In his 2003 autobiography, 'Broken Music', Sting wrote, "That the band [The Police] would break up at the pinnacle of its career when our position seemed virtually unassailable, surprised everyone but me. I saw my own future very clearly outside of the band, because I wanted more freedom. ... I wanted to make music that wasn't tied to the limitations of a three-piece band, where I didn't have to compromise my own standards as a songwriter." 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles' was Sting's first attempt at achieving solo recognition in this way.
Sting's first album is an eclectic bag of decent songs with one outstanding gem. Intelligent lyrics rub shoulders with seasoned musicianship. He has an eye for pale landscapes - both internal and external - and historical atmosphere. Indeed, this album can be viewed in itself as a historic document of the 1980s with songs about the Russian threat, the coal strike, and child soldiers. It is, in my opinion, a cold album, a night album, full of shadows, but nevertheless burning intensely inside.
Four songs do not deliver on expectations - "Love is the Seventh Wave" is in calypso style, but Sting's voice is too deadpan; "Shadows in the Rain" is a bog-standard rocker; "Consider Me Gone" has a jazz-blues feel ('to look for heaven is to live here in hell'); and the album's title track is a short instrumental jazzy jam session of no relevance.
But there are five songs worthy of high praise - "If You Love Somebody Set them Free", the pop-rock hit; "Russians", a cold-war commentary to the beat of goose-stepping soldiers and sustained throughout by the sound of a ticking clock (bomb?), each verse interspersed with an ironic Prokofiev theme; "Children's Crusade" laments the loss of young lives, 'virgins with rifles'; "We Work the Black Seam" has a prescient pre-climate warming message; and "Moon Over Bourbon Street", an atmospheric eighteenth-century feel with excellent alto(?) sax playing by Branford Marsalis.
But the gem in the series is, for me, the final song, "Fortress around Your Heart". Astounding lyrics ('let me set the battlements on fire') sung with commitment sends shivers down my spine. It's a shame that it ends on a simple fade-out.