Title - 'The Last Ship [Super Deluxe Edition]'
Artist - Sting
Now, I love Sting's music as much as the next guy, but if you're expecting this to be another glorious musical love affair; chock full of songs that drift lovingly along the tides of time, well, you're sadly mistaken!
Nope, this new Sting album is inspired by his very own forthcoming play of the same name and explores the central themes of homecoming and self-discovery; drawing upon his memories of growing up in the shadow of the Swan Hunters Shipyard in Wallsend.
Hey, I told you this wasn't your pop-licious Sting album, didn't I?! Anyway, this grey, raw, spoken-word at times Super Deluxe Edition of 'The Last Ship' brings us 2 CDs and 20 tracks that, in truth, all merge into sounding like one come the end.
Sting's personal reminiscences illuminate universal truths – the complexity of relationships, the passage of time and the importance of family and community – that's for sure, but the way he speaks them; as if reading from a historic book on that time is disparaging to say the least.
The play, in which Sting has been creatively immersed for nearly three years, debuts on Broadway in 2014 and is a collaboration with Tony Award winners Joe Mantello (director; Wicked), John Logan (writer; Skyfall) and Brian Yorkey (writer; Next to Normal).
As a whole, 'The Last Ship' tells the story of the demise of the shipbuilding industry in 1980's Newcastle which had, for so long, shaped and overshadowed the city, its development, and its community. The songs are deep, dark, soul-wrenching recants of a youth's memories, sure, but just listening to them one-after-the-other makes you want to pop on a Prince album to lighten the whole mood!
So, to my mind, to have to sit through a two hour play on the subject is going to be a real test of any and all of Sting's loyal musical followers, that's for sure, sorry!
Indeed, it's very safe to say that these new songs are not "radio friendly." In all honesty, "radio friendly" music today is for the young and intellectually incurious. So at least Sting has oneupmanship there - one way or another, of course. But, on the second disc there are some signs that life can be found in them there Sting vocals, as he duets with such gravel-toned notables Jimmy Nail, Brian Johnson, and even the lovely Unthank sisters on a couple of songs.
All that said, there are some close-to-being-what-we-expect-from Sting songs scattered about here. The rather good 'And Yet,' 'Practical Arrangement,' and 'I Love Her But She Loves Someone Else' could have come from the Soul Cages era. And there are some interesting traditional English folk and shanty songs such as 'Language of Birds,' 'Ballad of the Great Eastern,' together with (shall we say) more theatrical songs such as the soppy tale revealed within 'The Night the Pugilist Learned to Dance.'
The entire Super Deluxe tracklisting is as follows: 1. The Last Ship, 2. Dead Man's Boots, 3. And Yet, 4. August Winds, 5. Language Of Birds, 6. Practical Arrangement, 7. The Night The Pugilist Learned How To Dance, 8. Ballad Of The Great Eastern, 9. What Have We Got? [feat. Jimmy Nail], 10. I Love Her But She Loves Someone Else, 11. So To Speak [feat. Becky Unthank], 12. The Last Ship (Reprise), 13. Shipyard [feat. Jimmy Nail, Brian Johnson, Jo Lawry], 14. It's Not The Same Moon, 15. Hadaway, 16. Jock The Singing Welder, 17. Sky Hooks And Tartan Paint [feat. Brian Johnson], 18. Peggy's Song [feat. Rachel Unthank And The Winterset], 19. Show Some Respect, and 20. Practical Arrangement (Full Original Duet) [feat. Jo Lawry].
For those wanting all the info, 'The Last Ship' will be available as both a digital and physical release in two configurations: a 12-song standard version and a 2-disc deluxe version featuring 5 additional tracks (this one reviewed here today). (The 12-song version will also be available on vinyl.)