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4.0 out of 5 stars
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on 22 July 2010
This album is pretty average though it's not quirky as If on a Winter's night or Song's from the Labrynth. Some of it's quite good with tracks like I Burn for you really stand out. My personal view is Sting has writers block and hopefully this will pass and he'll write some new songs that inspire as in days past. I don't think he's past his sell by date just stuck in a rut. Loyal fans are tired of rearrangements and look for something new. It's a little bit disappointing though not a failure. The songs are best heard in their original style as this collection doesn't quite work and leaves you feeling really in state of uncertainty as to what this is really about but give it a listen to be sure for yourself.
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on 4 August 2010
From the moment I heard that Sting was putting together an album of orchestral covers of his own material, I was very much looking forward to full scale re-interpretations of some of his finest tunes, especially following the disappointment of his recent 'If On A Winters Night' album. However, despite a couple of real gems, Roxanne and I Burn For You (one of my all time favorite Sting penned songs) and The Pirate's Bride...I feel that many of the chosen tracks just don't work as well with the orchestral arrangements, and come across sounding like they are essentially the same track with an orchestral backing, which I'm sure wasn't Sting's intention here. Some are just downright wrong, 'I Hung My Head' for example, a country ballad tale just doesn't suit this type of manipulation and sits uncomfortably amongst the play list when so many other more appropriate tracks would have been much more appreciated...Walking on the Moon or Message in a Bottle, If You Love Somebody...or any of the Soul Cages tracks would have worked well and sounded great with a full orchestra arrangement in my opinion.
As a long time fan of The Police and Sting's solo work, I feel that this album is again a missed opportunity for the reinvention of some of his most loved songs and could have breathed new life into them. As he so often says himself, he loves to experiment and push the boundaries, I just wish he had this time when he had the opportunity. I only hope that his live performances are not so restrained...
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on 12 December 2010
I agree with other reviewers that some of the versions on this album are a bit bland, given the possibilities of the London Philharmonic. But then there's always the danger that by trying to make them sound like something they weren't intended to be when they were written, they end up sounding 'wrong'. Early Sting songs were borderline punk, so adding strings would have just sounded idiotic. As with most acts, there's only one real way to find out what they were meant to sound - and even more pertinent, feel - like, and that's to hear them live.

I saw the tour in Florence, at the Teatro Verdi at the end of October 2010. Setting the orchestra in this fairly intimate arena brought the whole enterprise to life; Dominic Miller played like he had genuine competition for the best musician present, the conductor waved his arms like a madman and Sting interacted with the orchestra to bring the whole thing to life. They were all (50+ of them) enjoying it to the max. You could see that bland and mediocre were the furthest thing from Sting's mind. There were additional reinterpretations of almost all the big singles, with King Of Pain and Fields of Gold instantly memorable. Having seen and heard them play it, I understand the recording much better and listen to it with a different ear. That probably sounds unnecessarily pretentious, but it's just the way it is. Anyone that sees a tour has a different take on the music to just listening to the album in the car.

I have only two criticisms of the recorded version. Firstly, the content isn't as strong as the concert set says it could be, and a 'live' feel would ake it much brighter. More of the hits would have been a better sales proposition, too. And secondly, Deutsche are a classical label that never discount, so it's the full £18 or you don't get it. That alone must have stopped thousands of people being able to hear it, and that really is a shame.
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Now 30 years ago I would have said Sting would have gone down kicking and screaming and the musical results would be spectacular. After all his edgy view of youth was and still is a memorable experience with lyrics and music that lingers long in the mind.
Unfortunately it seems he has decided to zip up his cardie, leave his beard to do it's thing and wander into a studio with an orchestra to produce an album of fragmented and at times pretty uninspired covers.
First up let me say that the orchestration is fine and of a good standard. But then you'd expect that wouldn't you? What I didn't expect was for the style to be so incohesive. The covers here are well chosen for variety but boy does this album reduce them to boring tears at times.
The cover of Johnny Cash's 'I hung my head' see's the sad and regretful lyrics droned in a monotone and a really flat musical background.
' My ain true' love with Alison Krauss is really rather beautiful and has the same ethereal style that made it work so well for 'Cold Mountain' and is definitely a highlight. A cold and body strewn American civil war battlefield is easily pictured.
'We work the black seam' has a jarring brass theme that repeats endlessly and that simply does nothing to lift what could have been so much more than a dirge.
In fact it's with his own well known work that Sting really misses the mark. Surely 'An Englishman in New York' was ripe for re-interpretation? 'Roxanne' flops horribly as some cheesy restaurant background tune with all edge removed and meaning lost. It's from here on in that the one word to keep re-appearing is 'Safe'. Little innovation , risk free and nothing to think about becomes the order of the day.
'The end of the day' see's a pleasant orchestration supporting strong vocals for a rather sad and sombre song that is given time to grow. Who'd have thought a song about foxes could bring a lump to the throat eh?
'She's too good for me' finds itself between an almost rockabilly style twanging guitar and slapped bass and some pretty heavy handed strings that really don't suit.
'The pirate's bride' works very well and really does highlight just how well a sympathetic pairing of orchestra and song can work. The backing is also excellent.
Undoubtedly there are some well worked re-workings here and it would be unfair not to point out that the collaboration wasn't Stings idea but rather was suggested by 2 US orchestra's for a couple of concerts and the idea expanded from there. Also the orchestral arrangements were not by Sting, although he of course gave some direction and idea's, he basically gave the director's free reign and the instruction to avoid the usual and show some invention.
In truth I know my introduction was a bit facetious and it's only meant to be light hearted. This is probably far more daring than it would at first appear and is certainly no disaster. Those tracks that gel well are all varied and it's particularly the sadder lyrics and simple, pared down, productions that fare best. The problem is that there are, for my taste anyway, just too many covers here that feel almost as if the vocals were sung in one place and the music played somewhere else. A lack of cohesion that jarrs on the ears and doesn't make for pleasant listening.
No doubt as a live experience this is an altogether different matter but at home and under closer scrutiny this makes, at times, for difficult listening.
If you are a fan then there will certainly be much for you to enjoy. So too if you like something a bit different then you will likely find tracks to keep you thinking both lyrically and in style. For me this is just too much of a mixed bag of results ranging from tedious to disjointed with too few gems in between.
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on 7 October 2010
at least when joni mitchell did orchestral versions of her own back catalogue they really sounded fresh and new, but putting rehashed versions of your stuff on a classical label (deutsche grammophon) is a very cheap effort

sting has done better revisited versions of his back catalogue on the live album "all this time", recorded on the evening of sept 11 2001 in italy - listen to the silence at the end of the first track and understand the emotion of the evening; as another reviewer states of this cd: "stripped down, reassembled and still sounding superb"
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on 26 February 2011
We visited the live show in Perth, Australia. A wonderful evening under the stars with fabulous songs and performers. The merchandise sold out before we arrived, so I bought this on-line a short while later.

A very good CD, as you would expect, my only comment being, where is the other half?

I believe there were 26 songs plus encore at the live event, with 12 tracks on the CD. The orchestra were superb and I would have loved to have listened to more of the tracks, I don't think people would mind paying a little extra for the other CD. I suppose it's just down to making money, it being cheaper to only knock out a few tracks.
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I bought this ‘Symphonicities’ CD thinking it was simply some Sting songs that had been orchestrated. I did not realise that Sting actually sang on them. I know Sting has a classical dimension (from Dowland to Weill), and indeed ‘Symphonicities’ is released on the classical Deutsche Grammophon label.

On initial hearing I was disappointed that essentially there seemed little to distinguish the tracks from their originals. And there was also that usual trap fallen into when transferring pop and rock songs to the orchestra of using parts of the latter, such as the lower strings, simply to maintain a beat. I was hoping for something more radical: maybe ‘Roxanne’ as an adagio in sonata form?

Anthony DeCurtis writes in the sleevenotes to ‘Symphonicities’ how the concept of orchestrating pop/rock songs in by no means anything new: “Dating back to the Sixties, we’ve had many classical treatments of popular music. All too often, they’ve proved uninteresting – or worse – for the same predictable reasons,” and initially I thought this CD only proved DeCurtis’s point.

But the more I played it, the more I grew to realise how wrong – in places – I was. But these are, in short, great songs, however they are arranged. And though Sting’s lyrics invite the occasional cringe, they also invite tears of both joy and sorrow. It is, thus, both surprising and not so surprising that this is the best CD I’ve heard in a long time.

Of the twelve tracks, four of them do little more than essentially the orchestration adding just a gloss to what went on before: the four are (i) ‘Next to You’: (ii) ‘Englishman in New York’ (the worst offender of the four – on a casual listening just how many would wonder whether they are listening to the original?); (iii) ‘You Will Be My Ain True Love’ (really, what was the point?); and (iv) ‘She’s Too Good for Me’. This last gave me a nice prick of nostalgia in its reminder of ELO at their height in the 1970s – but an opportunity was lost here: if only the fighting strings had competed in battle with an electric guitar and then merged in some kind of epiphany.

On the other hand there are four five-star tracks here that are truly stupendous: (i) ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’ (busy strings and woodwind in the background, imaginative use of a harp harmonised with flute, a quasi-salsa air adding festivity, and ending with the positive American sound of Copland); (ii) ‘I Hung My Head’ (the orchestra voices the pathos of the original, raising it to a higher level); (iii) ‘When We Dance’ (a haunting eight-note string descent at the climax); and (iv) ‘The End of the Game’ (a stupendous arrangement, transforming a mediocre song onto a higher plane).

Elsewhere, the new version of ‘Roxanne’ makes it now a song of subtle and caressive yearning, whilst ‘I Burn for You’ is here less a song of an adolescent, with the unspoken sound of the orchestra (especially its enhanced percussion) being the voice of a wiser maturity. Finally, and unfortunately, the arrangement of ‘We Work the Black Seam’ fails to make convincingly authentic the sound of the mining brass band.

In conclusion, I repeat this is the best CD I have heard in a long time.
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on 10 February 2014
Symphonicities was released on 13th July 2010 and features some of Stings greatest hits from throughout his career with symphonic arrangement, backed by The Royal Philharmonic concert orchestra. The songs take on new shapes and atmospheres as these pop/rock songs receive classical support. The album was produced by Rob Mathes and Sting and Rob Mathes conducts the orchestra except for 4 tracks which received conduction from Steven Mercurio.

The album's artwork is made of yellow, orange, grey and blue shapes with white bars. The booklet has a decent review for the album by Anthony DeCurtis who voices his view on the album and comments on each song with eloquent language. The name Symphonicities is an obvious take on The Police's final and most successful album Synchronicity.

Next to you kicks us off in an exciting fashion which will destroy any preconceptions you may have about classical music with a fast string section which keeps up with the original song and stays true to it. It's a great start that mixes his style and embraces the classical side which carries on throughout the album. Englishman in New York isn't a million miles away from the original and sounds very relaxed with the orchestral backdrop. Every little thing she does is magic sounds really pleasant and intensifies Sting's yearning for the woman in the song. The strings at the intro give it a heightened and sweeter sound and I'd even say it sounds more romantic than the original. The song ends with some inarticulate lyrics from Sting instead of the original lyrics. I hung my head is definitely 1 of the highlights and sounds right at home with the symphonic setting. As soon as the harmonica sounded at the intro I was sold! You will be my ain true love was a track I hadn't heard before, originally written for Alison Krauss for the movie Cold mountain. I really enjoy the war feeling with the snare drums and the minimal strings in the verses with Sting and Jo Lawry's perfect dual vocals soaring over the rhythm. It's an epic song. Roxanne takes on a much more relaxed sound that cuts out the repeated vocal at the chorus and has a really mellow sound throughout which intensifies the singer's longing. It's a change but it sounds really great. Sting comments on the Live in Berlin DVD how he's given her a different set of clothes but after 30 years she's still thriving!

When we dance is 1 of my favourite Sting songs and the original sounds almost otherworldly to me so I had high standards for this cover and it doesn't disappoint. It definitely has a more relaxed and mellow sound to the original with Jo Lawry's backing vocals giving it a slightly different feel. The end of the game was another song unbeknownst to me and it's a really great track with a brilliant sound and lively rhythm. The song is about two foxes running from the hunters and their relationship. It has a romantic feel and a strong sound and it's 1 of the best tracks here. I burn for you was another track I hadn't heard before. Written in 1982 and originally recorded at the same time as Ghost in the machine it's a really enjoyable track and works so well. It has a quite a desperate feel and a tropical flavour with Caribbean exotic sounding percussion. We work the black seam is the longest track on the album at 7:18 and stretches out the original track but not to any boredom and sounds as good as the original. I really like the horns which really give off the representation of the community standing together. If anything this version sounds more sincere and desperate than the original. She's too good for me is another fast track where the string section sounds amazingly fast but sounding perfectly slowed down and contrasted at the middle 8. It's another example which will change any negative view of boring orchestral music. The pirate's bride has to be the least exciting song and ends the album on a really mellow note. It's still a decent song and a great duet with Jo Lawry who gets to shine with her own verse.

I purchased Live in Berlin which was released on 22 November 2010 and I found watching the live concert and even just listening to the live songs to be much more invigorating and exciting than listening to this album. If you don't really enjoy this album it doesn't necessarily mean that you won't enjoy Live in Berlin which takes some of these songs and many additional tracks and are performed with a full orchestra courtesy of The Royal Philharmonic plus Sting's own select group of musicians/singers including Dominic Miller (guitar), Ira Coleman (bass), Jo Lawry (vocals) and Branford Marsalis (saxaphone). So I recommend that if you haven't bough it!

Although I do really enjoy this project and both albums from it, I don't think it's nearly as ambitious or inventive as the previous album If on a winter's night... which changed my ideas about winter. If you are a fan of Sting and enjoy the original songs on this album then you will very likely enjoy these arrangements even if you don't have an appreciation for classical music. Listening to this album gave me an appreciation for classical that I wasn't completely aware I had so it's been really influential on me. When certain music opens up new doors then you know it has to be good! It's a solid album and absolutely not just a compilation of his greatest hits so he can sell more records and make more money! It's so much better than that!
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on 13 November 2011
Well, after reading some of the more negative reviews here i decided not to fork out £11 for the Cd when it came out but waited a bit and bought it when the price dropped to £2.50 and i could get it from a marketplace seller!
I was worried that it wouldn't be all that good and that it was a pointless reworking of the older tracks.
The first time i played this then i expexted it to have a couple of plays before i got fed up with it and put it away in my Cd cupboard to emerge occasionally.
However, 3 months on and this CD is still out and a frequent visitor to my CD player; it hasn't made it into the cupboard yet!
What we have here is a CD that a lot of thought has gone into. Some of the tracks really work well with an orchestral twist; some of them don't actually sound that much different from their original versions; 'An Englishman in New York' is an example.
It is also great that Sting hasn't just concentrated on all the famous songs but has chosen quite a few less familiar ones.

But the more i listened the more i could detect the work thats gone into these arrangements.

The version of ' Roxanne' is amazing and arguably eclipses the orginal in a mature way. This song has now grown up; its beautiful.
Likewise 'I Burn for you' which was only ever a slightly clunky Police B-side although was reworked live by Sting and his band in 1986, is treated to a thoughtful and sensitive reworking that is better than the original.
'We work the Black Seam' too benefits from its new arrangement that recalls Northern brass bands which perfectly complement its subject matter.
'She's too Good For Me,' a song from Ten Summoners Tales that has a kind of rockabilly/jazz/swing vibe shines as an example of why this album works, even though you don't think it should! You wouldn't expect this kind of music from an orchestra but it just sounds brilliant.
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic was crying out for a remake and here it gets it in no uncertain terms
I liked this album hugely and hope that Sting does a Volume Two.
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on 26 August 2010
From the advert on TV showcasing Sting's new CD, I couldn't wait to order this CD. There are a few good tracks but I think he's trying to be too clever and I was disappointed - only played it a couple of times.
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