Pop/Art Song/Folk / Jazz Related Soundtracks / Jazz Related Improv/Composition / Third Stream / Jazz Related Rock • United Kingdom
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STING picture
The milkman's son who became a teacher. It was his experience there that inspired 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' one of many classics of his band, The Police. Ridiculed for his tree-hugging and Tantric ways, he's now an elder statesman of pop

Gordon Sumner - nicknamed ‘Sting’ for the black and yellow striped sweater he would wear while performing - was born and raised in Newcastle. His mother was a classically trained pianist who’s teaching resulted in his being offered an advanced piano scholarship. He too trained as a teacher, but jazz and guitar were Sting's real loves, resulting in his ditching his career and moving to London to play professionally. American drummer Stewart Copeland caught his act and persuaded him to try rock. Joined by guitarist Andy Summers, the trio formed the Police in 1977.

Their rock-reggae sound broke through with 'Roxanne', a song about a prostitute later banned by
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STING Discography

STING albums / top albums

STING The Dream of the Blue Turtles album cover 3.52 | 14 ratings
The Dream of the Blue Turtles
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1985
STING ...Nothing Like the Sun album cover 3.91 | 11 ratings
...Nothing Like the Sun
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1987
STING The Soul Cages album cover 4.48 | 12 ratings
The Soul Cages
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1991
STING Ten Summoner's Tales album cover 3.92 | 13 ratings
Ten Summoner's Tales
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1993
STING The Living Sea album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
The Living Sea
Jazz Related Soundtracks 1995
STING Mercury Falling album cover 2.75 | 8 ratings
Mercury Falling
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1996
STING Brand New Day album cover 3.63 | 9 ratings
Brand New Day
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1999
STING Sacred Love album cover 3.19 | 6 ratings
Sacred Love
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2003
STING Songs From The Labyrinth album cover 2.95 | 2 ratings
Songs From The Labyrinth
Third Stream 2006
STING If on a Winter's Night... album cover 3.04 | 3 ratings
If on a Winter's Night...
Jazz Related Improv/Composition 2009
STING Symphonicities album cover 3.58 | 3 ratings
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2010
STING The Last Ship album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
The Last Ship
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2013
STING 57TH & 9TH album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
57TH & 9TH
Jazz Related Rock 2016
STING Sting And Shaggy : 44/876 album cover 2.83 | 2 ratings
Sting And Shaggy : 44/876
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2018
STING The Bridge album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Bridge
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2021

STING EPs & splits

STING ...Nada como el sol: Selecciones especiales en español y portugués album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
...Nada como el sol: Selecciones especiales en español y portugués
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1988

STING live albums

STING Bring On the Night album cover 3.93 | 7 ratings
Bring On the Night
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1986
STING Acoustic Live in Newcastle album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Acoustic Live in Newcastle
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1991
STING Demolition Man album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Demolition Man
Jazz Related Soundtracks 1993
STING ...All This Time album cover 3.41 | 7 ratings
...All This Time
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2001
STING Live In Berlin (Featuring Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra) album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Live In Berlin (Featuring Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra)
Jazz Related Improv/Composition 2010
STING My Songs - Live album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
My Songs - Live
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2019

STING demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

STING Live at the Universal Amphiteater: 10/29/99 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live at the Universal Amphiteater: 10/29/99
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2000
STING The 22nd Birthday Celebration for Prince Hakeem album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The 22nd Birthday Celebration for Prince Hakeem
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2000
STING The Solo Years Radio Special (54:00 Version) album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Solo Years Radio Special (54:00 Version)
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2011

STING re-issues & compilations

STING Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting 1984-1994 album cover 4.25 | 4 ratings
Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting 1984-1994
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1994
STING At the Movies album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
At the Movies
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1997
STING Still Be Love in the World album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Still Be Love in the World
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2001
STING Songs of Love (Victoria's Secret Exclusive) album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Songs of Love (Victoria's Secret Exclusive)
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2003
STING Sting & Edin Karamazov ‎– The Journey & The Labyrinth album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Sting & Edin Karamazov ‎– The Journey & The Labyrinth
Third Stream 2007
STING Duetos album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2009
STING 25 Years album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
25 Years
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2011
STING Duets album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2021

STING singles (2)

.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
We'll Be Together / Conversation With a Dog
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1987
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Brand New Day
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1999

STING movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
3.59 | 3 ratings
Bring On The Night
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2005
.. Album Cover
4.00 | 1 ratings
Live in Berlin
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2010
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
25 Years Boxset
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2011
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Last Ship
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2014

STING Reviews


Boxset / Compilation · 2021 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
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Matti P
Sting has been among my fave artists ever since my teenage years when The Police frontman started his solo career, but frankly I have minor interest towards his more recent output. I very strongly prefer the first three albums, and I even find the mid-period albums such as Brand New Day (1999) and Sacred Love (2003) rather boring.

Although my expectations for this compilation of duets recorded over the years weren't very high, I was initially surprised of how bad most of this stuff sounded to my ears; this is the question of the production style, no duet partners are to be blamed. [BTW, the CD's inner cover features Sting's brief liner notes for each performance which is nice, but I miss more accurate info about the original releases of these duets.] In short, too many tracks sound like lazy modern r&b with a sticky beat, starting from the opener 'Little Something' with Melody Gardot. Artists such as Mary J. Blige or Shaggy don't make me expect something else in the first place. Take for instance 'Rise & Fall' with Craig David: I truly hate that r&b thumping. I like Mylene Farmer's cute vocals in French on 'Stolen Car' but the Sacred Love song itself is quite poor and the sonic production in this version awful.

Annie Lennox is one of the collaborators I generally appreciate as individual artists, but alas, I have never liked the Nothing Like the Sun track 'We'll Be Together', and this version is even worse. The world music oriented 'Desert Rose' f. Cheb Mami was released on Brand New Day. All in all the 17-track set list offers only a few songs familiar from Sting's discography, and mostly not well chosen from my point of view, either. One of my personal highlights is 'Fragile' beautifully dueted with Julio Iglesias. The set's earliest recording 'It's Probably Me' (1992, f. Eric Clapton on guitar) exceptionally predates the album version on Ten Summoner's Tales (1993) and is clearly poorer.

So, the first half of this CD was a disappointment for me especially for the r&b sounds, but things get notably better towards the end. Who's not to like the chanson ballad 'L'amour c'est comme un Jour' with Charles Aznavour, or the jazz ballad 'My Funny Valentine' featuring Herbie Hancock on piano? I also enjoy 'September', Sting's collaboration with Zucchero. The final piece is a decent version of 'In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning' featuring the trumpet of Chris Botti.

The "Duets" album was meant to be released in november 2020 but was delayed due to covid-19. The same release date, 19 March 2021, saw also the digital-only release of 'Englishman/African in New York' f. Shirazee, and IMHO that track should have been included on this album as well. My rating remains pretty low, estimated against Sting's overall discography. But remember, my ratings for his latest studio albums would hardly be much better.

STING ...All This Time

Live album · 2001 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
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Boy, talk about disastrous timing. Sting planned and rehearsed for this particular concert months in advance and had everything lined up perfectly. It was going to be a stellar night whereupon another display of his musical legacy would be preserved forevermore. Unfortunately it was also September 11, 2001. The day of the worst man-conceived nightmare that could be imagined. Considering the earth-shaking events that occurred just hours before they were to go on, Sting graciously offered to excuse any musician in the gathered ensemble who wasn’t up to playing that evening but none opted to leave their assigned post. The adage of “the show must go on” never had such gravity and probably never will again but that was most likely the only thing they knew to do in that situation. I commend each of them for being such consummate professionals. They performed their assigned tasks with remarkable efficiency and poise but you can tell there’s a dark cloud hanging over the entire endeavor, casting a shadow on every aspect of it. What could’ve and should’ve been a joyous celebration of Sting’s highly successful career turned out to be a case of let’s just do the best we can and get through this thing without being overcome by the grief connected to the cruel tragedy we just witnessed on television. I feel sorry for all that were involved in this recording. It must’ve been the hardest job they’ve ever had to do.

Taking all of those worrisome and troubling external distractions into account, this is a pretty good live recording of some of his finest material. I presume it’s no accident that they open the set with the poignant and appropriate “Fragile.” The first verse is ethereal as Sting intones “If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one/drying in the color of the evening sun/tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away/but something in our minds will always stay,” before they slip into a rhythm truer to the original. The brief instrumental segment sports a Latin tint and overall it’s a very jazzy interpretation they present with subdued class. “A Thousand Years” owns less opulence than it did on the album, causing it to not have as much impact, but when guest Chris Botti’s golden trumpet segues them to the jazz-laden “Perfect Love…Gone Wrong” things get interesting for a spell. Jason Rebello’s piano solo is wonderful and Clark Gayton’s muted trombone is a nice surprise. “All This Time” is a let down due to the different feel they adopt that doesn’t work. The song’s main allure is its juxtaposition of a bright, carefree melody with highly sarcastic lyrics and this rendition fails to capitalize on the irony. “The Hounds of Winter” is a faithful recreation of the studio track and at least drummer extraordinaire Manu Katche gets a rare chance to kick some tail towards the end of the number. I’m curious as to why Sting wanted to delve back into his Police catalogue but the semi-jazz atmosphere he constructs around “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” gives it new life and a much less lecherous personality that’s refreshing. The ballad “When We Dance” takes over by moving right into the mellow mood they’ve established. Jaques Morelenbaum’s cello adds a cool tone but, like most of the tunes from the “Mercury Falling” album, the quality of the composition just doesn’t measure up.

The jazziest piece on the disc is next, “Dienda.” As far as I can tell, this is the only place you can find it. It was co-written with his former keyboard man Kenny Kirkland and I can only surmise that it was never on one of Sting’s albums because it leans too far into the pure jazz realm. No matter what the reason, it’s a genuine hidden gem and Rebello’s piano ride in the middle is exquisite. Sting drags out another relic in the form of “Roxanne” but the group’s reduced-stress approach is immeasurably easier to tolerate. The sweet cello in the interlude is intriguing and they pull off a nifty detour into a jazzy shuffle where Clark’s trombone contributes some playful sass. They attach a Ramsey Lewis-like groove to “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” that makes it glow with a jazzy hue. Otherwise, nothing unexpected pops up until the last section when it goes wholly gospel. For “Brand New Day” they cop a classic rock & roll attitude that catches you off guard, especially with their dramatic, R&B revue-styled pauses during the first verse. The entrance of the big band persona later on is entertaining, too. The momentum sags a bit when they slow for “Fields of Gold.” It’s hardly distinguishable from the album version and that’s a shame because if there was a tune he really could’ve put his jazz hat on for it’s this one but he plays it straight. Yet, in the case of “Moon Over Bourbon Street,” it’s a relief that he didn’t tamper with the original much at all. It’s a superb number as it is and Botti’s trumpet licks are sublime. After a laid-back intro, “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” dives headlong into the song’s rock core and it emerges strong and hale. The biggest disappointment is the closer, “Every Breath You Take.” It sounds like the kind of patronizing, hokey deal you’d expect to be subjected to in a glitzy Las Vegas cocktail lounge. I guess I can’t blame the musicians but it’s as if they’re in a hurry to finish the show and it leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

The most blatant discrepancy on this album is Sting’s normally dependable-as-the-sunrise voice. I sense that he may’ve taken the murderous, cowardly acts of the bloodthirsty terrorists harder than anyone else on that stage. The unfair pressure to go through with the gig regardless must’ve been weighing on his shoulders like a boulder the whole time and his sometimes strained vocals betray his angst and inner heartache repeatedly. I know that in a perfect world he would’ve postponed the entire shebang and rescheduled it for many months down the line but the logistics and financial investment involved in the project prevented that from being an option. It’s just one more consequence of the horrible happenings that took place on 9/11/01 that can’t be rewound and fixed. The noble gesture of Sting respectfully dedicating this album to all those who lost their lives on that sad day may outlive the music that it contains.

STING Sacred Love

Album · 2003 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
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At the tail end of September 2003 Sting, after four years had passed without a follow up to his impressive “Brand New Day” album, put out “Sacred Love.” His first studio project of the current millennium was expected to be out of this world considering how long he’d had to assemble it but the cold truth is that it fell short of even matching the one that preceded it. Actually, it’s not even close. While it doesn’t sink to the depths that “Mercury Falling” did it is hampered by a dearth of new ideas and contains mediocre moments too numerous to overlook. One important aspect remains consistent as it always has in Sting’s catalogue of music, though, and that’s the high fidelity this recording possesses in spades. It sounds great. But, unfortunately, if a song is average no amount of slick studio and mixdown techniques can make it extraordinary and that’s the fundamental problem with “Sacred Love.” The tunes are just not up to snuff when compared to what this artist has written in the past.

You certainly can’t lay the blame on the musicians involved since the basic band line-up is the same as on “Brand New Day.” Manu Katche and Vinnie Colaiuta supply their exquisite expertise on drums, Dominic Miller works his special magic on guitar and co-producer Kipper performs his keyboard and programming duties flawlessly so none of these guys were the fly in the ointment. Jason Rebello on piano and Rhodes was the only stranger in the house but it’s not fair to point the finger at him just because of his newbie status. No, the buck stops at Sting’s desk. It may’ve been a case of him not being able to zero in on an inspiring direction and, instead, relying on experience and instinct to guide him. Who knows? Don’t get me wrong, “Sacred Love” isn’t without merit and a handful of its songs are quite good but over the decades I’ve come to expect wondrous things from Sting and, justified or not, that’s what he gets for setting his own bar so high.

The disc starts with a mysterious intro (a device he ends up overusing) that leads to a surprisingly spare, four-piece combo ambience for the early going of “Inside.” It’s not horrible but it appears that Sting is forcing trendy hip-hop phrasing into his delivery of the lyrics and that approach makes them too busy and distracting to be memorable. I like a little alliteration as much as the next dude but he goes overboard with lines like “Radiate me/subjugate me/incubate me/recreate me/demarcate me/educate me/punctuate me…” Etcetera, etcetera and so forth. You get the gist. After a while those hurried words cease to mean anything. “Send Your Love” is next. It begins with a nice yet irrelevant Spanish guitar flourish before an energetic world beat takes over. As he did often on his previous album, Sting injects an entertaining Arabian/Indian atmosphere into the proceedings but what he fails to provide is a melody line that’ll stay in your noggin, something he usually excels at. His words are uncharacteristically vague, as well. “Inside your head is a relay station/a mission probe into the unknowing/we send a seed to a distant future/then we can watch the galaxies growing,” he sings. Do what? “Whenever I Say Your Name” is a step up. After another spacey beginning the underlying track adopts a “modern urban” R&B feel. That’s not something I’m crazy about but it suits this tune well and the involved, near-classical chord progressions in both the verses and the choruses are engaging. At the end it sports a funky breakdown segment where Sting emotes and guest Mary J. Blige wails. The spiritual lyrics about turning to God in seasons of strife are uplifting. “Whenever the sun refuse to shine/whenever the skies are pouring rain/whatever I lost I thought was mine/whenever I close my eyes in pain/whenever I kneel to pray/whenever I need to find a way/I’m calling out your name,” they cry together.

That one’s okay but it’s not the best cut on the album. “Dead Man’s Rope” is. It has a folk/rock atmosphere that’s aided by a gliding rhythm track that strolls briskly underneath and Sting wisely avoids unnecessarily complicating this well-written song. The ethereal bridge puts contrast into the arrangement and the words carry a strong emotional pull as he relates the last thoughts a condemned man ponders before facing the noose. What could’ve been a sad story isn’t because he’s found peace through surrendering his heart to the Lord. “All this wandering has led me to this place/inside the well of my memory/sweet rain of forgiveness/now I’m walking in his grace/I’m walking in his footsteps,” he smiles. It’s terrific. Sting still has the gift of being able to touch my soul. “Never Coming Home” follows and it’s another world beat number packing plenty of momentum. The lyrics describe a couple where the male doesn’t take his lover’s threats seriously but one day she finally leaves him forever. Its weakness lies in its lacking a musical focal point for the first half until the ascending movement kicks in and Rebello’s hot jazz piano solo launches the tune into the stratosphere. Deep oceans of dense synthesizers give “Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing)” a warmth that glows behind crisp drums and Sting’s sensuous voice. A complex tapestry of intertwined background vocals embellish the catchy chorus but the real star is the story he weaves about a clairvoyant thief who, by picking up on hints inside the fancy automobile he’s swiped, intuitively senses that the rich owner of the vehicle is deceiving both his wife and his mistress by falsely promising to give them the romantic life they foolishly dream of sharing with him.

The slow funk beat of “Forget About the Future” grants it a slinky vibe that’s hard to resist. Dominic’s guitar is tastefully understated, Sting’s jazzy vocal delivery gives it magnetism and the clever addition of sly horns in the final segment makes it cool as a Popsicle. The words are delightfully humorous. “They said we’d better check the weather chart/before we tie our colors to this mast/it’s just too hard thinking about the future, baby/so let’s get on with the past,” he smirks. Sting gets his rock on (his heaviest since “Soul Cages”) for “This War” but his too-controlled vocal doesn’t fit the track’s intensity although mucho kudos go out to Miller for his ferocious guitar work. Stirring words like “There’s a war on our democracy/a war on our dissent/there’s a war inside religion/and what Jesus might have meant” must be sung with unrestrained passion and I’m disappointed that Sting didn’t bring it. Heavy Indian flavorings color “The Book of My Life” due in no small part to Anoushka Shankar’s sitar but the tune is pedestrian because nothing distinguishes it from Sting’s frequent forays into exotic musical locales. You keep expecting something sensational to occur but it never does and the words just ramble. “Sacred Love” comes on strong with its perky rhythm track and this time the song’s potential is met as it builds layer by layer and the exciting gospel chorale steps in at the perfect juncture. Sting’s lyrics about discovering the ultimate spiritual ecstasy standing right in front of his nose in the person of his own wife are playfully sexy and he sings with the feverish fervor of a revival evangelist. He should have stopped while the gettin’ was good but he felt compelled to screw the pooch by attaching something called a Dave Aude remix of “Send Your Love.” It’s a crappy techno-dance version of a tune that didn’t have much substance to begin with, causing me to wonder what the hell Sting was smoking that day. Barf.

Of all things bothersome about this extremely uneven record the lack of a palpable jazz presence is the major let down. Oh, it makes a few brief appearances here and there but it gets overwhelmed by Sting’s fascination with in-vogue 21st century hip-hop inflections that noticeably dominate this disc. It’s not a total wash out because several of the cuts are top notch but I know what he’s capable of and this isn’t his best work by a mile. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and “Sacred Love” was tossed into my “been there, done that” stack of CDs sooner than I anticipated. You can only punch the skip button so many times before an album becomes more hassle than you’re willing to put up with to hear three or four exceptional songs and the disc gets set aside. That’s the fate this record suffered.

STING Brand New Day

Album · 1999 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
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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.

STING Mercury Falling

Album · 1996 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
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One of the most predictable things that can transpire in the life of a successful musician/songwriter is that after a while they’ll grow somewhat bored with the sound that made them famous and develop a certain “been there, done that” attitude towards their art. That’s not always a negative because sometimes their newfound quest to take on the challenge of discovering alternative corridors in their mansion of talent results in them surprising their fans in a positive, horizon-expanding manner (Bob Dylan comes to mind). Much more often than not they find out the hard way that just because they harbor an affection or admiration for another type of music doesn’t mean they can play/sing it well. Monet was unquestionably a master of impressionism but that doesn’t guarantee he would’ve been much of a cubist. I think what Sting tried to do was force his square peg into some round holes on “Mercury Falling” and, while it wasn’t a dismal, career-ending failure, it just didn’t work. Don’t get me wrong, there are some wicked songs on this album and the craftsmanship is up to his usual high standards throughout but compared to his masterpiece, 1991’s poignant “Soul Cages,” and the superb “Ten Summoner’s Tales” that followed it in ‘93 this was a major disappointment to his fans that are partial to his jazzier side. And that includes me.

Things start off headed in the right direction, however, with the moody and jazz-tinted “The Hounds of Winter.” Its descending chord progression and deep field of sound is typical of his early 90s motif but the overall composition isn’t as memorable as most of his album openers. It’s not bad by any means and the tune’s lonesome guy lyrics fit the blustery mood well as he sings “I’m as dark as December/I’m as cold as the Man in the Moon.” The next song shines a light on the profile of Sting I like best, the intriguing “I Hung My Head.” What would normally be a mundane, folky campfire tune is made captivating by the jazzy, mind-twisting 9/8 time signature he employs. The tragic story line reminds me of the plot of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, “Deadeye Dick,” in which a man’s momentary carelessness results in the death of a total stranger and his having to face the inevitable consequences of that mistake. “I orphaned his children/I widowed his wife/I beg their forgiveness/I wish I was dead/I hung my head, I hung my head…” he cries. Returning keyboard man Kenny Kirkland (he was absent from the lineup on the previous CD) adds an appropriately pensive atmosphere to the track with his soft Hammond organ. The only single to chart from this record was his venture into contemporary R&B gospel, “Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot.” Most definitely it marked an unexpected move on his part and the song’s okay (albeit nothing exciting jumps out to distinguish the tune) but the problem lies in the fact that Sting’s voice doesn’t lend itself to a number so Ray Charles-ish. This is the first of several cuts on this disc where our star detours into musical realms he’s not suited for, good intentions aside. Not to cast disrespect on the song’s title and recurring message, he should’ve let his label’s A&R department be his guide for this project.

Having said that, “I Was Brought to My Senses” follows and it’s classic, fantastic Sting. He creates another folk-like aura at the beginning but it soon settles into an easy-flowing 7/8 feel where crisp acoustic guitars and a coy fiddle create an engaging tapestry of sound. His heartfelt, romantic words are presented inside a catchy melody line and it’s wonderful to hear Sting’s former cohort Brandon Marsalis’ sprightly soprano sax show up with a too-brief cameo appearance in the last segment. “You Still Touch Me” is next and it’s at this juncture that the album derails. Sting chooses to experiment with the Memphis/Muscle Shoals soul vibe that he probably idolized as a kid but his wholly Caucasian vocal chops don’t meld with the genre at all and it just ain’t right. On top of all that it occurs to me that he’s keeping his electrifying drummer Vinnie Colaiuta on too short a leash this time and he should’ve known better. “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” is a gallant stab at capturing the spirit of Nashville but, the mature lyric content notwithstanding, it’s yet another fish out of water scenario. Even if Sting owned the requisite good-ol’-boy baritone, the number’s arrangement is way too complex for formula C&W. On “All Four Seasons” he tries his hand at manufacturing a Stax Records-styled groove but it lacks the emotional sincerity it desperately needs and it’s too tight to possess the imperfect human element that allows this kind of music to develop real character.

“La Belle Dame Sans Regrets” is a welcome swing back towards a jazzier frame of mind and it’s a relief to hear Vinnie’s drums get to do more than hold down a straight beat for a change. Kirkland’s piano solo is slyly seductive and, while the track may be a bit too AOR for many, it’s a big step up from the three cuts that precede it. (I’m sure the lyrics are fine & dandy but I don’t know French so it could be about fish fillets for all I know.) He returns to his folksy roots for “Valparaiso,” a cool waltz that features the ever-hypnotic Northumbrian Pipes and vibrant acoustic guitars. The song picks up momentum during the second section thanks to Colaiuta’s tactful drums and percussion as Sting delivers poetic words about a sailor returning home from a long stint at sea. As a bonus, the group segues into a delightful little jazzy jam at the end. Our blonde-haired hero goes stripped-down Springsteen for “Lithium Sunset” but it’s a futile tack because, to quote Dirty Harry, “a man’s got to know his limitations” and Sting obviously didn’t. Bottom line is this: a harmonica, pedal steel guitar and a ten-gallon hat don’t make you country.

My lasting impression of Sting at this stage of his career is that of a gifted artist who didn’t know what to do with himself. I’m sure that millions of his followers who love Motown and/or C&W (I don’t care much for either) thought that this was a marvelous example of Sting competently displaying his versatility and wide range of musical acumen and they have every right to hold that opinion. I don’t share it. Steve Winwood’s an exemplary singer but if he went hip-hop crazy I have a strong notion that the final product would be, um… less than extraordinary in my estimation and I wouldn’t be pleased. That’s how I view this album. There’s some quality material included here but, since the response from his loyal fans was a documented shrug and sales weren’t nearly what his label had hoped for after waiting over three years for him to make it, I think that mercury wasn’t the only thing falling in ’96. So was Sting’s credibility.

STING Movies Reviews

STING Bring On The Night

Movie · 2005 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
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The concept here is a documentary of a band forming, The Blue Turtles Band, rather than a band at their peak or breaking up. Fortunately it is heavier on the music than the documentary.

The first half takes place in a French countryside chateaux and consists of presentable songs from nine days of practice sessions for what was to be their first show. Everyone in the band seems to be having a good time. The chateaux provides nice a nice backdrop to the sessions. The second half is the show itself.

Since this was Sting's first post Police effort, there's a lot of reworked Police songs mixed in with tracks from the first album. It's sort of like the Police meets jazz with Andy Summers ejected so Sting could play guitar. The band line up is primarily younger jazz musicians that already had a good reputation for work they had done before hooking up with Sting.

There are interview excerpts between the songs. One of the more interesting ones was Miles Copeland, Sting's manager and Stewart's brother going on about negotiations with the rest of the band. He was extremely dismissive of the band in relation to Sting when it came to monetary compensation. I suspect that was more about himself getting a bigger piece of the pie than a reflection on Sting, although I do recall him guest appearing on a Saturday Night Live show with Steve Marting and Steve introducing him as Stin-gy.

I originally saw this one in a theater and was really pleased to see it released being reworked with "high definition digital anamorphic picture transfer and digitally remastered surround audio." It actually does look a little sharper than I recall and I think the orginal sound was just stereo.

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