A Six-pack of Sting

I was and am a pretty massive Police fan. I did a series on them a while back and said this: “The Police are number ten on my all-time list of favorite bands. Can’t believe I never saw ’em. Well, saw Sting a couple of years ago. But still. What the hell was I thinking? Well, I guess I was thinking $225 USD to see Police and Elvis Costello is beaucoup bucks. Shoulda caught them in their heyday. C’est, as the French say, la vie…

How I came to this particular post is because I was watching a video deconstructing one of Sting’s songs on YouTube and I had that “ah-ha” moment of inspiration we bloggers sometimes get. Sting’s solo career has lasted quite a bit longer than the Police ever did and while I don’t follow him that closely anymore, he’s got a lot of great stuff. (The Spotify list has the six-pack and then some).

Wikipedia: “According to Sting, appearing in the documentary Last Play at Shea, he decided to leave the Police while onstage during a concert of 18 August 1983 at Shea Stadium in New York City because he felt that playing that venue was “[Mount] Everest.” While never formally breaking up, after Synchronicity, the group agreed to concentrate on solo projects. As the years went by, the band members, especially Sting, dismissed the possibility of reforming.”

I won’t necessarily go chronologically here but I will mention that Sting’s first solo album (1985) was The Dream of the Blue Turtles. It was pretty successful and other than that reunion tour with his mates, he’s never looked back. Interestingly, with few exceptions, he never really rocked out as much as he did in the Police having become more of a soft rocker.

In 1999, Sting released an album called Brand New Day. The album earned Sting a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album and his third Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for the title track. 

I’ll get back to that tune but I’m instead gonna jump here to a song I really dig called “Desert Rose.” On this one, Sting duetted with an Algerian singer named Cheb Mami. It’s got a great, light, airy world music feel.

Spotify link

I used to have the cassette of ...Nothing Like the Sun and both my wife and I spent quite a lot of time listening to it back in the day. Of this album, Rolling Stone wrote: “…Nothing Like the Sun represents [an] impressive growth for Sting. His voice is rich, grainy, and more mature; his ideas are gaining in complexity, and musically he is stretching without straining.”

From that album, “Fragile.” I think about these lyrics a fair amount, especially lately:

On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are how fragile we are
How fragile we are how fragile we are

Spotify link

So just to prove that you never know where a really good song is gonna come from, the song “It’s Probably Me” comes from the soundtrack of a movie called Lethal Weapon 3 made back when Mel Gibson could actually get hired. Sting co-wrote this tune with Eric Clapton and keyboardist Michael Kamen. Those guys play on it as does ubiquitous drummer Steve Gadd and saxman David Sanborn.

Spotify link

By now you’re probably saying to yourself, what the fuck happened to Sting the rocker? Didn’t he make great stuff like “So Lonely” and “Demolition Man?” Sure, same guy, right. But he admitted that as he got older it became harder to sing about his adolescent concerns.

But in 2016, der Stinglehoffer decided to put his rock and roll boots back on with an album called 57th and 9th. Wikipedia advises that the album title is a reference to the New York intersection Sting crossed every day to get to Avatar Studios in Hell’s Kitchen where much of the album was recorded.

This is called “Petrol Head.” Some good shit here:

Spotify link

From the album Ten Summoner’s Tales (real name: Gordon Sumner) comes “Shape of My Heart.” Of it, Sting says he, ‘wanted to tell the story of a card player, a gambler who gambles not to win but to try to figure out something; to figure out some kind of mystical logic in luck, or chance; some kind of scientific, almost religious law.’

Beautiful song and I love the guitar figure in this:

Spotify link

To close this six-pack out, let’s go back to the album Brand New Day for the title track:

Spotify link

Sting is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and has so many awards he has an entire Wikipedia page devoted to that topic alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 thoughts on “A Six-pack of Sting

  1. While I don’t listen to Sting as much as I used to, he remains one of my favorite artists. I dig all of the tunes you chose to highlight. In terms of his solo albums, I like “Ten Summoner’s Tales” the best. I also thought his debut “The Dream of the Blue Turtles” was strong, though songs like “If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free” and “Russians” were over-exposed, at least on the radio back in Germany.

    As for the lack of rock in much of Sting’s solo career, I think it’s fair to say he has mostly focused on pop, sometimes with some jazz influence. And then there was of course his phase of music from the middle ages and the musical. While I appreciate when an artist explore new territory, I was less impressed with the outcomes. That being said, Sting’s 2016 album “57th & 9th” marked a return to a rock-oriented sound. While “Petrol Head” is the rawest among the tracks, I would also call out “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You” and “50,000.”

    I saw Sting in June 1991 at a large open air festival in Germany called “Rock am Ring,” where he was the headliner together with INXS. BTW, speaking of rock, he threw in a great cover of “Purple Haze” during that show. I also caught in the U.S. in 2007 as part of The Police’s 30th anniversary reunion tour. I enjoyed both gigs.

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    1. He is, I think, a great artist. “Set Them Free” is a song I never much cared for but “Russians” almost made the short list and is on the Spotify list. I like the message.

      I give Sting credit for trying to expand his scope. I like a lot of what he has done solo but it sure would have been nice if he had written more songs that kicked ass like “So Lonely,”

      Never saw the Police but I forgot to mention in the piece that we saw Sting in Boston back before I was blogging. This would have been around 2013. Great show. He waxed nostalgic about Boston as it is one of the towns where the Police broke, back when we had any sort of music scene. The girl in front of us was so enraptured that when he sang “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” she was tying an imaginary string around hers. I don’t even think she knew she was doing it.

      Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland are all still alive and kicking. Would it kill them to tour one more time?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t go expecting anything remotely like the Police. Kind of a jazzy, soft-rock sound. But he’s got some beautiful tunes. Check his stuff out, let me know what you think.

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  2. I think of his solo career in three phases:
    – respectable early career: The Soul Cages from 1991 is my favourite solo record from him, and his first two are good too.
    – shaky middle career: Ten Summoners Tales and Mercury Falling have their moments.
    – jumped the shark: Brand New Day was a horrible album (except the Stevie Wonder cameo), then he released an album of lute songs and an album named ‘Sacred Love’. I hear the recent rock one is OK, but he lost me a long time ago.

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    1. Hadn’t really thought much about him in terms of phases per se but, well, “horrible?” I actually don’t know the Brand New Day album beyond the two cuts I picked but those I like a lot as well as the ones on my Spotify list. For a guy who writes as well as he does and has his track record, that all seems awfully dismissive. Granted, I could live without the lute stuff and I’m not digging into his catalog every day. But collectively throughout his solo career it’s not at all hard to put together a Greatest His package.

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      1. I remember emailing my friend excitedly the day Brand New Day was announced. He bought it the day it came out. Neither of us ever bought a Sting album from later, although we caught up on earlier releases. There’s a country duet with James Taylor in Brand New Day where Sting annoyingly insists on pronouncing Fill Her Up – surely in a country song it’s Fill ‘er up!

        It’s a subject of great debate among music nerds exactly when Sting became unbearably pompous – some people think as soon as he left the Police, some people think after Regatta de Blanc!

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        1. Is it a matter of an debate among those same talent-free people about when they became such unbearable fucking assholes?

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