October 3, 2013 | Posted in CLASSIC ROCK, FOLK, MUSICAL THEATER | By

No one is perhaps more surprised than I am over how much I enjoy Sting’s new album, The Last Ship.

Because the truth is, no matter how much of a fan of The Police I am (and I’m a really, really big Police fan!) I’ve never been particularly keen on Sting’s solo work in comparison—at least not since his first solo album in 1985, The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Often I’ve found his musical arrangements and choices not to my liking, even when I’ve continued to appreciate the lyrics and melodies of his work. Too often, in the back of my mind, I find myself thinking how much better the songs might have have sounded with Andy Summers on guitar, Stewart Copeland on drums, and their input into the musical arrangements.

Sting hasn’t released an album of new songs since 2003’s Sacred Love, instead focusing on more esoteric projects like traditional English folk music and carols for If On a Winter’s Night… and classical lute music for Songs from the Labyrinth. He has spoken openly in interviews about having suffered from severe writers block for years, but it seems working on The Last Ship has finally re-awakened his creativity by taking it in an entirely different direction: scoring a musical theater production.

The album The Last Ship is “inspired by” Sting’s upcoming show of the same name, which is planned for the Broadway stage in 2014. The concept for the show (and album) came from his childhood years in Newcastle, England, where the shipyard dominated the local economy and community. The shipyard closed in the 1980s leaving many man without a job, without direction, without a purpose in life. The Last Ship presents an allegorical tale of the local priest coming to the shipyard workers to build one last, great ship so they can go off and see the world. The songs in both the theater production and this related album look at timeless issues such as growing older, love and loss, the importance of community and the relationships between fathers and sons.

I was skeptical when I first heard about the project; truthfully I am not generally a fan of musical theater and that style of song-writing. My lack of real enjoyment of Sting’s other “off-beat” projects also made me question whether I’d like this piece of work. But hearing a few songs and snippets from The Last Ship convinced me to give the album a chance, and I’m so glad I did. I’m sure it won’t be to the tastes of many Sting fans, but for me I find it an absolute delight and almost a revelation.

The deep personal connection feels for this subject matter comes through in some of the strongest and most beautiful lyrics he has ever penned. “I Love Her But She Loves Someone Else” is particularly striking, a song about growing older and lost love, about not wanting to be like your parents yet unable to escape their ghost and their shadow. “The Language of Birds”, “Practical Arrangement”, “And Yet” and the title track “The Last Ship” are equally striking and powerful in their lyrics and arrangements. Sting’s voice, too, is strong and nuanced, perfectly suited for the traditional jazz sounds of some of the tracks and affecting a Geordie brogue for folksier tracks like “Ballad of the Great Eastern”. If anything many of these songs make me wish Sting would record a full album of jazz classics; his voice is now perfect suited for that style of singing and he could truly give them new life for today’s audience (and his longtime fans.)

There are a few tracks that don’t work quite so well for me as the others, mostly because they stray too far into typical musical theater territory for my tastes (“The Night the Pugilist Learned to Dance” and “Show Some Respect”, most notably). Those songs may translate better to a stage production than they do here for the record. Overall, however, I feel this is an exceptional piece of work that is worth giving a chance and a listen no matter whether you a lifelong Sting fan, a old time Police fan, or simply a lover of good, original music that has something to say to all of us.

To learn more about The Last Ship and the creative process behind it, watch the electronic press kit below where Sting talks about his inspiration for the project and how the album came about.

You can also enjoy some recent live performances of tracks from the album, to get a taste of its unique musical sound and style.

Sting isn’t the only Police man who’s kept busy since the end of the Reunion Tour in August 2008. In fact it’s been a great few years for fans of Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers as well.

Andy’s film Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police was finally completed in 2012 and is now available on DVD (although only as a European import; you can’t buy it on Amazon.) Based on his autobiography One Train Later and covering through the Police reunion tour, it’s a great treat for all fans. Andy is also currently involved in a new band, Circa Zero, which hopefully will be completing their first album soon – with performance dates in the future. He also recorded an album in 2012 with Brazilian singer Fernanda Takai entitled Fundamental.

Stewart Copeland has been involved in numerous different projects, including Gamelan D’Drum which is to be the feature of an upcoming documentary film, Dare to Drum. His fourth opera, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, has been staged at the Royal Opera House and also by the Long Beach Opera. In 2014 the Liverpool Philharmonic will be premiering a new percussion concerto by Copeland. He’s also launched a YouTube channel featuring numerous jams with other musicians in his home studio.

All in all, it’s been a great few years for fans to enjoy new music and projects by our favorite trio!

sockii is just your typical Jane-of-All-Trades who never has enough time in her day for all of her projects. She has written for many websites online including Squidoo, Zujava, Yahoo! Contributors Network, HubPages and Wizzley. She has been attending and vending at science fiction and media conventions for over 15 years, and for several years ran an art gallery and jewelry store in Philadelphia. Today she is happy to be living in South Jersey with her partner David and their 6 cats. Sockii is a member of several affiliate sales programs including Amazon Associates and Viglink. Products from these services may be advertised on her posts and pages to generate sales commissions.

1 Comment

  1. Arthur Chappell
    April 4, 2015

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    A TV concert special of this was shown over the Christmas / New year period in the UK and I really enjoyed it – Sting is of course a fine actor as well as a musician, and that shows in this concert-theatre event

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