Suddenly, For No Reason, Sting

Here (with a touch more Today Show and advertising than one might want):

Good people give ear to me story,
Pay attention, and none of your lip,
For I’ve brought you five lads and their daddy,
Intending to build ye’s a ship.
Wallsend is wor habitation,
It’s the place we was all born and bred.
And there’s nay finer lads in the nation,
And none are more gallantly led.

OK, I’ll be honest. It’s not “for no reason.” It’s because I’ve been listening to his newest albutm — “The Last Ship” — nearly non-stop for the past two months.

I’m not a fan of Sting the Melodist; his style is often too jazz/blues-influenced for Mostly Classical Me. I am, however, an enormous fan of Sting the Wordsmith. The man’s a master at “putting the words down and pushing them a bit.” So (somewhat surprisingly even to myself) when the album was released in late September, I got it.

It had been years since I’d listened to a Sting album as an album (rather than listening to individual songs, abstracted from their original settings). In fact, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever listened to an entire Sumner album from beginning-to-end. That sounds more like something my wife would do/(has done), actually. Remember, the music usually wears on me a bit, so I like to pick-and-choose.

This time, though, I listened to the whole thing. I started at the top, went all the way through to the end, and then back ’round again, just to be sure. And I was glad I did, because the songs are connected in a number of fascinating ways. Themes of fatherhood, the value and the struggle of manual labor, that particular cross of being from a place you simultaneously love and hate — all woven together into a single album.

Even I was able to recognize some striking melodic and lyrical similarities to his “Soul Cages” album, so it was unsurprising to hear that they were connected. (Just as unsurprisingly, perhaps, the album is being turned into a Broadway musical, appearing next Fall. So I can’t have been the first person to notice the story-line.)

“Before I began writing for this project, I hadn’t written anything in about eight years,” Sting wrote in a June 5 blog entry for The Huffington Post. “I’d lost the urge to create—the urge that had driven me most of my life. But once I decided to turn these memories of my childhood into a narrative, and began to think of writing for other people—for other characters, from other viewpoints apart from my own—the songs came very quickly….

Interestingly, this particular song — What Have We Got? –is probably the most “stand-alone” song on the entire album. But it’s a great deal of fun, and it comes right after the album’s lynchpin (at least for me): The Ballad of the Great Eastern.

More on this later, I suspect.

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.

  • Scott D. Danielson

    A stone’s throw from Jerusalem…. I walked a lonely mile in the moonlight.

    Terrific post, and I agree on Sting, though I think I enjoy his jazz/blues (and you forgot reggae) more than you do. I’ve been listening to him and enjoying his lyrics since Dream of the Blue Turtles.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/summathissummathat Joseph Susanka

      I don’t think I really understand what reggae is, Scott. So I usually leave it out of the list. The man’s lyrics are wonderful, though, no matter the style to which he is setting them. (And I love the accent he’s got goin’ on in “What Have We Got.”)


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