STING — ...Nothing Like the Sun

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STING - ...Nothing Like the Sun cover
3.69 | 8 ratings | 1 review
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Album · 1987

Filed under Pop/Art Song/Folk


A1 The Lazarus Heart 4:34
A2 Be Still My Beating Heart 5:32
A3 Englishman In New York 4:25
B1 History Will Teach Us Nothing 4:58
B2 They Dance Alone (Gueca Solo) 7:16
B3 Fragile 3:54
C1 We'll Be Together 4:52
C2 Straight To My Heart 3:54
C3 Rock Steady 4:27
D1 Sister Moon 3:46
D2 Little Wing 5:04
D3 The Secret Marriage 2:03

Total Time: 55:10


Sting / vocals, bass, guitar
Manu Katche / drums
Kenny Kirkland / keyboards
Branford Marsalis / saxophone
Mino Cinelu / percussion, vocoder

Additional guest musicians:
Andy Newmark / drums
Andy Summers / guitar
Fareed Haque / guitar
Mark Knopfler / guitar
Eric Clapton / guitar
Ruben Blades / vocal
Ken Helman / piano
Hiram Bullock / guitar
Kenwood Dennard / drums
Mark Egan / bass

About this release

A&M Records ‎– AMA 6402 (UK)

Thanks to Chicapah, snobb for the updates


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Well over two years after releasing his highly successful but slightly uneven solo career debut Sting rolled out his much-anticipated sophomore effort and his diehard followers ate it up. The fans on the fringe were another story. The deciding factors involved in it only going double platinum instead of triple like “Dream of the Blue Turtles” were the quickly-changing tastes of the disc-buying public occurring in the latter stages of the MTV virus-infected 80s music scene. The Police were long gone and Sting’s presence as a mover & shaker in the biz was naturally fading as other, newer acts were crowding into the marketplace. This album revealed him to still be stuck in that netherworld between where he’d been and where he was at the moment. Where he was going hadn’t been established but snippets of the unique aural galaxy he’d create down the road can be heard hither and yon within “…Nothing Like The Sun.”

The smartest thing Gordon Sumner did to elevate the quality of the sessions for this album above his previous endeavor was to hire the brilliant drummer Manu Katche to anchor the rhythm section. Manu’s work with Peter Gabriel was instrumental in consolidating that eclectic artist’s material into fare that common laymen could digest without having to sacrifice the eccentricities that set him apart from the herd. With Sting Katche’s task wasn’t nearly as daunting but one cannot deny the powerful impact he makes in the tracks on this record. He brings an excitement to the music that can’t be explained but is as plain as the pitted nose on your mug. Also gone was the substitute bass player. Sting’s presence in his own band made it easier for him to convey the personalities he wanted each tune to possess.

He starts out with a quasi world beat simmering beneath “The Lazarus Heart” but Manu’s straightforward drums keep it from straying too far from the rock/jazz realm. Sting’s intricate bass lines and Branford Marsalis’ soprano sax highlight this number. The lyrics are prosaic but so personal I find them hard to relate to and the same sad incident (his mother’s passing) inspired the next song, “Be Still My Beating Heart.” There’s a dreamy aura surrounding this one but it owns more rock elements than jazz. I like the way Kenny Kirkland’s piano flits around the perimeter and how, despite it having enough commercial appeal to make it a top 20 single, it veers away from a formulaic arrangement. Caribbean atmospheres inhabit “Englishman in New York” and Branford’s sprightly soprano sax adds an air of frivolity. Midway through they detour into a punchy jazz motif briefly followed by rude pounding tubs that defy reason but the whole presentation is just offbeat enough to be intriguing. A light ska undercurrent (reminiscent of the type that Sting’s former group made hip) flows through “History Will Teach Us Nothing.” Sting was as blown away by Buckminster Fuller’s poignant book “Critical Path” as I was, evidently, and his words reflect its radical point of view fairly but the song suffers from too much repetition up to the bridge section where he injects a few chord changes. However, give a close listen to what Katche is peppering the track with in the background and you’ll hear how a gifted drummer such as he can make a huge difference in a tune’s evolution.

Greatness is next, the transcendent “They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo).” Military drums roiling in the distance during the intro are ominous but the moving, sober mood the band establishes is enrapturing. The beautiful melody is sung with respectful emotion and the song’s bridge segment lifts your spirit. Kenny’s lush keyboards fill up the surroundings elegantly and Marsalis’ tasteful sax lines are perfectly placed. Sting wrote this in protest of the torture and tyranny orchestrated by the Chilean government against its citizens but the words uttered by the victims’ wives and mothers, “One day we’ll dance on their graves/one day we’ll sing our freedom/one day we’ll laugh in our joy/and we’ll dance…” express the greatest form of defiance there is. Hope. And I LOVE how the music slips into a soft, double-time samba at the end. The fitting “Fragile” follows and it’s not only one of the best cuts here but one of the most enduring in his career. His admirable Spanish guitar playing adds a new dimension to the album’s sound and his call for international sanity is timeless. “Perhaps this final act was meant/to clinch a lifetime’s argument/that nothing comes from violence/and nothing ever could/for all those born beneath an angry star/lest we forget how fragile we are,” he sings.

At this juncture some seriously fun Caucasian funk is in order and Sting delivers in spades with the frisky “We’ll Be Together.” It more than deserved to be a #7 hit mainly because Manu’s drumming is lively and entertaining as kids in a bouncy house without ever losing the track’s strong groove and the breakdown at the end is clever and invigorating. The 7/8 time signature Sting employs on “Straight to My Heart” offers a glimpse of what lies ahead in the years to come and the jazzy background vocals are engaging. One of my favorites is next, “Rock Steady,” a delightful tune with a jazzy blues feel that’s cool as November. His sense of humor emerges here as he tells the tale of a couple who respond to a classified ad for volunteers on Noah’s Ark, not knowing what they’re signing up for. Sting’s tricky phrasing is amazingly smooth and Kirkland’s incidental piano flourishes, as well as the snippy horn lines, add glitz and glamour to the song. “Sister Moon” sports a lazy jazz feel that’s somewhat narcotic and Branford’s soprano sax haunts throughout.

While listening to it for this review I realized this CD is better than I remember it being but I know the reason for the bad vibe. His cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing” is so cold and lifeless that it taints my overall impression of the whole album like a red wine stain on a white dinner jacket. How does one screw up a classic? Start by jettisoning your top-notch musicians and replacing them with guys I’ve never heard of. Then suck out all its kinetic energy and flatten its inherent dynamics to where it has all the passion of supermarket muzak. The guitar solo by some hack named Hiram Bullock is a disgrace to the genius who penned the tune and Marsalis’ saxophone ride is sickeningly sweet. Sting should’ve locked this one in the vault. “Secret Marriage” is the closer and it’s a modern jazz composition that’s interesting but ultimately forgettable. It’s sparsely populated with piano, bass and vocal and maybe he just didn’t know where to stick this odd duck. As strange as it is, it assuredly leaves a better taste in your mouth than “Little Wing” does.

Sting spent his formative years in various English jazz outfits. As his solo career progressed that influence emerged more and more as he tunneled his way out of the corner he’d painted himself into as a Policeman in search of his own enclave in the music universe. In most respects “…Nothing Like The Sun” is an improvement over the album that preceded it but he had yet to find his true calling. He would discover it soon enough.

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