Is it possible for a pop star to grow old gracefully? Not if Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger are anything to go by, all dyed hair, face-lifts and musical stodge.
If the greying hair and sensible jumper sported on the cover of Sacred Love are any indication, Sting is, by contrast, doing pretty well. It’s only when you start playing this disc that the problems start.
It’s not that this album is bad, just that we have come to expect from Sting music that, if not exactly challenging, at least has a recognisable soul rather than the processed, homogenised pop offered here.
At his best Sting has been capable of writing delicate love songs, Fragile being one that springs to mind, capable of evoking the fine shadings of human emotion.
Here, the great man’s muse seems to have temporarily deserted him and, instead, he’s fallen into the fashionable trap of padding out his album with guest appearances.
Sure, he’s got a pretty impressive contacts book, with Mary J Blige and Anoushka Shankar, to name but two, lending a hand, but the results are, at best, variable.
Whenever I Say Your Name gives Mary J plenty of space to emote but it’s a pretty run of the mill R ‘n’ B cut. By contrast, Forget About The Future, featuring Shankar on sitar, is an effective fusion of Indian music and Western pop.
Dead Man’s Rope would seem to be an attempt to tap into the same vein of whimsical melancholia as Fields Of Gold and An Englishman In New York, but it’s altogether too self-satisfied for that. That goes for much of the album, which would seem to be an exercise in marking time, at best, and an exercise in self-indulgence, at worst.
It’s not all bad though. Send Your Love has some pleasant Brazilian colourings, vaguely reminiscent of Paul Simon‘s Rhythm of the Saints; Stolen Car juxtaposes the lives of a car thief and a company director to some effect; and This War at least has some musical guts and integrity, although this isn’t matched by some rather soggy lyrics.
For those to whom such things matter, this is available for a short time in the new SACD Surround Sound format, although, to be honest, no amount of electronic sorcery can save this album from being just plain dull.