Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sting’s 57th and 9th Ninth in Billboard 200 Debut

The title of Sting’s latest album has proven to be partly prescient as 57th and 9th debuts in ninth place on the Billboard 200 chart for the week of December 3.

The new release marks the veteran superstar’s return to his rock roots, with a stripped down sound consisting primarily of bass and vocals (Sting), guitars (Dominic Miller, Lyle Workman), and drums (Vinnie Colaiuta, Josh Freese). The record also features some piano and organ, as well as additional guitars and vocals by Tex-Mex band The Last Bandoleros.

This is Sting’s first collection of original pop material in over a decade and his best since the 1990s.

--Raj Manoharan

Robert Vaughn (1932-2016)

The Thank You for Teenage Cave Man, U.N.C.L.E. in the 1960s and Fifteen Years Later, Superman III, The A-Team, and Pootie Tang Affair.”

--Raj Manoharan

Monday, November 14, 2016

57th and 9th (2016), by Sting

CD Fan Review

Not only is 57th and 9th Sting's first pop/rock album in over a decade, but it is also his first release as a senior citizen. (Sting is 65?! When did that happen?!)

In addition, this is Sting's first pop/rock record without synthesizers and horns.

So, aside from some piano and organ, as well as some extra instrumentation and orchestration on a deluxe edition bonus track, this is basically a guitar, bass, and drums affair, resulting in a different sound from Sting, or at least one we haven't heard from him in a while.

Featuring Sting's typically excellent bass work and standout performances from guitarists Dominic Miller and Lyle Workman and drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Josh Freese (as well as some guitars and vocals from The Last Bandoleros), the songs have the feel of a mix of early raw Police, garage band rock, college radio, and '90s alt rock.

A couple of tunes even sound like modern Monkees songs. Yes, that's right. The Monkees. My two favorite tracks, “One Fine Day” and “Pretty Young Soldier,” could fit perfectly on The Monkees' 2016 album, Good Times! Sting would make a fine Monkee.

The most punk raucous song here, “Petrol Head,” is a mash-up of The Police's “Demolition Man” and Sting's “Love Is Stronger Than Justice.”

The record also features the requisite “slow” Sting songs, and while they're not quite on the level of his past pensive masterpieces (you know what those are), they're instant classics and worthy additions to his introspective repertoire.

Sting's voice here has a grit and grizzle indicative of his age, and although the album lacks the ethereal quality of his synthesizers and—for the most part—his multi-tracked multi-register vocals, Sting still sounds like Sting. And if you're a Sting fan, that's all that matters.

57th and 9th ultimately shapes up as Sting's best collection of original pop material since the 1990s.

Now if only Sting would combine his songwriting, bass playing, and singing on this album with Andy Summers' songwriting and guitar work on Circa Zero's Circus Hero (2014), and Stewart Copeland joined in on drums …

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Soul Cages (1991), by Sting

CD Retro Fan Review

While reevaluating all of Sting’s original studio albums in the run-up to his new release, 57th and 9th (November 11), I was amazed to rediscover the brilliance of his third solo album from a quarter century ago, The Soul Cages.

His first and second records, The Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun, have always held special places in my heart, especially since they came out when I was in middle school and high school, respectively.

But I had forgotten what an amazing and incredible album The Soul Cages is, with its pensive, brooding, and dark elegance and eloquence.

The title is no happenstance coincidence, as the record is the most personal and soul-searching of Sting’s post-Police works. It is also his most rocking album (when it rocks), with outstanding musicianship from his band, including Dominic Miller at his best in his first outing as Sting’s go-to guitarist.

In terms of thematic concepts and sonic style, The Soul Cages, which represents what a sixth original Police studio album might very well have sounded like, is without a doubt Sting’s unparalleled solo masterpiece.

As an intriguing afterthought, the three solo Police albums that are the most similar in terms of sound and feel are The Equalizer & Other Cliffhangers (1988) by Stewart Copeland, The Golden Wire (1989) by Andy Summers, and The Soul Cages (1991) by Sting.

--Raj Manoharan

A Quick Sting Primer in Time for His New Album

If you want to catch up quickly on Police vocalist/bassist Sting’s solo career before the November 11 release of his new album, 57th and 9th, here are a few suggestions.

Gordon Matthew Sumner’s best greatest hits collection is his first one, Fields of Gold from 1994. That’s because the majority of his most popular and enjoyable songs come from his first decade as an individual artist. This is where you’ll find such gems as “If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free,” “Fortress Around Your Heart,” “They Dance Alone,” and “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You.” The album also includes the exclusive bonus tracks “When We Dance” and “This Cowboy Song.” Plus, Police guitarist Andy Summers lends his atmospheric six-string savvy to “Be Still My Beating Heart.”

Next up is The Very Best of Sting & The Police from 1997. This disc mixes Sting’s solo hits with those from his Police heyday, giving listeners the opportunity to compare and contrast the sonic styles of the two eras. The album also includes “Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot” from Sting’s 1996 record, Mercury Falling, which, by the way, is his best original CD of the last 20 years.

The Very Best of Sting & The Police was “rereleased” in 2002, this time switching out a couple of Police tracks for different ones and updating the selection to include the singles “Brand New Day” and “Desert Rose” from Sting’s 1999 album, Brand New Day.

Finally, Symphonicities (2010) provides a unique perspective on Sting’s solo and Police hits, favorites, and rarities, with new versions featuring Sting backed by the rich, luxurious sound of a full orchestra.

I’ll see you on November 11 at 57th and 9th.

--Raj Manoharan