Music Reviews

posted: July 14, 2010

Sting Symphonicities Symphonicities

DG CD
Sting Symphonicities

For some odd reason, rockstars like to record with symphony orchestras.  Perhaps it makes them feel more culturally valid and significant, but it usually ends up just coming across as self indulgent.  I always think of Nigel Tufnel and Derek St. Hubbens talking about producing “Saucy Jack” when I hear there is a new rock and classical marriage.  If you thought Gordon couldn’t possibly sink lower than his first turdball production on DG records, Songs From The Labryinth, guess again.  He’s back, this time with not one, not two, but four major orchestras in tow!

The highly unimaginative title lets you know what’s in store.  For those that have no idea what I’m talking about, Symphonicities is a collection of selected hits from his Police and solo periods, laid over the top (and I’m being way more polite than I want to be here) of various orchestral music.  While the liner notes mention that the albums “most blinding moment” is the opening track, “Next to You”  I think abortion would be a better word.  The liner notes also go on to say that “daring is one of Stings essential artistic gifts” and that he’s created “some of the most compelling popular music of the last half century.”

As my father likes to say, “Who writes this shit?”  When I called the guy at my local record store who smirked at me while buying this CD to complain (while I was driving back to my office), he said, “Sir, let me remind you of our no return policy” and laughed hysterically as he hung up the phone. Yeah, it’s that bad.

Listening through this torturous disc all the way through to make sure I didn’t miss a creative nugget, just got worse.  The only remotely un-hateful track is the quasi-bossa nova rendition of “Roxanne”, which pales in comparison to Todd Rundgren’s excellent Todd With a Twist. (A Bossa Nova compilation of TR’s favorite songs)  Sting just never seems to line up with the orchestra or his accompanying vocalists.  Again, I’m reminded of Spinal Tap, when the boys are trying to sing “Heartbreak Hotel” at Elvis’ grave and Derek says, “well, you have to be in the same key…”

I guess the bright side of the story is that classical musicians all over the world are short on work, so I applaud Sting for giving any of these fine musicians some extra paying work this year, recession and all.  And Abbey Road Studios (where most of this was recorded) is certainly in a cash flow crunch as well, so I’m sure this helped their bottom line for a month or two.  The classical musicians did a first rate job and the sound quality of the disc is very good; it’s a shame DG just didn’t release this sans-Sting as a classical release.

If we gave out an award for the worst record of the 21st Century so far, Symphonicities would get my vote. Ironically, though Sting claims to be quite the enviromentalist, I’m guessing most of these polycarbonate discs will end up in a landfill site somewhere, provided people can avoid the temptation to throw them out the window.

–Jeff Dorgay