Review : Sting - Symphonicities
LatimesblogsLeave it to Sting to join the current craze for big-band albums not with a set of standards or cool-hunting covers but with a collection of his own songs. Even during his early days with the Police, Sting carried himself with the assured air of someone whose artistic significance was a long-established fact; a couple of decades later, he gives the impression that a search for deeper, more worthwhile material simply yielded no results.
Yet if Sting's confidence can sometimes come across as arrogance, it's also what makes "Symphonicities" work: Here's a songwriter with enough belief in his creations to risk radically retooling them. Accompanied by London's Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra (with whom he's in the midst of a world tour), Sting reimagines "Roxanne" as a lush Latin ballad and gives "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" a swelling Celtic thrust.
Not everything on the 12-track disc is such a departure: "Englishman in New York," for instance, sounds more or less like the original studio version, as does "You Will Be My Ain True Love," the singer's Appalachia-inspired contribution to the film "Cold Mountain." For those selections, perhaps Sting concluded that perfection hardly needed improving....full text
BostonAn inveterate musical adventurer, Sting is no stranger to rearranging his catalog. Whether that’s meant acoustic reworkings, Spanish-language retrofits, or live improvisations, he fearlessly pushes his own songs around. So it was just a matter of time before the famously posh Brit would go the symphonic route. Certainly an orchestra is a big enough umbrella, but some of the songs — from both the Police and Sting’s solo career — definitely end up getting wet. Several tunes offer expected pleasures, including the crisp pluck lent to “Englishman in New York’’ by a phalanx of string players. Also expected is the way that some tracks feel weighed down by the “serious’’ addition of an orchestra, as with “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,’’ which, although pretty, is sapped of a bit of its breeziness. The album’s biggest revelation is “Roxanne.’’ That such an exhaustively played song could exude new nuances — more yearning and melancholy than demanding anger thanks to a gorgeously mournful cello solo — is impressive. One consistent element, however, is Sting’s vocals, which are as warm, elastic, and expressive as ever. (Out tomorrow)...full text
Popmatters“It’s good to be Sting. I do feel a little bit like Louis XVI, sometimes.”
Sting admitted this on 60 Minutes II back in 2003, and he’s right. Sting has the luxury of a tolerant audience, and regardless of what you think of his recent activity, you have to admit that he must be doing something to keep his fans happy. In the span of almost ten years, his devoted flock have persevered through two adult-contemporary albums produced by Kipper, a collection of Elizabethan lute music, a gloomy package of obscure Christmas (i.e. winter?) carols, and now a brand new set of orchestral arrangements of Police and Sting songs called Symphonicities. It’s hard to believe there was a full-fledged Police reunion in the middle of it all, but Sting has always been a stubborn man. His desire to do what he wants lands somewhere between his ‘70s punk manner and that of being a premature old codger. But to be fair, and to give some perspective, Symphonicites is probably one of Sting’s least surprising projects that doesn’t qualify as some sort of pop-rock. His songs, especially the ones from his solo career, fit the symphonic format so easily that it’s almost kind of surprising he hasn’t done this kind of thing before.
So much of Symphonicities takes the conservative route that it ends up sort of passing the time rather than stirring the soul. Sting’s voice remains as flawless as it was at any point of his 30-plus-year career, yet he never uses it as an instrument to help the new arrangements take flight. Unlike Bono or Roger Daltrey, the fact that he’s kept his vocals intact gives him the opportunity to do what he wants with it. Instead, all of the tunes are sung with little variation from their origin. A great deal of the music follows suit too. Even though it’s not the guitar-bass-keys-drums combo you are used to hearing, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, conducted by Steven Mercurio, spend a majority of the time just emulating the things that have come before—in a frustratingly faithful way. You could almost say that “Englishman in New York” and “When We Dance” sound no different from their counterparts, though I imagine the arranger would have some choice words with you.
But since I use the word “majority”, there is fortunately a minority at work here. The first 23 seconds of “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” give little hint as to what song is about to happen. The harp ostinato draped over top of the ascending oboe lines offer some foreshadowing after the listener returns to it, but it does actually have the potential to fool you at first. The same goes for the following track “I Hung My Head” which originates from 1996’s Mercury Falling. The opening seconds make it sound like Debussy rose from the dead, ran into the studio, dropped some staff paper scribblings on all of the music stands, then left. At the 18 second mark, the song starts up sounding much like its ancestor. But just when you thought things had returned to easy-listening normality, the wordless interlude escorting the listener into the last verse lassos in an abrupt modulation, causing one to briefly lose a sense of origin thanks to the song’s 9/8 meter. “We Work the Black Seam” from The Dream of the Blue Turtles plays the melancholy card with even more confrontation, reminding everyone of the harm of the “nuclear age” that buries its “waste in a great big hole”....full text
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