STING — Duets (review)

STING — Duets album cover Boxset / Compilation · 2021 · Pop/Art Song/Folk Buy this album from MMA partners
2.5/5 ·
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.
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