Friday, April 11, 2014

The Last Ship Has Finally Come In

I finally got Sting's first collection of original songs in about ten years: The Last Ship. I love it. (Don't worry -- this is not going to be a record review. I hate those.)

I haven't "loved" one of his albums in a long time -- maybe ever since 1993's Ten Summoner's Tales. My enjoyment of his work declined with every album since that one...until this one. Yet...I never got bitter.

Sting, doing a character from The Last Ship --
which will be a broadway play in September.
You know what I mean? Did you ever witness people who get downright mad when musicians they like put out albums they don't agree with or enjoy? -- as if it is a personal affront?

It is hard, granted, when one makes a personal connection with an album, not to look for that same level of identification out of everything after. Those albums become dear to us. I wouldn't be who I am today without Rush's Moving Pictures; Genesis's Seconds Out; Sting's Soul Cages and U2's Achtung Baby, just to name a (very) few. In the case of each of those artists, there have been scores of records that I disliked deeply or that I thought just didn't stand up to the "gems."  (I use only rock albums here -- it is a particular thing, the "album of songs" that cannot be compared to the mountains of other types of music I love.) But, though I might have disliked the directions these artists took, I never, as I said, got bitter. And I went right on buying their stuff.

Call it loyalty. Call it a "thank you" for their influence on my life, but I never considered giving up on Sting or the others I mentioned. It's not that they need my money and it may be egocentric of me to think it matters at all, but, I feel I owe them a shot with every record. (I buy every Rush album that comes out; I have been disappointed with most of them for years; I will buy the next one, though, in both hope and support.)

After all, they are going to explore what interests them as songwriters, not what interests me. I develop; they develop and we may develop apart. That's the way we are supposed to do it. Artists explore their arts. I'd rather be disappointed album to album than hear ten chronological copies of Achtung Baby.

So, I stuck with Sting. I bought everything up to his last pop album (Sacred Love, which, like all of his stuff since ...Summoner's... I just kind of liked) and beyond and I finally got a hold of The Last Ship. And it seems -- I'm sure he will be relieved to hear this -- Sting and I have finally crossed paths of interest again. The English folk music influence is back (mabe he needed that walk through Dowland and winter time); the "real" instruments are back; the exquisite combination of cosmic/earthy lyric writing is back; the sense of narrative is back and, for me, the heart is back in Sting's writing. He has written his best material since 1991's Soul Cages -- which I believe is a lyrical masterpiece.  (The lyrics in that album should be in a Norton's anthology of British literature.)

Would I ever have known about The Last Ship if I had "bailed" on the guy; would I have bought it if I had known? I'll consider it a reward for my loyalty. Sting -- call me; we'll do tea.

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