Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sting 9: Sacred Love

It wasn’t a transition to vanilla as Phil Collins made in the same amount of time, but those of us who had enjoyed Sting’s earlier work, both on his own and with the Police, could only shrug with indifference when he deigned to make another album—his first in the new century. Not that we expected the yellow-haired punk from Outlandos to return, but then again, Sacred Love wasn’t designed to please us anyway. His crowd had become what used to be called adult contemporary, and they got just what they wanted.
The opener, “Inside”, is more of a litany than a lyric, but he does put a lot of energy into the vocal, and without laughing. Since it worked so well on the last album, “Send Your Love” expands on that Mideastern electro-pop sound, less so on the remix tacked onto the end of the CD, which is amazingly the shortest track on the album. “Whenever I Call Your Name” combines the litany gimmick of “Inside” (this time leaning heavily on the word “whenever”) with a duet sung with Mary J. Blige. Something of a return to a earlier sound comes in “Dead Man’s Rope”, with its Olde English guitar and feel—and then the reference to “Walking In Your Footsteps” seems almost obvious. There’s an intriguing story in “Never Coming Home”, of the end of a relationship; perhaps the arrangement was sped up to keep it from dragging, but the pace makes it hard to follow, and the effects are equally distracting.
If he’s going for style over substance, that’s fine; he makes beautiful wallpaper for his fans’ car stereos, and they’ll have been sucked in by now. But he insists on crafting stories, and they don’t always balance well. “Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing)” appears to be sung from the point of view of a private detective spying on a wayward husband—probably not any of the characters from the previous track—yet doesn’t quite make the transition to the chorus, which would have been better paired to other verses. “Forget About The Future” moves another apologetic lyric through another funky groove; this time the effect involves a scratchy 78, sent back to the present day via an actual harp flourish (the kind with strings, not the one you blow). There’s a crossfade into “This War”, an anti-Bush et al rant that actually rocks. That’s not Clapton on guitar, but it’s the effect he wanted, and it works. Unfortunately, that’s it for the rock, as “The Book Of My Life” (featuring Anoushka Shankar on sitar, as Ravi must not have been available) and the title track (with a reference to a “river in flood”) meander through the same rhythms.
We want to like Sacred Love, since history had previously shown that every less-than-stellar Sting album was followed by a better one. Instead, we can recommend it for fans of those albums, and shrug our shoulders along with those who gave up on him already.

Sting Sacred Love (2003)—

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