re starting up a brand new day.” That was great advice. Too bad we didn’t heed it.

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