Tuesday, May 18, 2010

CD Odyssey Disc 125: Sting

After a holiday break, the CD Odyssey returns - and the randomness of the selections is as unforgiving as ever. The resumption disc is one of Sheila's.

Disc 125 is......Nothing Like The Sun
Artist: Sting

Year of Release: 1987

What’s Up With The Cover?: Black and White shot of Sting trying to be sexy and intense. I don't think I'm the target audience of this cover.

How I Came To Know It: Sheila introduced me to both Sting and the Police. I assume she knew the former from the latter.

How It Stacks Up: We have three Sting albums, two of which I don't particularly care for - this is one of those ones.

Rating: 2 stars.

I've admitted in previous posts that I was wrong about the Police in my youth, when I didn't give them a chance. Sting's solo career that followed I never gave much thought until I was introduced to him by Sheila in the mid-nineties.

I gave this album an honest shot, but I have to admit, I mostly don't get it. It is a bit all over the place. It has a little bit of the Police's reggae/pop groove, on top of which is ladled an unhealthy dollop of world beat sounds and jazzy saxophone.

I almost never like world beat sounds (Capercaillie's later albums successfully fuse the sound with gaelic folk music, but I'll leave that for when I roll it). I find on "...Nothing Like the Sun" it just gets in the way.

However, the real crime of this album is the ridiculous use of saxophone. Somehow Sting has created a chimera of Kenny G eighties saxophone, and a sort of muzak jazz noodling. It is an unholy fusion.

It is too bad, too - because some of the songs have a pretty strong melody, and Sting can certainly sing. Songs like "Englishman in New York" and "They Dance Alone" both have the makings of a nice tune, and are well sung, but Sting pretentiously dumps so much of this jazz fusion stuff into them that you lose the song among all the gadgetry.

The worst example of this is the remake of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing". It starts off inoccuously enough, with a sort of pop version of the song - not great, but there. Then the guitar gets replaced by some bizarre sax solo. I'm not sure if at the end of this song Sting has the saxophone burned on stage, but I would suggest an improvement would be to burn the sax before starting.

When Sting keeps it simple, you can see his talent. The one song that stood out for me in this regard was "Fragile" which is a sort of Flamenco/Spanish guitar which reminded me strongly of Mark Knopfler's work. In fact, I decided to look it up and found Knopfler in the liner notes, but apparently he appears on "They Dance Alone". Anyway, this sound, coupled with Sting's ethereal voice really works - especially since it isn't layered in with a bunch of goofy pop/jazz.

Sting has a lot of talent, but he is better when Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland are keeping his ego in check. Released from adult supervision, there ends up being way too much jazz odyssey.

Best tracks: Fragile

1 comment:

Chris said...

I am going to disagree with you about this one Logan.

First things first:

A little respect please! This is not some week-ass Kenny G crap. Kenny G isn't fit to eat BM's BMs. That Sax part on Little Wing is not the entire solo (it's just the tail end) and it's beautiful - as has been proven by science. It's also a nice counterpoint the the actual guitar solo performed by one Clapton, Eric - you may have heard of him? He was a great friend of the lamented Mr Hendrix.

I will agree to some bias with regards to this album - it was the soundtrack to envious amount of sex in the late 80's and early 90's - but I maintain that the album still stands up well today.


I have listened to this album twice since you posted this, and it was like visiting an old friend (with benefits)