STING — The Dream of the Blue Turtles

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STING - The Dream of the Blue Turtles cover
3.30 | 11 ratings | 1 review
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Album · 1985

Filed under Pop/Art Song/Folk


A1 If You Love Somebody Set Them Free 4:14
A2 Love Is The Seventh Wave 3:30
A3 Russians 3:57
A4 Children's Crusade 5:00
A5 Shadows In The Rain 4:56
B1 We Work The Black Seam 5:40
B2 Consider Me Gone 4:21
B3 The Dream Of The Blue Turtles 1:15
B4 Moon Over Bourbon Street 3:59
B5 Fortress Around Your Heart 4:48

Total Time: 41:42


- Dolette McDonald /Backing Vocals
- Janice Pendarvis /Backing Vocals
- Danny Q , Elliot Jones , Jane Alexander , Joe Sumner , Kate Sumner , Michael Sumner , Nannies Chorus, The , Pete Smith , Rosemary Purt , Stephanie Crewdson , Sting , Vic Garbarini / Backing Vocals [Additional]
- Darryl Jones /Bass
- Omar Hakim /Drums
- Kenny Kirkland /Keyboards
- Danny Quatrochi /Keyboards [Synclavier]
- Branford Marsalis /Percussion, Saxophone
- Sting /Vocals, Guitar

About this release

A&M Records ‎– SP-3750 (US)

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Sting’s one of the rare artists who patiently waited until the band that gave him his notoriety officially broke up before beginning his solo career and I find that rather noble. I also think it was a smart move on his part as it allowed the public to put some distance between him and what he’d accomplished with his highly successful Police squad. With few exceptions Sting went out of his way on “Dream of the Blue Turtles” to produce a sound perpendicular to what that famous trio created and the result is a mixture of sometimes excellent but mostly mediocre music. It’s obvious Sting was happy to no longer be shackled by the inherent limitations that having only bass, guitar and drums as the prominent instrumentation had imposed on his endeavors. Piano, organ, horns and synthesizers abound inside these tunes and, with the exception of plucking on an upright bass on one track, Sting didn’t even go near the bass guitar! Instead he hired Darryl Jones to do the honors. He deliberately did everything he possibly could to be the un-Policeman and therein lies the biggest drawback of this record: It’s the well-intentioned product of someone who’s trying too hard to shed his skin.

He charges out of the gate in a bright burst of energy with “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” a catchy R&B extravaganza that raced to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, proving that he was no Johnny-come-lately destined for oblivion. Kenny Kirkland’s crisp organ and the great Branford Marsalis’ sax work well with Sting’s impassioned vocal as he delivers defiant lines like “you can’t control an independent heart.” The Caribbean flavor of “Love is the Seventh Wave” comes as no surprise to those familiar with what the Police incorporated into their new wave concoctions but here the dreadlock persona doesn’t overwhelm the mood and, despite its dearth of dynamics, it’s one of the better cuts. Sting is brave to suggest, in the middle of the “me” decade when world annihilation was a constant threat to mankind, that “there is a deeper wave than this rising in the land,” the power of spiritual love (not a popular sentiment at the time). He also takes the opportunity to poke fun at himself with the sly wink of “every move you make, every cake you bake” on the fade out.

With the opulent “Russians” Sting demonstrates that he isn’t about to limit himself to just writing hummable rock ditties and that he has bigger fish to fry. This Prokofiev-inspired orchestral piece is quite adventurous for the pop-goes-the-MTV era and he shows off his versatile voice elegantly throughout. The lyrics are especially poignant for that us-versus-them political climate as he reminds all that “what might save us/me and you/is that the Russians love their children, too.” But in the flowing waltz that is “Children’s Crusade” his band fails to lock into the groove until the hypnotic instrumental segment where Branford’s soprano sax soars high over dense synthesizer clouds and by then it’s too late. The overachiever curse that haunts this album is especially noticeable on “Shadows in the Rain” where his opening adlibs poorly imitate spontaneity and this rushed shuffle comes off as fraudulent. Kirkland and Marsalis’ rides lack any semblance of soul and when Sting hoarsely barks “I don’t know exactly where I am” it’s plain to hear that he’s still looking for his niche.

An unconventional drum pattern perpetrated by drummer Omar Hakim sets “We Work the Black Seam” apart but Sting is guilty of not allowing spaces of quiet to provide necessary contrast and the repeating pattern of verse/chorus/verse/chorus grows monotonous. Sadly he forces the music to bow to the statement he insists on making about the dangers of carbon fourteen. But all is not lost. The jazzy feel of “Consider Me Gone” is refreshingly honest and pretense-free in an easy-going, contemporary way as he betrays his mental fatigue, singing “I’ve spent too many years at war with myself.” During the instrumental section Sting at last shows restraint and lets the track breathe. The short title cut (1:15 long) is also the most lighthearted. It’s an eclectic musical interlude where Kenny’s piano spasm blazes like a shooting star before it collapses in a cacophony of laughter. On the album’s apex, “Moon Over Bourbon Street,” Sting achieves good balance between words and music. It’s an unusual blend of jazz and chamber music with a dash of Dixieland mixed in. His vampire character’s lament of “I must love what I destroy/and destroy the things I love” fits into the French Quarter ambience perfectly. “Fortress Around Your Heart” is the closer and it sounds more like a holdover from his former group’s “Synchronicity” sessions (can you say “Wrapped Around Your Finger”?) than something new. That’s not to say it’s bad (it was a #8 hit) but it has a “Remember me? I’m the guy from The Police” ring to it that I find slightly gauche. Branford’s playful soprano sax adds levity to the track and, in Sting’s defense; it’s the only song in which he predictably rides the safe coattails of where he came from.

The stark cover photo makes Sting look more like the dude from Wang Chung than the hopeless romantic he was trying to present himself as being on his first solo voyage but then none of us were what we thought we were in ’85, were we? I’m not as impressed with “The Dream of the Blue Turtles” as millions of others are and I’m sure Sting’s okay with that. The LP went triple platinum, was nominated for Grammy’s Album-of-the-year award, lingered at #2 on the charts for a spell and probably made him a buttload of dough. Despite my disappointment I didn’t give up on the boy and my faith proved to be warranted in the years that followed as he continually improved while learning to relax and let his artistic talent flow more naturally.

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