Picks and Pans Review: ...nothing Like the Sun

updated 11/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST


If you thought Sting's first solo album might have satisfied his apparently deep need to set serious statements to soft-jazz music, think again, Bub. With this album there are indications that we're in for another lecture series before the shrink-wrap comes off the cover. First, there's that title, taken from a Shakespearean sonnet. (It's also the title of Anthony Burgess' marvelous biographical novel about Shakespeare.) References to the Bard are always a bad sign in pop music. Then there's the fact that this is a double album. These days that's a pretty sure sign of an inflated sense of self-importance. In the playing...Nothing Like the Sun takes a very light, delicate musical approach, a tendency made worse by entirely too much soprano saxophone. The self-consciously hip, will-o'-the-wisp arrangements are uncomplementary to Sting's voice, uncovering his thin tonality. The lyrics here are uncommonly literate but not always eloquent. For instance, History Will Teach Us Nothing begins with the stanza: "If we seek solace in the prisons of the distant past/ Security in human systems we're told will always always last/ Emotions are the sail and blind faith is the mast/ Without the breath of real freedom we're getting nowhere fast." Fine, Stingo, but what does it mean? Musically and lyrically, much of this album is likely to zoom right over a listener's head. There are some approachable moments of enormous beauty: They Dance Alone, a song about the mothers of the "disappeared" in Chile, sounds like the musical equivalent of a watercolor painting. And Sting does mix a little sugar in with the medicine, specifically in the loose, funky shuffle of We'll Be Together. But beyond that, the record isn't exactly brimming over with radio-ready hits.... Nothing Like the Sun sounds undeniably mature, and hopelessly stuffy. (A & M)

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