Review Summary: [I]The Ten Summoners’ Tales[/I] is more than a worthy listen and is an absolute must have for any music fan. It is after all good music and parades as nothing but; my favorite representative of an artist in a good place in life and music.
Quick. Name one rock band from whose ashes arose a pop icon and superstar, making himself a household name over the 80s and the 90s. More likely than not you’ll think of Sting
and his band The Police
despite the fact that probably a faster answer should have been Genesis
, for after all, it gave rise to not one but two superstars in both Peter Gabriel
and Phil Collins
. That’s how big this man named Gordon Matthew Sumner is. So what made him such a big name in the pop scene? Quality music. Stunned? I’ll say it again: Quality music.
Sting’s music is a varied blend of a world of musical influences while principally being some concoction of jazz, lounge and rock, all in different proportions naturally. His first solo appearance was made inadvertently in 1981 performing on all four nights of the fourth Amnesty International benefit The Secret Policeman's Other Ball at the invitation of producer Martin Lewis and as they say so often, the rest is history.
Zip forward 12 years to 1993. Musically and otherwise, there couldn’t be a better place to be in. With the success (both critical and commercial) of his heavily personal album, The Soul Cages
, dedicated to his then recently deceased father, getting married to sweetheart Trudie Styler and also receiving an honorary doctorate from the Northumbia University, more than understandably, Sting was …. well……. happy.
That was when he went into recording his next album. So what kind of record could we expect from a happy Sting. Well… a happy one. Considering he was emotionally spent after pouring out his heart in the previous record and generally having things going for him, could we expect any different? So here we have Sting’s most unabashedly pop album. No greater meaning we’re supposed to have an epiphany about, no music that’s heavily emotion laden (well that’s not exactly true but at least it’s not as heavy as the previous one.); just a collection of good songs, fun songs and most importantly quality songs.
The title itself basically is a play of words on his surname (Sumner) and the title of Geoffrey Chaucer’s classic The Canterbury Tales
making it symptomatic as to the album’s mood is more ways than one with the self admittance that there ten different tales, or rather, no specific running thread throughout the album. The songs run through a gamut of emotions, from nostalgia to naughtiness, from simple pleasures to secret desires, from love to longing and some very beautifully penned lyrics bring a smile to your face when you listen:
You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in the fields of gold
And the music. Ah the music. With the aforementioned concoction of jazz, lounge and rock running amuck through the album, many other varied styles keep peeping out from nowhere and surprise you, so that just when you think you’ve got an idea of how the album sounds like, you’re stumbling in the dark again. One recurring musical style that tends to dominate this “Other Styles” category is country music making its appearance on multiple tracks and most prominently on Love Is Stronger Than Justice
, which with its shifts between 8/8 and 7/8 time signatures keeps the track oscillating between a very rural sounding country chorus and a more sophisticated blues oriented verse.
But the album’s description would be incomplete without talking about the rest of the band. The musicians list on the album boasts of some very fine musicians, with worthy mentions being Vinnie Colaiuta
on drums, Dominic Miller
on guitars and David Sancious
(who used to play with Springsteen). No wonder then that his backing sounds….. seasoned and refined. There’s no better way to describe it. Even in the simplest of progressions, they manage to add a touch of superiority, of … should I say… magic, a case in point being the opening track. Brilliance in simplicity.
Overall The Ten Summoners’ Tales
is more than a worthy listen and is an absolute must have for any music fan. It is after all good music and parades as nothing but; my favorite representative of an artist in a good place in life and music. Sting’s good life, it seems, wasn’t in a hurry to turn it’s back on him.