Sting
The Dream of the Blue Turtles


3.5
great

Review

by Divaman USER (75 Reviews)
September 7th, 2017 | 12 replies


Release Date: 1985 | Tracklist

Review Summary: While this album is clearly a product of its own time period, if you listen with fresh ears, it's still enjoyable today.

Sting's The Dream of the Blue Turtles, his first solo album, is an interesting historical document. It reflects an uneasy period in British and world history, even as it marks an important transition point in Sting's own life and career. It's also a pretty good album that holds up well today, more than forty years later.

By 1985, The Police were one of the most successful bands in the world. Their most recent album, Synchronicity (1983), had reached the #1 position on both the British and American charts (it would eventually go 8x Platinum in the U.S.). Throughout 1983 and '84, they toured the world, playing huge stadium shows to support it. They were at the height of their popularity, rivaling U2 as one of the biggest bands of the 1980s. Fans had no clue that behind the scenes, things weren't well within the band. As it turned out, they would never make another album of new music together.

In the meantime, the world itself seemed about to tear itself apart. Tensions between the U.S. and Soviets were at their height, with both sides having built up nuclear arsenals large enough to blow the planet in half. So understandably, there was a sense of anxiety everywhere. At the same time, in the UK, a nationwide miner's strike roiled the country throughout 1984 and into 1985, adding to the agitation of the time period.

With all of this turmoil going on, both in his own life and in the world at large, it's understandable that one night, while in Barbados getting ready to record his first solo record, Sting had a dream wherein his peaceful English garden was suddenly disrupted by an invasion of human-sized blue turtles. The lumbering reptiles proceeded to knock down his garden wall, chew up his rose bushes and lay waste to his lilac trees. In this way, an album title was born: The Dream of the Blue Turtles.

Listening to Turtles in 2017, it's easy to hear with whatever the auditory equivalent of hindsight is (hindsound?), that it's an album that finds Sting in transition from the music of his Police days to the lighter, jazzier sound that has marked his career as a solo artist. It's definitely part Police -- in the Caribbean-styled "Love Is the Seventh Wave", he repeats some of the lyrics from the Police hit single "Every Breath You Take"; and "Shadows in the Rain" is actually a jazzed-up cover of a song from The Police's Zenyatta Mondatta album. As for "Fortress Around Your Heart", the most successful single off of Turtles, it could easily have been a Police song. The music during the verses actually sounds like a slightly-transmogrified version of the verses of Synchronicity's "King of Pain". But on tracks such as "The Dream of the Blue Turtles", "Moon Over Bourbon Street" and "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free", you can also hear Sting moving in a distinctly different direction.

In all, Dream of the Blue Turtles generated four hit singles: "If You Love Somebody Set The Them Free", "Fortress Around Your Heart", "Russians" and "Love Is the Seventh Wave" -- not a bad haul for a first solo album. It has some misses -- "Consider Me Gone" is pretty boring, and "If You Love Somebody ..." makes me want to shoot myself (especially when he hits that long, discordant high note on "If you looooooooove somebody!"). But that could just be me. I have a low tolerance for jazz.

In general, though, the highs far outweigh the lows. "Fortress" is a solid single, as is the somber Cold War ode "Russians" (which borrows the Romance theme from Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije, to good effect). And "We Work the Black Seam", inspired by the aforementioned miner's strike, may just be the best song on the album. Transmuting the "King of Pain" music yet again, it describes the confusion of the miners in a changing world, as they see their jobs being gradually being phased out of existence: "Our blood has stained the coal/We tunneled deep inside the nation's soul".

Other strong tracks include "Children's Crusade", a slow, sad lullaby that compares the loss of a generation of young Brits during World I to the loss of a later generation to drug addiction, and "Moon Over Bourbon Street", a quiet-but-moody character study that pays tribute to Anne Rice's popular Vampire Chronicles novels.

Sting's voice is Sting's voice -- you either like it or you don't. (I, personally, do.) But either way, he's in good form throughout the album (with the possible exception of those "loooooooves" I talked about earlier). And while the band was specially crafted in such a way as to make sure that Sting's songs and voice remained the focal point here, he brought them together in Barbados well in advance of the recording sessions to allow them to play and jam together. In this way, he ensured that they were a band, and not just a group of session musicians. Unsurprisingly, Branford Marsalis on sax is the standout of this group.

Although I get the sense that Millennials today view Sting pretty much the same way way that the punk generation viewed the stadium rock stars of the '70s ("boring old farts!"), the man deserves his due. Although The Police didn't officially break up until 1986, The Dream of the Blue Turtles found him taking a not-so-tentative first step towards walking away from one of the two or three biggest rock bands of his generation. As it turned out, he went on the become one of the most successful (and probably wealthiest) solo artists in the world, which is why today he's viewed as such as establishment figure. But he couldn't have been sure it would work out that way, so let's give him credit for some guts.

As for Dream of the Blue Turtles, if you listen to it with fresh ears, you'll find a lot to like here. There's some rock, some reggae, some Russian classical, some pop -- and yes, even some jazz -- blended together in a package of well-written songs. In one way, it's definitely an album of its time. But the quality of the songs here ensures that it's also an album that is still enjoyable today.



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user ratings (64)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Divaman
September 7th 2017


1390 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

My never-ending quest continues to fill in the blank spots in Sputnik's album reviews for albums of the '70s and '80s.

Digging: Looming - Seed

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
September 7th 2017


15704 Comments


'The Dream of the `Blue Turtles' - how very Sting, sounds new age-y

'Sting's voice is Sting's voice -- you either like it or you don't.' (I, personally, don't.)

Great review, together we will review everything from the 80s no one on this site cares about in the slightest :D



Digging: Destroyer - Ken

Divaman
September 7th 2017


1390 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Lol, so true. But at least we'll read one another's reviews.

butcherboy
Contributing Reviewer
September 7th 2017


5306 Comments


i'm tuning in for your 80's write-ups.. coming in to pos before the servers implode!

Digging: Scratch Acid - The Greatest Gift

Divaman
September 7th 2017


1390 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks bb. Yeah, it's like when you see those dark clouds overhead and you know a storm is coming. You see the site start to slow down, and you know that soon, you won't be able to get onto it for a day or two.

Jethro42
September 7th 2017


15018 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I love this album. It features one of my fav drummers, Vinnie Colaiuta, present for all Sting's career I think. Near from being a 4.5 for me. Nice to see it covered by you. I like what you've written about The Police.

Good review.

Divaman
September 7th 2017


1390 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks, Jethro.

neekafat
September 7th 2017


5079 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fuck I was gonna write one of these haha

Great review man, much better than anything I would've turned out! My faves are "Russians" and the far-superior version of "Shadows in the Rain"

Divaman
September 7th 2017


1390 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oops, sorry neeka, heh heh. Thanks for the kind comment. This is another one of those albums that I was surprised to find had no review. I've always been a big Police fan, but since all five of their studio albums already have reviews, I figured this was the next best thing.

neekafat
September 7th 2017


5079 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

For sure man, I had just recently listened to this and was gonna throw something together eventually but I'm glad you did!

e210013
September 12th 2017


1522 Comments


I'm not very comfortable to talk about Sting's discography because I don't know it very well. The albums I know very well are "Ten Summoner's Tales", "Mercury Falling" and live album "...All This Time". So, I don't know this album yet. But you with this review and Soyn with the review about "...Nothing Like the Sun" gave to me a new interest in to know more deeply his solo career.

Nice review, buddy. Pos.

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
September 12th 2017


15704 Comments


How the hell is Diva not a contributor yet? Easy pick for 2018 promotion



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