Sting has spent the better part of 20 years refashioning himself as a serious artist. It's a real shame, too.
On his latest release, the live ... All This Time, there are glimmers of his former greatness and pale shadows of what might have been. But most of his performance, recorded in the Tuscan countryside on Sept. 11, consists of hollow echoes produced by a once-great artist now content to cash in on his faithful fans' memories.
The majority of the tracks on the disc are the kind of safe, smooth treacle that Sting has been foisting as "serious" pop music for several years. Because he has become an artist more prone to croon than holler, he has rearranged many of his hits, such as the Police staple Roxanne and Fields of Gold off his 1993 album Ten Summoner's Tales, and in the process divested them of all the grit and gravel that made them great.
There are, however, high points. All This Time, from the dark and dense Soul Cages, has been reinvented as R&B catharsis, and the Moon Over Bourbon Street reveals the top-notch jazz vocalist Sting might have been. But, in the context of the album as a whole, these are greater frustrations than triumphs. They remind the listener that Sting is an artist who could still have a great record left in him. The thing that seems to be stopping him is his insistence on being a star. He has the ear, the voice and, dare I say it, the cash, to allow himself a true jazz album, or, if feeling frisky, a disc of rocking rhythm and blues.
But that will probably never happen. Instead, Sting will stick to his adult contemporary guns and produce more pop perfect for selling Jaguars.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org