The title of Sting's fourth studio album (1992) is a play on his real surname (Sumner) and also on his profession as a teller of tales, albeit in a musical form. Despite the title, there are in fact twelve tracks, the first and last acting as prologue and epilogue, as if this is his version of the Canterbury Tales. Again produced with Hugh Padgham, the album for me is as good as Sting's first, `The Dream of the Blue Turtles'.
I can take or leave the jazzy-rock "Love is Stronger than Justice" with its hillbilly chorus and country & western slide guitar; the two-minute rocker "She's Too Good for Me"; the jazz-rock, Hammond-organ infested "Saint Augustine in Hell" (a bit of a plodder despite its pretensions to pomp); the gentle rock ballad "Everybody Laughed But You" (with some good guitar work); and the upbeat epilogue that is "Nothing `Bout Me", which feels like something Sinatra would croon to during an evening.
Far better are the opening "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You" (another well-written and well-sung pop-rock love song); the blues stomper "Heavy Cloud, No Rain" with its wonderful guitar solo; the rousing "Seven Days" with its pizzicato strings and clever chorus; the atmospheric "It's Probably Me", music for a 1960s spy movie with its lone trumpet in the night; the meditation on playing-cards and war - `the sacred geometry of chance' - that is "Shape of My Heart"; and the well-told and well-sung story in "Something the Boy Said".
But the icing on this cake has got to be Sting's "Fields of Gold". An introduction of evocatively sustained chords, followed by a jangly guitar sounding visually like the morning sun shining through green leaves, leads to the sound of Northumbrian pipes. Beautifully atmospheric lyrics add support to my belief that Sting is strongest in music of love and relationships with a definitively English sound.
This has got to be one of my favourite Sting albums.