Thursday, 15 August 2013

100 LPs Shortlist #35: Sting - "The Dream Of The Blue Turtles"

Sting - The Dream of the Blue Turtles

When one thinks of the biggest and most successful artists of 1985, one might be inclined to think of Madonna or Cyndi Lauper, or even Michael Jackson. In fact the biggest selling LPs of the era were by Dire Straits ("Brothers In Arms") and Bruce Springsteen ("Born In The USA"). Not exactly the most "pop", in the strictest sense of the world. Even the other world conquering artist of the day, Prince, was making records that sold massively but were anything but typical pop fodder.

So Sting decides to put the Police on hold for the foreseeable future in 1984, after a massive world tour. In the middle of 1985 he returns with his first solo album, much of which sounds like a more radio-friendly version of many of the tracks from the last Police LP "Synchronicity", but there was hints of a more sophisticated musical direction coming, in the form of Jazz. He enlisted some of the hottest Jazz players of the day (most notably Branford and Wynton Marsalis) to add their musical touches to his sometimes too-clever songwriting.

I listened to this album quite a lot when it came out. The singles were all over the radio, but the album tracks are quite worthy too. I loved the single "Russians" at the time, even if, at age 9, I had very little knowledge of what it was about (I had no idea what Prince's "Darling Nikki" was about either as I happily spun my copy of "Purple Rain" on the turntable. Thankfully neither did my parents!)

This album is somewhat odd in the amount of musical styles that are covered in its brief 40 minutes. Bookended by the two main singles "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free" and "Fortress Around Your Heart", these two songs wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Police album "Synchronicity". The other single "Love Is The Seventh Wave" is African music done almost totally on synths, which gives a rather odd texture to the piece. There is uber-serious and grown up darkness and brooding on "Children's Crusade" and "Consider Me Gone", frivolity on the Police remake "Shadows In The Rain", and a smooth jazz song about Anne Rice's character Lestat the Vampire on "Moon Over Bourbon Street".

There is only a small amount of filler on the record in the almost avant garde leaning title track, which has a small free jazz excursion in the middle of it.

All in all it makes quite a heavy listen for the young person, but I loved it regardless. Looking back, this is probably one of the earliest examples of "adult contemporary" music, or, in less flattering terms, one could say "Music for Stockbrokers to listen to in their Ferraris". It probably also did a lot to introduce a lot of listeners to Jazz, a music still foreign to most pop listeners. It probably also inspired a lot of other insipid attempts at this style of music in the years hencewith, not least from Sting himself...

Take a listen again for yourself.

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