June 23, 1993
Sting, Ten Summoner's Tales (A&M Records 1993) -- What can we say about Der Stingmeister? He's urbane, witty, and talented. On the other hand, he can be cocky, overbearing, and chauvinistic. Fortunately, his new album highlights the former characteristics, not the latter.
On Ten Summoner's Tales (which actually has 11 songs), we find Sting plowing a fertile musical ground lying somewhere between pop, rock, and jazz. As Sting notes in the live music video (from MTV Unplugged) which accompanies this release, he dislikes being pegged into any particular musical category. Instead, Sting gathers the best band he can locate (and his musicians are indeed a talented lot) and produces a hybrid fusion that stretches the rock genre. The result is challenging and engaging, yet not overwhelming.
Sting seems to be one of those performers who revels in public adoration, but who produces his best work when he's feeling down and out (see also Frank Sinatra). When Sting gets too happy (and smug), the quality slips a little. Ten Summoner's Tales is not a milestone like Nothing Like The Sun (dare we ask as much?), but is much better than his last release, The Soul Cages, which was dark and impenetrable.
My favorite cut on this album is "If I Ever Lose My Faith In You", which finds Sting once again in the fields of alienation. Like "Englishman in New York" (from Nothing Like the Sun), "If I Ever Lose My Faith In You" exposes the heart of darkness and confusion in modern society. Not that this is a new idea (the English artist's lament for the subrogation of the individual to the modern industrial machine goes back 200 years), but Sting makes us feel the loss once again.
Labels -- I find it difficult these days to discriminate among new releases based solely on their label. Remember Elektra/Asylum in the mid '70s? Almost everything they released you wanted to hear. Ditto for RCA circa 1987-89. I can't say the same for today. No label seems to consistently produce hits. Warner Bros. (and related companies) are steady producers, and the quality is definitely up at Capitol.
But I can say this much for A&M Records. They have integrity. They don't homogenize and regurgitate their artists -- instead, they let the artist release the kind of music the artist wants to make. The result is fidelity in recording. Wendy MaHarry, Joe Jackson, Sting -- all on A&M, all honest performers. A&M is the kind of label where, when you connect with the artist, you really connect. And that's something we can all appreciate.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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