Today’s POP RESCUE is the 1993 album Ten Summoner’s Tales by former-Police-man, Sting. Does this album sound like Gold, or does it sound like a tall story? Read on…
Despite it being ‘ten’, the album is twelve tracks long, covering this by calling the first and last tracks ‘Prologue’ and ‘Epilogue’.
So, first up is Prologue (If I Ever Lose My Faith In You), which gave Sting a #14 UK hit single. From the moment that this song starts, the intro reminds me musically of something from Madonna’s 1990 I’m Breathless album, before switching into the verse with Sting’s unmistakeable vocals. The song gently bounces along thanks to the bass line, and slides effortlessly in and out of the catchy chorus. This is a really nice warm summer time feeling song, helped by the strumming guitars, light percussion, and synths. It loses a bit of the pace by 3mins, but builds up again for the finale.
This is followed by Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Magnificent Seven), which feels a little more Blues Brothers, but clumsily so. Then after 1min, it breaks into a strange country track for the chorus. Although the vocals in the chorus are really nice, this song just feels too messy for me, even the piano player seems to get lost near the end and all but headbutts the keys. This song was released as a single, but seemingly only Germany let it chart.
The deliciously wonderful Fields Of Gold is up next. This song is so wonderfully mellow, and flows so perfectly, that it’s near impossible to find fault with it. This was the fourth single from the album, which gave him a #16 UK charting single. Sting’s soulful voice sits perfectly here alongside the harmonica and Northumbrian smallpipes.
Up next is Heavy Cloud No Rain, which has a great little guitar signature riff throughout, with everything pausing for Sting to sing the song’s title.
A ticking clock ushers in She’s Too Good For Me, which has a great galloping pace of percussion and bass, matched by Sting’s vocals, seemingly ensuring the song is up against the clock. Suddenly at 1m 28s, a stringed section arrives, with Sting’s gentle vocals over the top of sad cellos, before the galloping resumes. I can imagine that this song has probably worked really well on tours. At just shy of 2m 30s, it’s soon over.
Gentle bass, and plucked strings, together with a slow light snare rimshot, give Sting plenty of space to sing Seven Days. Things pick up for the chorus, where it almost feels like a different song entirely. This gentle little song grows, with the beat picking up after about 2mins in. This song was released as the third single, but stalled at #25. It’s mellowness will have made it a refreshing change to the charts in 1993, but perhaps it was just too drifting that it didn’t capture enough ears.
St. Augustine In Hell follows, and all I can hope for is that this won’t be hell. This is another wandering song, with an almost freestyle jazz feeling to it. Again, this makes it a bit disjoined, but the chorus acts as a drawstring to bring it back together again. Amongst this mayhem, and perhaps purposefully so, is a cameo by the Devil himself, who introduces you to a whole hosts of his Hell residents.
Sting was joined by legendary guitarist Eric Clapton for the album’s lead single It’s Probably Me when it was first made available on the Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) soundtrack. He re-recorded it for the album, making this version sound much more softer, resulting in a song that could easily have been by George Michael and saved for his Older album in 1995. The muted trumpets, light brushed drums, vocals with plenty of space to breath, and gentle easy flow, makes this a really nice song. As a lead single, the more up-beat version reached reached #30 in the UK, but this version would probably have only fared well (or better) as a later single, that would have benefitted from the over all success of the album.
Everybody Laughed But You which opens with what sounds like affected guitar (it’s a bit synthy), with a bass gently wandering around. Sting’s vocals joins in, and some feint strings whisper in the background. By 2mins in, guitar takes over for a delicate, intricate solo, before the beats return, and Sting returns. His vocals here descend, giving a somewhat downbeat song.
Next up is single Shape Of My Heart, with some beautiful bass and guitar ushering in this track. Sting’s vocals perfectly ride the wave of this warm sound, as a gentle tapping beat joins in. Whilst the song stalled at #57 in the UK, it would go on to be heavily covered and sampled song, mostly down to it’s guitar riff sounding good in a late-Garage/DubStep music era – the most memorable being the single Shape by Sugababes for their 2002 album Angels With Dirty Faces, and also in 2003 a collaboration Rise And Fall with Craig David. Some people even put the three tracks together… thanks YouTube.
This is followed by penultimate track Something The Boy Said, which gently meanders in with another light beat, a little harmonica, bass, and Sting’s vocals. This song just gently wanders on, as Sting tells a story. Guitars and a scattering of piano helps to take us into the final minute that is much heavier as the beat picks up in this 5m 29s song. It could probably have been trimmed of a minute in the middle somewhere and I wouldn’t have noticed.
The song closes with the Epilogue (Nothing ‘Bout Me), which was released as the sixth and final single of the album. This song has an air of fun to it – it’s far more up-beat, and Sting is almost laughing at computers at one point, as a brass section and a joyful piano kick in. The song builds and builds and builds in an almost in a Beatles A Day In The Life way, but without the final crash. A great little song to end on.
Over all, most of the single choices are great songs, but a few of the album-only tracks feel a bit too freestyle, and therefore difficult to get into on a first listen.
Fields Of Gold, and Shape Of My Heart are brilliant songs, and If I Ever Lose My Faith is also a really strong track.
Thankfully, those more difficult songs don’t contain anything uncomfortable, and with Sting’s gentle soulful vocals, the overall feeling is one of calm.
Sting found great success with this album including winning the Album Of The Year award from Q Magazine. It took an odd but important place in history 1994 when it even became the first item ever to be purchased online.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1993 UK CHART POSITION: #2, certified 2x Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.
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