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4.7 out of 5 stars18
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 10 May 2011
This is a very moving album, written by Sting shortly after is parents died within a few short months of each other, it deals with death and grief so is quite dark and haunting. His lyrics are full of description you nearly feel you are standing on the dock like Billy in Island of souls watching the massive vessel slide down the ramp off to discover the world while he is destined to work the shipyards like his father before him. Very moving songs and a wonderful album even 20 years on.
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on 7 May 2013
Sting's debut and second album were released 2 years after each other so for this album to be released 4 years after in 1991 you know he must've put a lot of effort and time into the music. In 1987, not long before the release of Nothing like the sun... Sting's mother passed away. Six months later his father also died from the same disease and this obviously hit Sting hard. He suffered writer's block before realising he had to write a song about the death he had endured, which would help him to grieve. This song was "Why should I cry for you" which is 1 of the best on the album. Apparently this album was created in just 3 weeks with the rest of the songs flowing easily and clearly quickly from him after that first hurdle. Because it was written to help Sting come to terms with his parent's death and grief it is a very different album to the 1st two. It is very reflective where Sting refers to his father; his dreams of sailing and escaping, a lot of sea and maritime imagery, death, and is a very emotional and quite sorrowful record.

The album has just 9 songs on it but clocks in at 48:10 because a few of the songs are quite long with 4 of the songs being around and beyond 6 minutes. The album's artwork is very reflective of the music with the front cover having a picture of a beached boat with what looks like graves behind and inside little images of boats and graves. The back cover's song list is written in a text that is so light anyone will struggle to read it. Don't get why they did that.

The album is centred around a boy called Billy which is an alias of Sting's he's created so that the songs are not too personal and he can hide behind this fictional character. The album opens with some mournful sounding pipes courtesy of Kathyrn Tickell on Island of souls. Sting adopts his character Billy where he speaks of his father who is a riveter which is reflective of Sting's childhood with his father being a shipbuilder. It's slow and very mellow, almost haunting, just like the rest of the songs. All this time, which is the 1st of the 4 singles is much more upbeat and pop. It speaks of religion, nature and how Sting wishes to "bury the old man... at sea", and it's very evident he must be speaking about his father. Mad about you is my favourite on the album and 1 of my all time favourite Sting songs. The sound is amazing and the lyrics are meaningful about a man in pain longing for the woman he loves. It's based around a biblical tale and has some references to biblical subjects. The whole song is very moving and at the middle 8 where the saxophone comes in (courtesy of Branford Marsalis) is especially so and hits me everytime. Jeremiah blues (part 1) is something of a mystery to me as the title suggests there are a number of songs with this title but there aren't. Maybe he wrote another part that didn't make it onto the album. This song is moderately upbeat and the lyrics are quite thought provoking. Towards the end of the song there is some solo guitar which changes the mood. Why should I cry for you is 1 of, if not the most emotional and moving Sting song. Sting was having trouble mourning the loss of his parents and this song asks if tears would help and whether they'd want him to cry anyway. This song has a lot of sea imagery too.

Saint Agnes and the burning fire is an instrumental track which has a very classical sound to it with lots of strings (guitar and mandolin). Saint Agnes was a Christian martyr who died at the age of 14; I researched it! Don't know exactly why he chose to name this song that. This once again leads to the religious background of Sting's. The rest of the songs have that same mellow feel and are long, maybe longer than they need to be. The wild, wild sea is about the character being lost at sea and his father rescuing him. The title track The soul cages is another single and has quite an upbeat sound with a great guitar riff. The accent Sting adopts is strange as he doesn't even sound Geordie. It actually reminds me of Andy Summer's accent so I don't know the idea behind it. The chorus is repetitive and simple but that's Sting all over! It works. The lyrics refer to the fishermen and the sea. The end has Sting referring back to the first track The island of souls with the same lyrics but changing "world" for "sea" hence the whole album tying together. When the angels fall is quite uplifting but going back to a far slower sound with a piano backdrop. Lyrically it seems to be about accepting the death of his parents and trying to move on. It's the longest song at 7:48. From 5:30 the only real lyrics are the repetitive chorus and the song is dragged out to a slower and more mellow, quieter sound as it goes on and ends with a drum beat.

The album itself is very personal, very moving and thoughtful but I think it might take a bit of growing on you because besides the singles the songs are slow and centre around the same themes and subjects. The songs don't vary well from track to track like on his previous and later material. I think it is a great album and a piece of the man himself who wrote the album to help himself get through such a terrible time in his life. You do have to be quite a serious fan to enjoy it.
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on 28 May 2011
best sting solo album.very atmospheric and intense,a great album to get lost to and put you in a dreamlike state.
all tracks brilliant but stand outs,why should i cry for you,all this time and jermaine blues.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 September 2015
Tagged by many as his least commercial, most depressing album, and also the one least likely to cause crowd sing-alongs on concerts, it is for me on of the high points of Sting's creative career. Varied, contemplative, musically and lyrically perfect, and in my mind his one album with not a single low point. It is such a joy to listen to that I have never found it depressing.

As a poet myself, I find much delight in the depth of imagery and meaning inherent in the lyrics, and also from the fact that they are better written on this album than on any of his others. The lyrics meditate on subjects of a much more personal nature than in both his earlier and later work, extensively using Sting's romanticised imagery from his childhood in Newcastle, when he lived close to the shipyard and kept dreaming of the sea.

Musically, this is a feast for the ears, in particular "the Wild Wild Sea," the melody of which flows like waves, several lines ending in a subtly emphasised s-sound to mimic the calm ocean's constant whisper, and then the melody gradually building up towards a storm along with the lyrics.

"Jeremiah Blues part 1" with its jazziness and wonderfully enigmatic lyrics, the neo-classical guitar duet instrumental "St. Agnes and the Burning Train," the upbeat "Soul Cages," the Northumbrian pipes (similar to Uillean pipes) marking the intro of the album, and the low-key ending with the soothing "When the Angels Fall" - it all adds enormous variety to this album while there remains an underlying feel of continuity and connection between the pieces.

"All this Time" and "Mad about you" make the most easily accessible songs here, and the ones that most immediately catch one's attention, but this is an album to be listened to over and over to catch every nuance of sound and lyrics and let the music grow on you.
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on 25 September 2014
Melancholy but utterly riveting album, whose tunes haunt you for a long time afterwards. Much prefer my Sting and Police songs dark and brooding; this ticks all those boxes and more.
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on 24 September 2013
As always Sting does it again - he is in a class of his own and nobody else sounds like Sting - yes it's good stuff!
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on 22 September 2015
A more difficult set for beginners but bears repeated listening. The song about his father 'Why should I cry for you' is particularly poignant. Love the opener for its compound time and soaring melodies as well as the theme which is carried through to the title track. One of his deeper ouevres
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on 28 May 2015
I have only recently got into Sting and now I adore his music (once I can forget the tantric sex and sandal wearing lute side of him). Check out his DTS surround CD's and SACD's too. This is a great album.
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on 8 July 2014
Love Sting, whatever he does.
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on 21 March 2015
One of my favourite Sting albums. Bought this cd to replace the vinyl. Great to hear it again. good value too!
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