Sumner's Tales: Sting talks...
"This album was recorded in Italy and Paris, as the United States and Britain were preparing to invade Iraq. Optimism was somewhat difficult to maintain in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the face of the messianic determination of our leaders to seek revenge on an Iraqi regime that, while certainly repellent enough, proved to be not guilty in this case. Words in the mouths of politicians tend, more often than not, to become devalued currency. Words like freedom and truth probably suffered the most, as we declared an all-out "war on terrorism," which is of course absurd and the same as declaring "war on war." As of this writing, we are still living with the results of this absurdity. What should have been an international police action became a "clash of civilizations," where the brazen disregard and lack of respect for cultures different from our own polarized the world into two opposing camps, "us and them." The mission of convincing others through logic and the rule of law became a lost battle for hearts and minds - a battle that may be lost for generations. And so we need to reinvest in the words that are important to us, recalibrate their meaning, and, in the lexicon of the songwriter, there is no more important word than love itself."
"The album was really conceived in the wake of September the 11th. In fact, I started thinking about it on September the 12th of 2001. Certainly that mood is reflected in some of the work, and then it was finished off in Paris in the buildup to the Iraq war. So there are certain issues that are to the forefront on the record. But I'm still writing about personal relationships, close relationships, love, if you like, but with this sort of parallel resonance in the political sense. That, you know, we create the world incrementally by our personal relationships. The world is not created by massive political movements but by small acts of kindness or meanness, or greed, or selfishness or acts of love. We can create a negative world or a positive world and it's up to us, so we're responsible for the world - this is my conclusion."
"I was deeply upset, because my wife and I lost a friend in one of the [World Trade Center] towers. I elected not to do the concert, but the band wanted to play. There seemed to be groundswell for music rather than doing nothing, and as the evening wore on, it became more defiant, and I became more convinced it was the right thing to do. The next day, everyone left the house: the audience, the band, my crew, my family. I was literally left alone with my thoughts, trying to figure out what my function would be in this new world that had been put on our doorstep. I didn't come to any quick conclusions. But after a great deal of thought, I suppose I went back to that thing songwriters have been saying for years."
Chicago Tribune, 10/2003
"The process began on Sept. 12, 2001, after the tragedy in New York. I remember doing a concert that night and the next day, like everybody, being traumatized and then reassessing who I was and what could I do in this world that was useful or coherent, and not really coming up with any easy or quick answers. That's a useful place to begin, to feel empty and not entirely sure of yourself. I suppose looking back, in hindsight, I recognize that I must have come to the conclusion to do what I'd always done - write love songs. But perhaps with an eye towards a larger resonance than just relationships. That relationships create the world incrementally, relationship by relationship. Positively or negatively. How you deal with people in your life, how you're dealt with, really does create the world. And incrementally, by acts of kindness, by acts of compassion, acts of generosity, you can create a better world. I feel at the moment that we're slightly out of whack. The world of course will never be perfect. The world will always be this yin and yang. I just think there's too much negativity and paranoia and fear in this side of the pan, so I think art and music and popular culture can help to rebalance that. And I think that's what the job is."
National Post, 11/2003
"There was an urgency to the making of a record and to getting this stuff out. With this album I remember feeling anxiety, anger, fear, love, wanting to put the world right through the only medium I have, so it just came out as this stream of consciousness."
"There's an urgency about this record that perhaps is separated from my other work in that it was done post-9/11, during the Afghan war and then during the buildup to the war in Iraq, and in fact the war in Iraq. And all of that anxiety that was being given to us by the media, it obviously affected me. I wanted to get as many ideas as I could on the page because we were being told by our fearless leaders that we were in danger of being nuked within 45 minutes or, you know, an imminent chemical attack. And I didn't quite believe it, but there was certainly an anxiety in the air. And it's reflected on this record."
Canada AM, 11/2003
"I had to consider my position as a songwriter. What do I write about I didn't want to write specifically about that situation at all, but when I look back on the songs that I've written since then, there is this mood of import. There's something happening in the human spirit, and we're all connected to it, whether you're American or British or from the Islamic world. We're connected to some energy in the world, and we need to sort out what it is."
"Very simply, I'm saying that we have to go back to that basic thing - love. Mother love, father love, husband love, wife love, child love because when you don't have that, all hell breaks loose, and that's what we've got. I'm as idealistic as you can get - I do believe in love. I do believe that the problems of the world are basically about its lack, and the solutions are all about saying, 'People love each other, understand we are family.' And politics needs to serve that."
"That feeling of emptiness, really, was the beginning of this record. Just feeling useless and, not just bad, but empty. And then I decided to go inside and talk about the microcosms of relationships and then sort of weave a pattern out of it. All of the songs start very personal and then they spiral out to something bigger and bigger, reflecting the world. I think that's what the album's about. I wanted to redefine the idea of what love is. It can sound terribly twee, you know, 'I love you, and the whole idea, and everything wonderful.' But love can be a devastating experience. It can destroy you, if you've been hurt, you never want to take that risk again. And most of us have been hurt. So that idea I wanted to reintroduce and use the entry of war to talk about love - reverse it."
Winnipeg Sun, 11/2003
"Mentally, this was a very tough record to make. At first, I just wasn't in the mood to write songs. Then, because of what was going on in the world - the threat of war after September 11th, and the actual war happening -- it definitely was a difficult time to be creative. You wonder - what on Earth am I doing this for What bearing does this have on reality And of course a lot of the themes of what's happening in the world come into the record unconsciously. So there's a certain amount of confusion and dread on the record, as well as a great deal of joy and hope," he concludes. "I think in that sense it's a realistic record. I'm not denying anything."
"It's a post September 11 record. I think it really was a watershed. An event like that makes you redefine your craft and question what function you serve in society. If the world's going to hell in a hand basket then, you know, how can you either help that along or stop it I'm 51 and I'm not going to write about dancing particularly, or girlfriends, or cars. There is a place for trivia in pop music. I'm responsible for some of it. But sometimes you've got to get serious. My intention is to create something beautiful and unique and pleasing to people and at the same time tell the truth about how I feel in the world."
Daily Telegraph, 9/2003
Review from Billboard magazine by MP
Sting has never been one to shy away from rhythms of the world - or of the dancefloor, for that matter. His previous studio recording, 'Brand New Day', spawned a global crossover hit with the exhilarating 'Desert Rose'.
Here, Sting continues to embrace a variety of sonic landscapes. The buoyant 'Send Your Love' spotlights the flamenco guitar work of Vicente Amigo and the dancefloor knowledge of DJ Victor Calderone. 'The Book of My Life', a brooding ballad, opens with Anoushka Shankar's dreamy sitar, while dance/electronic pioneer BT injects 'Never Coming Home' with trance-hued colorings. Indeed, there are numerous high points on this heartfelt and soulful disc, but the spiritual 'Dead Man's Rope' and Mary J. Blige duet ('Whenever I Say Your Name') are extra-special.
Throughout, Sting's own sacred love remains intact. In Sting's world, love - and all that it encompasses - is all that matters.
Review from The Boston Globe by Steve Morse
When Pink Floyd borrowed Thoreau's phrase to sing about Englishmen leading lives of "quiet desperation," the band could have been talking about Sting. Certainly, Sting shows an anguished conscience on his new album, 'Sacred Love', which represents his first recorded material since the war in Iraq. He is clearly not thrilled about the world situation, and he falls back on that hallowed notion held by most spiritually attuned songwriters: Love will find a way.
Sting's new CD, out today, is a complex, sometimes funny, and often extremely musical look at the maladies he sees warping the world. His most severe song is 'This War', a blunt R&B-drenched treatise about how investing in war and corruption "can make you rich" while killing your soul. He adds that there's also "a war on education, a war on information, a war between the sexes ...a war on love and life itself."
But as the album unfolds, Sting finds a partial solution in the title track, in which he tells his mate, "Take off your working clothes, put on your long black dress and your high-heeled shoes, just leave your hair in a mess." Is this glib, or is it an answer?
In short, Sting is just as puzzled as the rest of us these days. He may own seven homes around the world (his careers in the Police and as a solo artist have been very good to this milkman's son from Newcastle), but as he sings elsewhere on the new disc: "The end is a mystery no one can read."
It is rather gratifying to see Sting address his uncertainties so openly. He has been accused of know-it-all didacticism in the past, but this time he sings, "I'm just hanging here in space" on the very pretty (if harshly titled) 'Dead Man's Rope'. The song has a gospel flair that adds a special urgency to it.
This album is Sting's most demanding since 1991's 'The Soul Cages', which was a reaction to the death of his father. 'Sacred Love' reacts against the emotional void left by terrorism. The album's sound is a typically sophisticated mix of pop, jazz, funk, and world music.
Guest Anoushka Shankar plays a brilliant sitar weave on 'The Book of My Life', and flamenco guitarist Vicente Amigo excels on 'Send Your Love', which has a mild Latin beat. (A bonus track of 'Send My Love' is included at the end, remixed impressively by Dave Aude for dance clubs.)
Some songs falter. Sting's cerebral self gets in the way, for example, on the opening 'Inside', in which he trickily but monotonously begins 20 separate lines with the word "inside" and 26 with the world "love," before ending with a string of bizarre phrases: "Radiate me, subjugate me, incubate me, re-create me, demarcate me, educate me, punctuate me" - and on and on, not too successfully.
Overall, though, the album succeeds because it has life beyond its philosophical confusion. The song 'Whenever I Say Your Name', a duet with ubiquitous R&B star Mary J. Blige, is a gem. It's an accelerating, call and response track in which Sting gets tricky again (he begins 28 lines with the word "whenever"), but this time there is passion, not monotony, due in no small part to Blige's intensity.
That's a pretty good antidote to quiet desperation.
Review from The Daily Oklahoman
Sting plays with tempo, instrumentation and lyrics the way a chef experiments with food and spices to create one tasty work after another. 'Sacred Love' has a dash of Indian spices, jazz, electronica and religion in its 10 original tracks.
There's the comfort food of the familiar sounding 'Inside', where the rhyming Sting surfaces first with "inside," "outside" and "love" and finally into a near-rap that calls back 'Every Breath You Take', but it's the outstanding cut 'Dead Man's Rope' where he does use a song from The Police's 'Synchronicity', 'Walking in Your Footsteps'.
That's the sure way to know it's a Sting album. He re-uses lyrics and chords, the way a chef works with favorite ingredients.
The single 'Send Your Love' has a nearly irresistible beat as it weaves together his ideas of religion, philosophy and kingdoms falling, but the best love song is his duet with Mary J. Blige, 'Whenever I Say Your Name'.
The message in 'Never Coming Home' is one of a marriage irretrievably broken but told in a way that stays with you. 'Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing)' also has the flavor of wasted lives imagined by a car thief.
Sting writes great loves songs with a twist, and you get those with 'Forget About the Future' and the title song.
The best and worst thing about any Sting work, 'Sacred Love' included, is that you have to listen to it about five times to catch the sly nuances he puts in all the songs, including the remix of 'Send Your Love' included as the 11th track on this disc.
Once you succumb to the music, 'Sacred Love' becomes a favorite course for your CD player.
Review from Entertainment Weekly magazine by Tom Sinclair
It's hard to believe punk rock and Sting were ever uttered in the same sentence. The former Police captain has been a solo purveyor of highbrow, literate pop for so long it seems like lifetimes ago that he tossed off simple gems like 'Roxanne'. Sure, he's still capable of coming up with catchy, uncomplicated trifles, like 1999's breezy 'Brand New Day'. But his artistic maturity has come at the expense of an attribute crucial to great pop: a sense of humor.
Which brings us to 'Sacred Love', a CD purportedly about that trickiest of emotional states, L-U-V. As you might suspect, ol' sobersides has deep thoughts on the subject. "Love is the child of an edless war/Love is an open wound still raw," he sings on "Inside", the opener. Over a swirl of strings, he goes on to rant about how "love is an angry scar... a violation, a mutilation, capitulation" and "annihilation", working up a nice head of steam that anyone who's ever been caught in the vortex of a relationship will relate to. On 'Whenever I Say You Name', his erotically charged duet with Mary J. Blige, he unites the secular and the sacred with the phrase "Whenever I say your name, I'm already praying."
Unfortunately, not everything here is as immediately affecting. 'Send Your Love' starts out with some gorgeous flamenco guitar flourishes and morphs into a world-beat vamp that, alas, fails to catch fire. Then there's 'Dead Man's Rope', another of those king-of-pain ballads that stumble along on a swampy bed of understated acoustic guitar and keyboards and could have you reaching for your Valium 'script.
If you're a fan, you'll likely find this a fine addition to his oeuvre; it's poetic, sophisticated, jazzy, and occasionally even funky. Still, you've gotta wish our man would lighten up sometimes. Next time out, Mr. Sumner, why not try taking a page from Paul McCartney's book and writing some silly love songs.
Review from The Hindu
His band was earlier called Sting and Police. Later, he went solo, and his last album; 'Brand New Day' swept the Grammy awards in 1999. The 'Desert Rose' singer, Sting, is back with his new album called 'Sacred Love'. Each song in this album projects a mature, abstract idea. The inspiration for 'Sacred Love' came to Sting when a unique concert was organised in his backyard in Italy two years back. "It was the last thing I wanted to do, but people had come from all over the world to see me, and I felt they needed some kind of therapy, just to be together," he says in his website (www.sting.com) . This concert set him thinking, and he felt the need to mature as a songwriter, and consequently, 'Sacred Love' projects the theme of a philosophical basis of love. Philosophical in the sense that his songs look deeper into love as an emotion and project ideas that relate to the human spirit. "There is something happening in the human spirit" says he, "and we are all connected to it, whether you are American, or British, or from the Islamic world. We are connected to some energy in the world, and we need to sort out what it is", he adds. The striving to discover this connection is what is reflected in each of the tracks in 'Sacred Love'.
The first single, 'Send Your Love', talks about attaining human salvation. "There is no religion but sound and dancing", sings Sting. What he means to say is how religion has lost its value in recent times, but at a deeper level, the song projects his personal view where he feels that music, sound and dancing is religion to him.
'Forget About The Future' satirically suggests how people dig up the wounds of the past, and fail to moved ahead into the future, and 'This War', which, according to Sting, was written during the build-up of war on Iraq, reflects an idea where the war may ultimately be won by someone, but what happens after that?
Beginning to feel that the album is too serious and abstract for you Well, not really.
The lyrics do make you think and ponder for a while, but Sting's vocals and music are infectious, especially Send Your Love, which has already entered quite a few radio and TV charts.
The remix version of this track is very infectious and is sure to be a hit with DJs. Inside is hard-hitting and being the first track in the album, it seems to set the mood and energy for the rest of the album. 'Whenever I Say Your Name' features Mary J. Blige and the vocals are soothing and comparatively soft.
On the whole, a very mature album. If you are among the 'thinking' type of guys, this album is ideal for you. If you just want to listen to some good music, buy the album for 'Send Your Love'.
Review from The Jakarta Post by Hera Diani
Somewhere along the long musical journey of Sting, we've waited for a sign of stagnation, writer's block or him making a desperate jump onto the bubble gum pop bandwagon.
And, thankfully, we've waited in vain.
Instead, Mr. Gordon Sumner has come up with another work which is no less brilliant than all the preceding golden output.
The title track may be a straight reminder of 1999's 'Brand New Day', but the rest of the album offers a more upbeat, more soulful and less polished sound.
Electric guitar riffs back 'This War' - a stirring cry of protest against the war in Iraq, 'Send Your Love' has that world music 'Desert Rose' flavour while 'Whenever I Say Your Name' (a duet with Mary J. Blige) is a smoldering ballad with a gospel touch.
This album is a reaction to Sept. 11 and its aftermath, where he implies that love is the answer. As an intelligent lyricist, he especially takes on religion, demanding its redefinition.
"There's no religion but sex and music/There's no religion but sound and dancing/There's no religion but sacred trance..." he sings. Something to think about.
Review from The Los Angeles Times by Robert Hilburn
From the gorgeous musical arrangements to the probing themes, this is Sting's most ambitious album since 'The Soul Cages', his somber, intensely personal 1991 reaction to his confusion and grief after the death of his father.
The heart of this album is also about trying to recover emotional balance and faith. But the subject matter is more elusive: the restless anxiety of a world again in crisis, a timeline that stretches from the Sept. 11 terrorism to the Iraq quagmire.
There are moments, including 'Inside' and 'Dead Man's Rope', when Sting rises to the challenge by capturing the helplessness and despair of the times. In the former, he sings, "Outside the walls are shaking/Inside the dogs are waking/Outside the hurricane won't wait/Inside they're howling down the gate."
The work reflects the blend of world music and Western pop-rock influences that lent some of the English singer-songwriter's most inspired moments a comforting, universal sheen.
But there are other places where the music feels too restrained. The electronica snap in a bonus track - the Dave Aude remix of 'Send Your Love' - greatly improves on the album's formal version of the song. The lyrics feel too familiar in places. Yes, love is the answer, but the message isn't updated in any meaningful way.
The singer's duet with Mary J. Blige on the gospel-etched 'Whenever I Say Your Name', however, brings out the best in both of these excellent artists, a vocal interchange that has both sensual and spiritual heat.
Review from The Mail On Sunday by Tim de Lisle
Sting is sometimes accused of smoothness, among other crimes, but next to Dido his new album is as rugged as his new Abraham Lincoln beard. It's a record steeped in the spirit of the age. Sting lost a friend on September 11, 2001, and had to decide, before he knew the victim's fate, whether to go ahead with a concert that evening at his house in Tuscany. He did it, with necessarily mixed feelings, and the next day his family flew off, leaving him brooding on the state of the world and the role of the singer.
That day he started writing this album, which is full of the anger and fear of the past two years. The first single, 'Send Your Love', targets religion and the hatred it can inspire. 'This Wa'r, a Hendrix-style rock-out, won't be popular with Sting's near-contemporary Tony Blair: 'And you may win this war that's coming/But would you tolerate the peace'
The lyrics are always thought-provoking and even the more personal songs are unusual. 'The Book Of My Life' and 'Dead Man's Rope' are inspired by the emotional excavation which went into Sting's forthcoming book, a memoir of his Geordie boyhood. But the more political numbers are overstuffed with words, ending in educated rants, as if your ears were being boxed with a rhyming dictionary. The music, as ever since Sting left The Police in 1984, is pop-soul with plenty of complexity smuggled in. As Randy Newman said recently: 'He won't settle for the same old chords.' But by Sting's standards there are not many tunes.
'The Book Of My Life' has a haunting cello riff and 'Send Your Lov' is propelled by a slinky bassline from Sting himself, but the sole melodic bull's-eye is 'Whenever I Say Your Name'. A duet with Mary J. Blige, this is a gospel hymn to the only deities Sting acknowledges: the gods of love and music. The melody is a gorgeous rolling thing that is both exuberant and elegant.
One day there will be an album called 'Sting: The Love Songs', and it will be very good.
Review from The New York Post by Dan Aquilante
Sting's reedy voice is naturally compelling to the point of urgency as he sings about devotion on 'Sacred Love', but his smarts lie in how he's tapped world music as the canvas for his treatise.
This album's musical eclecticism represents Sting's global outlook. Stylistically, the album progresses from pop to Moroccan acoustic guitar to electronic beats to strains of the sitar.
On 'Sacred Love', it's evident Sting considers music and love the common threads running through us all, but he deftly dodges the sap and hearts and flowers.
Check out the album's second song, 'Send Your Love', where he opens the tune with the lyrics, "Finding the world in the smallness of a grain of sand and holding infinities in the palm of your hand."
The song speaks about tasting the sweetness of every moment and making deliberate living a religion.
On the intriguing 'Inside', Sting sings, "Love is the child of an endless war, love is an open wound still raw. Love is an explosion, love is the fire of the world."
Those unorthodox notions make this disc worthy of argument and admiration. And if you don't want to think about the words, the music's rock stance is unrelenting.
Sting hasn't forgot about old-fashioned lusty love. In that department, he's best on his duet with Mary J. Blige, 'Whenever I Say Your Name', a sweet 'n' sour couple's confessional that soars with gospel power by its conclusion.
Review from The New York Times by Jon Pareles
It's a songwriter's job to parse the endless varieties and fluctuations of love. Only a few shades of connotation separate devotion from obsession, but they make all the difference on the new albums of love songs by two multimillion-selling British songwriters, Sting and Dido.
Sting wraps his habitual brooding in a concept on 'Sacred Love'. In song after song, thoughts of romance lead to ideas of faith. Love becomes a pilgrimage, a prayer, a ritual and a benediction. It is an old connection that is at the root of devotional music worldwide. And while Sting is more an agnostic than an evangelist, somehow ideas that could become dry and abstract bring out his old fervor.
As he did on his 1999 album, 'Brand New Day', Sting collaborates with the producer and keyboardist Kipper on densely layered tracks that merge programmed rhythms with flourishes of improvisation. The music floats in from plush, echoey spaces to focus on riffs, rhythms and Sting's voice, while otherworldly choruses and horns still arrive from the beyond. The songwriting reshuffles Sting's past efforts: major-key hymns, minor-key ballads, jazzy shuffles, crisp funk and quasi-Celtic slow airs. Sting cheerfully quotes a few lines from past songs, slipping 'We'll be together' into 'Whenever I Say Your Name', a gospel-tinged duet in which Mary J. Blige pushes Sting to match her volatile voice.
Sting's globe-hopping imperative continues on 'Sacred Love'. He enlists Anoushka Shankar's sitar in 'The Book of My Life' (which includes "a chapter on God that I don't understand") and Vicente Amigo's flamenco guitar in 'Send My Love', a song that follows the Arabic tinge of Sting's 1999 hit 'Desert Rose' across the Straits of Gibraltar to Spain. 'Send Your Love' begs for universal love in a nondenominational prayer: "There's no religion but time and motion/There's no religion, just tribal scars."
The songs aren't all so lofty. "Never Coming Home," with guitar fingerpicking that harks back to the Police, is about a woman suddenly walking out and a man waking up to find her note. In 'Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing)', which may be Sting's penance for his Jaguar commercial, a thief imagines the luxurious life of the car's owner.
The most impassioned song on 'Sacred Love' is about politics, not love. In 'This War', Sting summons the turbulence of psychedelia, with a beefy Hammond organ and guitars distorted to the point of feedback, to
denounce war profiteering and deplore the state of the world: "There's a war on education, a war on information, a war between the sexes and every nation."
Sting doesn't seek many new converts with 'Sacred Love'. He is comfortable with his musical habits, and his foibles - the rhyming-dictionary lyrics, the portentousness - haven't disappeared. But neither have his skills and virtues, and thinking about higher purposes has burnished them.
Review fromRolling Stone by David Wild
Sting has been so famous for so long and done so much - the Police, the rain forest, the tantric sex (or was it), the luxury-car commercial - he has become easy to undervalue as purely a musician. The radiant Sacred Love is a vivid and frequently gorgeous reminder that Gordon Sumner is first and foremost a talented singer-songwriter. Sting clearly studied at the hyperintelligent, musically ambitious school of Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell, but he has consistently infused his postgraduate work with something his own: a wide-open global consciousness combined with a cool British reserve.
Sacred Love, the follow-up to 1999's 'Brand New Day', finds Sting in a soulful mood. 'Send Your Love' pulsates like some twenty-first-century take on classic Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye, with a taste of 'Desert Rose' for extra flavor. The gospel-tinged love song 'Whenever I Say Your Name' finds Sting trading lines effectively with the Queen of Hip-hop Soul, Mary J. Blige. Sting and co-producer Kipper have smartly stripped back the polished wall of sound that has sometimes swamped Sting's solo work. The characteristically literate 'This War' rocks as convincingly as anything Sting has done since back when Stewart Copeland was keeping his time. In spots - such as the sleekly trance-y 'Never Coming Home' - Sacred samples some of the strengths that made the Police so arresting in the first place. Sting seems like a man focused on the future but drawing more freely upon his past with heart and soul. Sacred or profane, that's hard not to love.
Review from The San Francisco Chronicle by Joel Selvin
Sting has long specialized in pseudo-spiritual pop - songs that hint at depth they never have to reveal, brainy, often bloodless productions, polished into bright, shiny objects. 'Sacred Love' finds Sting spending a lot of time on his knees, not all of it praying. In a post 9/11 frame of mind, the multiculti balladeer casts a suspicious eye at organized religion and finds spirituality in love.
Sting and Mary J. Blige stir it up together on 'Whenever I Say Your Name', the album's certain highlight, equating worship with romantic love. "There's no religion but sex and music," he sings on 'Send Your Love', the album's first single. On the climactic title track, he preaches the gospel of love ("Take off those working clothes, put on these high-heeled shoes").
Beautifully rendered with subtle, highly-nuanced production touches, graceful strains of world music threaded into the basic fabric of the sound, 'Sacred Love' rides on his trademark sturdy musicality. A techno dance mix of 'Send Your Love' is included at the end.
Review from The San Jose Mercury News
From the gorgeous musical arrangements to the probing themes, this is Sting's most ambitious album since 'The Soul Cages', his 1991 response to the death of his father.
Much of this album is also about trying to recover emotional balance and faith, but the threat this time is more elusive: the restless anxiety of a world made uneasy by Sept. 11, 2001, and the Iraq quagmire.
There are moments, including 'Inside' and 'Dead Man's Rope', when Sting captures the helplessness and despair of the times. In 'Inside', he sings, ''Outside the walls are shaking/Inside the dogs are waking/Outside the hurricane won't wait/Inside they're howling down the gate.''
There are also places where the music feels too restrained and the lyrics too familiar. But Sting's duet with Mary J. Blige on the gospel-etched 'Whenever I Say Your Name' brings out the best in both of these excellent artists. It's a vocal interchange with both sensual and spiritual heat.
Review from The Times by Lisa Verrico
A joke about Sting has been doing the rounds ever since the singer confessed his fondness for tantric sex. It goes something like this. "Why is it so great that Sting can spend all night making love to his wife Because it keeps him out of the studio."
It isn't the funniest joke in the world, but it's still being told because those who hated Sting's solo stuff back then, still hate it now. And 'Sacred Love', the 52-year-old's seventh solo studio album, ain't gonna change their minds.
Then again, you suspect that most of Sting's critics dislike the man more than his music. And how easy he is to dislike. He's filthy rich - he apparently flits between his seven homes around the world a couple of times each week, first class, of course. He has the dream family - a good-looking, successful wife and beautiful children. He's still sexy. Madonna and Guy turn up to his parties; he takes cameo parts in cool movies; he's always collecting awards; and he has never had his private life dragged through the press (scary sexual stamina excluded, of course).
Finally, there's his incredible career. Not for him decades of ropey records and sliding sales - think Bowie, Rod, Elton, George Michael, Mick Hucknall. Hey, Sting's even been cool with the kids ever since Puff Daddy sampled a Police song on Biggie Smalls tribute 'Missing You', and more recently, Craig David and Sugababes both borrowed bits of his solo hit 'Shape of My Heart'. In short, Sting's life is pretty perfect.
So it's envy that puts some of us off Sting. His calm, tasteful songs remind us of everything he has and we haven't. Meanwhile, Sting has so few problems himself, he has to seek them out for inspiration. On 'Sacred Love' he has turned his attention to healing a world at war with love.
The idea came to him when he was due to play a gig in the grounds of his Italian villa on the day New York's twin towers were attacked. Not wishing to cancel, he turned the show into a therapy session. And so came the idea for a whole album of healing. If you are feeling queasy already, you are clearly not a Sting fan. Those who like their pop stars to address such issues, however, will be pleased to hear that he has done a decent job of it.
'Sacred Love' boasts all the hallmarks that make Sting albums sell by the shedload.
It's clever and classy; it treads a range of musical territories; there are those familiar, soothing vocals and there are guest spots from great musicians, notably Vincente Amigo on flamenco guitar and Anoushka Shankar on sitar. People can scoff at the lyrics all they like, but at least Sting is trying to say something.
The album opens with Inside, a pleasant, sitar-accompanied song about looking inside people's minds to find out what makes them tick. Or, er, something like that. 'Send Your Love' is an upbeat, samba-style track that's as close as Sting will probably ever come to disco, although more surprising is the techno backing and swooshy sounds on 'Never Coming Home', which recalls Sting, or rather the Police circa 'Synchronicity'. The jazzy 'Forget About the Future', with trombones, piano and brushed drums, and the broody 'Stolen Car', in which a thief imagines the car-owner's life, are both more typically Sting - a touch too tasteful for anyone under 40.
Sting trips up only on 'Dead Man's Rope', on which he tries to do a Bob Dylan, but the chaotic rock of the clever 'This War' - a dig at politicians - and 'Whenever I Say your Name', a striking duet with Mary J. Blige, make up for the stumble. Yes, Blige's soulful vocals do leave you feeling that Sting should sing with more passion, and 'Sacred Love' never comes close to what you could call exciting. It's not Sting's best solo album either, but it's another solid set of songs that proves artists don't have to pander to trends to sell records. Another few million in the bank then. Sod him.
Review from The Washington Post by Sean Daly
Somebody better go grab the fire hose: Sting and Mary J. Blige - neither of whom has ever been shy about sharing boudoir thoughts - are getting hot 'n' heavy. On 'Whenever I Say Your Name', a sweaty, showstopping duet on Sting's just-released 'Sacred Love', the tantric just-getting-sexier machine and the smoldering queen of hip-hop soul convincingly portray people who really - no, reeeaaallly - dig each other.
Talk about everlasting love: By the flammable ballad's five-minute mark, you'll be blown away and utterly exhausted.
After hearing those two vocally tear each other's clothes off, you'd never guess that the 11-track 'Sacred Love' is actually Sting's two-years-in-the-making response to our war-torn world. But leave it to the ever-randy, always brainy former Police man to figure that what we really need is not better foreign policy but some serious (meta)physical groping. "There's no religion but sex and music," he growls over the swirling Middle Eastern rhythms of the dance-floor-intended first single, 'Send Your Love' - and really, now, who can argue with that peace plan?
Sting: Vocals, guitar, bass keyboards, Turkish clarinet
Kipper: Keyboards, programming, vocals
Dominic Miller, Guitars (Courtesy of BBC Music)
Jason Rebello: Piano, Rhodes
Manu Katché: Drums
Vinnie Colaiuta: Drums
Mary J. Blige: Lead Vocal on "Whenever I Say Your Name" (Courtesy of Geffen Records)
Vicente Amigo: Flamenco Guitar on "Send Your Love" (Courtesy of BMG Music Spain)
Anoushka Shankar: Sitar on "The Book of My Life" (Courtesy of Angel Records)
Rhani Krija: Percussion
Jeff Young: Hammond (Courtesy of Malibu Sound)
Chris Botti: Trumpet (Courtesy of Columbia Records)
Clark Gayton: Trombone
Christian McBride: Double Bass (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records)
Dave Hartley: Piano & Choir Arrangements
Joy Rose: Featured & Backing Vocals
Donna Gardier: Backing Vocals
Katreese Barnes: Backing Vocals
Ada Dyer: Backing Vocals
Aref Durvesh: Tablas
Jacqueline Thomas: Cello
Levon Minassian: Darduk
Valerie Denys: Castanets
Bahija Rhapl: Ethnic Vocals
Choeur de Radio France (Associate Chorus Master Philip White): Vocals