Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"The Dream of the Blue Turtles" by Sting (1985)

View the Premise & Ground Rules for Revisiting Vinyl.

Filed Between:
Rod Stewart and the Stoneman Family.

Fun Fact:
Eddy Grant AND Branford Marsalis play on this LP.  That's just cool.

Key Tracks:
If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, Love Is the Seventh Wave and Fortress around Your Heart are phenomenal songs.  We Work the Black Seam is sparse and beautiful and deep - especially to a Kentucky boy raised in coal country.  All of these songs take very "Police" sounds and broaden them.

Obvious Filler & Swings-and-Misses:
None, despite how it may sound on first listen.

My Overall Rating of the Track Separately:
Recommended Listening (3/4 stars)

NOTE: There will be NO discussion of the unabashed political overtones on this record.  However, there will be a lot of quotes because Sting has a better way with words than pretty much anybody but Shakespeare.  Here are some of my favorites (it's like a mini-Bartlett's):

  • "A beast in a gilded cage - that's all some people ever want to be."
  • "There's no such thing as a winnable war."
  • "I'm so confident I'm sane."
  • "We matter more than pounds and pence."
  • "You can't exchange a six-inch band for all the poisoned streams in Cumberland."
  • "Cancer lurks deep in the sweetest bud."
  • "History reeks of the wrongs we have done."
  • "To look for a Heaven is to live here in Hell."
  • "The brim of my hat hides the eyes of a beast."
  • "I must love what I destory and destroy the thing I love."
  • "I had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I'd laid."
  • "Let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm.  And let me set the battlement on fire."

In the liner notes (I'm a big fan of liner notes, in case you haven't noticed by now), Sting writes:
"Since I started this thing, people have constantly referred to it as my solo album, which of course is ridiculous.  It's as if I had done everything myself, well, I didn't.  The contribution and commitment of all those involved made it far less an indulgent and personal statement than a statement about how well people can work together without diluting or compromising ideas or ideals.  We also had a lot of fun."

And it shows. 
Even not-great tracks like Children's Crusade and Shadows in the Rain are fair enough, but they become downright transcendent when Branford slams down a solo.  It's the whole attitute of "Wait, what key is this in?" that starts Shadows in the Rain.  And the only answer Sting ever provides is, "Um..." as the songs revs into high gear.

Tracks like If You Love Somebody Set Them Free and Fortress around Your Heart are exactly the kind of songs you hoped Sting would deliver on his first solo album, though you dared not speak the thought aloud for fear of jinxing the situation.  Those songs established a very specific, post-Police, jazz-pop template that Sting would continue to pursue and find success with on "Nothing Like the Sun," "The Soul Cages" and "Ten Summoner's Tales."
But not the title track.  The Dream of the Blue Turtles is a frantic, synth-heavy, instrumenal, jazzish quasi-song.  However, it fits in perfectly with the rest of the tracks on the LP.  Which leads us to our ultimate question...

So, is it an album?  Yes.  Every song takes you somewhere.  It's all consistent thematically, lyrically and musically.

Up next, one of my top five favorite R&B songs EVER pops up on "Imagination" by Gladys Knight & the Pips.  In fact, it's the reason I bought the LP.  Here's a teaser for ya...  "L.A. proved too much for the man (too much for the man)."

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