Sacred Sounds, King Of Styles
Gordon Sumner has
been many things to many people: ska rock populist to Police fans, save-the-rainforest
spokesman to chardonnay sippers, tantric sex guru to the masses who still routinely
purchase his albums.
The man who chanted
"free free set them free" has houses in three countries, six children,
perfect looks and more musicians on retainer than the New York Philharmonic.
Sting's latest addition to his 33 million strong sales is Sacred Love,
perhaps the corniest title outside of a gospel album to ever grace a rock star
offering. But Sacred Love shows that Sting has not totally spent himself
in epic sex acts and long walks with his hounds through the various thousand-acre
land grabs he calls home(s). Sacred Love almost sounds like the work
of a hungry musician. There is some real grit and songwriting grime in these
songs, that while still cosmetic-ated with luxuriant production, exotic world
music instrumentation and boastful, banal duets (such as "Whenever I Say
Your Name" with a frantic Mary J Blige), are more potent and musically
satisfying than anything Sting has offered since Dream Of The Blue Turtles.
He's still given to pompous proclamations, but this music radiates like some
fervent inspiration has found a place among Sting's epic love-making sessions
and theatrical pronouncements.
"My intention always when I come to a new record is to have done enough
work on my craft for there to have been a noticeable improvement in the technique,"
Sting told his website, and while that bit about improving the technique sounds
like he is talking about his polo skills, not music, he saves himself by adding,
"I'm not the kind of guy who just wants to sit back and say, 'I'm Sting,
I can do what I want and I can just moan for a while and people will like it.'
"Send Your Love" sounds like The Police's "Synchronicity"
rewritten for a Moroccan desert shindig. Over the song's galloping beat
and flamenco guitars Sting barks, "This is the time of worlds colliding/This
is the time of kingdoms falling/This is the time of worlds dividing/Time to
heed your call." Spoken like a true titan of time, space and the music
industry. "Never Coming Home" rides a soukous groove in a twilight
tale alluding to possible spousal abuse and certain escape. Sting still uses
exotic percussion touches, as in the thief's tale, "Stolen Car," engaging
you with its sense of fear and out-of-body journeys. The album's most enlightening
song is "The Book Of My Life," which poses Sting as a man afraid of
the future, the song's cello, talking drum and eerie strings leading to revelations
about "promises broken and promises kept." He reflects on "the
prison I've built out of life." So amid the millions of units sold, mass
fan adulation and potentate status, Sting still holds his secrets. That
he is still willing to tell them to world is a clue to the man's enduring fame,
and belief in himself and his boundless talent.