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The Last Ship
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on 12 October 2013
As a Police and Sting fan, I feel 'Ten Summoner's Tales' was his last great album and they've gotten progressively worse. 'Mercury Falling' and 'Brand New Day' were quite good, but 'Sacred Love' was the first to genuinely disappoint me. 'Songs from the Labyrinth', 'If on a Winter's Night' and 'Symphonicities' were a waste of time, in my opinion.

And now comes 'The Last Ship'...

Frankly, Sting's talent for melody has irrevocably diminished. His music has tragically become derivative and mediocre. He rarely "sings" any more. His voice seldom soars. These days he mostly gruffly speaks in beat, with an arrogant affectation or patronising accent.

I'm 43 now and I find it difficult to know how to feel when my aging musician heroes insist on releasing albums. Every artist peaks and Sting is no exception. I haven't purchased this album, but have listened to it many times. It's a depressing experience, a harsh reminder that Sting is older and I am middle-aged. I can honestly say it's mostly a dull album and it indeed makes me long for 'Nothing Like The Sun' or 'The Soul Cages' instead.

'The Last Ship' is a good track, 'Practical Arrangement' and 'So To Speak' are pleasant... The rest is utterly forgettable.

I used to have a completist mentality, where I`d buy every album from my favourite artists, regardless of their quality. This album is a wake-up call: I will no longer do that and in fact, I'm going to get rid of albums that I bought for this reason.

I'm now considering where my Sting collection ends: Mercury Falling? Brand New Day? Sacred Love wasn't great, but at least it's still a pop/rock album.

Sadly, I won't be purchasing The Last Ship.

To Sting... I bid you farewell.
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 November 2013
Anyone who approaches this album wanting something similar to The Police or Sting at his most mainstream should probably stop looking at this item now and go and replay their favourite albums instead. However, if you are open minded for something different from Sting (and let's face it, the last few albums have all been "something different" and I would forgive anyone for losing patience with Mr. Sumner) and have a liking for either folk or theatrical music, then you may find much to please you here. "The Last Ship", for me, is the best piece of work that Sting has released for a couple of decades. It is very much a concept album, based on the Tyneside shipbuilding industry and the characters who populated it. Musically, it's generally quite a gentle album, but exceedingly rich with melody, interesting arrangements and instrumentation. Lyrically, it's outstanding; each track is musical storytelling at its finest and it's intelligent enough to give the listener food for thought yet accessible enough to recognise and empathise with the songs that tug at the emotional heartstrings for differing reasons.

Nearly everything on "The Last Ship" is superb and there are only one or two tracks which took me a few listens to be convinced of their charm. Nearly everything else was almost instantly likeable and my love for these eclectic collection of songs grew each time I listened to the album. There are many songs here that I would count amongst my personal favourites. "Practical Arrangement", for example, is probably the best song that Sting has written for many years. The powerfully emotive title track is superb (as well as the reprise), "August Winds" has a beautiful subtlety and "Ballad Of The Great Eastern" is folk storytelling par excellence. "I Love Her But She Loves Someone Else" is absolutely gorgeous and Sting is in particularly fine voice on this track, but it has to be said that he gives an absolutely excellent performance on each very different track. The special guests (Jimmy Nail, Brian Johnson, Jo Lawry and Becky Unthank) also work very well indeed on their respective songs and give the album the characteristic of having a rather versatile supporting cast of players.

I admit that this isn't going to be for everybody and it's the kind of work that polarises the listener - it's probably going to be either a love or hate reaction when you hear it. For me, it's a very genuine love for this heartfelt tribute to Sting's native North-East of England. I bought the deluxe version of the album which, for a little extra money, gets you an additional CD with eight more tracks, some of them different versions of songs from the album featuring other artists, some of them completely new songs; all of them are excellent (well, "Jock The Singing Welder" perhaps isn't quite as good as the others, maybe the only "ouch" moment on both discs) and are well worth the higher price you pay for the second disc. All-in-all, this is one of the most remarkable albums I have heard all year and I admire Sting greatly for having the courage to write and release something as different and unconventional as this; even if this isn't quite to your taste, it is difficult to ignore the creativity and artistry behind this project. It could have easily backfired and given his critics further ammunition, but I'm of the opinion that this is actually one of the best things he has ever put his name to and is certainly my favourite Sting album since the underrated "Mercury Falling" from way back in 1996.
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on 28 September 2013
Firstly, I've been a huge fan of Gordon Sumner since the late '70s, but...

I was born and bred on Tyneside and I'd like to start by saying that NOBODY in Newcastle sings in an accent like this. I don't know what the problem is, but that's certainly not a Wallsend accent. It sounds hilarious/ridiculous/bloody awful.

The earliest signs of this appear during the title track of THE SOUL CAGES (a phenomenal album) where Sting sings "...in the chaos of cages, where the crayfish lie..." in a bizarre Dick Van Dyke accent.

This album suffers from what I would describe as PITMEN PAINTERS syndrome. It's a patronising, mock-affectionate story of those downtrodden grimey-faced working class heroes that populate the Romantic imagination of the well-to-do. Sting never worked in a shipyard or down a pit. He couldn't escape from Newcastle quick enough.

The play of THE LAST SHIP is being premiered on Broadway, whose audiences are renowned for their love of hard-hitting, gritty Geordie kitchen sink dramas. Perhaps Sting is worried about how Geordie twang will translate in a glittering US showbiz venue.

I don't doubt for a second that Sting's intentions are good and that he's proud of his heritage, as I am. But to re-present the history of the industrial North East in this way is plain naff. It simply doesn't ring true.

Sting says that he always wants to surprise audiences by doing what they would least expect him to do. The Police reunion is a case in point. And the excellent lute album SONGS FROM THE LABYRINTH. Less so the cheap cash-in of SYMPHONICITIES and the ghastly duet-laden SACRED LOVE (which even he describes as "poor").

I think the thing that would surprise people the most in 2013 would be if Sting were to deliver a fantastic, powerful, well-crafted pop-rock album.

HOWAY THE LADS.....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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on 27 September 2013
I should have waited to sample this online after release rather thab pre-ordering it in advance. Sting's "back to his Geordie roots" accent sounds false and patronising, given that he now hangs out in a 16th century villa, Il Palagio, with 900 acre estate southeast of Florence in the Chianti region.
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on 11 April 2014
The last ship is Sting's 11th studio album and first album of original songs since 2003's Sacred love. The album is a collection of songs written for a play of the same name which is due to debut on Broadway. Sting may have hit a 10 year songwriting drought but as he puts in the booklet "I was far from idle". Instead Sting released Songs from the Labrynth in 2006; a collection of songs by John Dowland that Sting painstakingly learnt to play on the lute along with lutenist Edin Karamazov. In 2009 he released If on a winter's night... which was a collection of winter songs spanning centuries, including a couple of reworked versions of his own. In 2010 he released Symphonicities - an album of Sting songs, including some of his greatest hits, reimagined for symphonic arrangement. It was a creative step and worked well. As well as this he did expansive touring and kept his hand in music.

The last time Sting suffered a songwriting lapse was after his parents died and he chose to face the fears and the pain in his own way by writing about his childhood and the ships which he had grown up watching being built and sailing away, never to return. This spawned the album The soul cages, which he says is "the least loved, least understood of all my recorded efforts". Sting put himself into the character of Billy who seems to lose his father in a couple of songs in that album. This album follows suit because instead of writing about himself he has disguised himself behind a cast of characters. As he has said he reveals a lot more of himself than what he intended to do and you can sense that in a few of the songs.

Sting worked with a number of musicians/singers from the north on this album including Kathryn and Peter Tickell, Julian Sutton, Jimmy Nail, Brain Johnston, the Wilson family and the Unthank sisters. They help to give the album a real traditional northern feel. As a huge fan of Sting and a collector of his music I chose to purchase the Super deluxe edition (exclusive to Amazon) which features 8 extra tracks on disc 2.

The last ship is 1 of the best and creatively taking inspiration from the bible, tells of Jesus just after being resurrected, and how his only goal is to get to the ship before it's launched! Dead man's boots is the most autobiographical of all with the son expected to walk to the shipyard in his father's shoes and follow his path. This was something which Sting tried so hard to avoid and instead moved far from the community he grew up in and the industry of his hometown. Sting gets really irate in the song at the end proclaiming "I'm nothing like you... ye'll die before ye see me in your dead man's boots", which reflects the animosity between himself and his own father, who didn't approve of Sting's ambitions to be a musician. And yet is a cool track with a swinging rhythm that has a bit of a country feel to it. "And yet I'm back" he sings - back to the place of his childhood and the industrial landscape. August winds is a quiet, melancholy track which wouldn't have been out of place on If on a winters night... . Language of birds talks of the 'old man' and makes references to the Island of souls and the soul cage - evidence of Sting's return back to that part of his life and mind. A practical arrangement is another of the best with an older man asking for this younger, widowed woman to take him in and love him. Although it sounds quite desperate it's the depth, desire to be loved and the honesty which really pulls at the heartstrings. The night the pugilist... is pretty upbeat with this lad talking of how he was a fighter but has to learn ' skills more refined' to win a girl. "I was fifteen years old and I'd never been kissed" he states - tragic! Ballad of the great Eastern is another of my favourites, telling the story of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's famous ship from 1859, with a powerful story, powerful sound and a moving, sad ending. What have we got is a Newcastle gang song with Jimmy Nail doing harmonies with Sting as well as his own parts. I love her but she loves someone else - something Sting has said makes a great song, that love triangle. It's probably the most dull track on the album, referencing A practical arrangement. So to speak features Becky Unthank and is about Father O' Brian's suffering with cancer using a number of similes and metaphors. The last ship (reprise) is a welcome return using different lyrics in the verses to continue the story of this dream ship.

Disc 2 is a must if you want to get the complete project feel. Shipyard is a certain highlight with Jimmy Nail at the helm. It also features Brain Johnston and Jo Lawry who each do impressively in their character's roles. It's not the same moon is a bit too mellow and unexciting. Hadaway is a fun track which brings back the gang feel with multiple vocals in the chorus, with Sting telling his story in the verses. Jock the singing welder I'm undecided on. It's OK. I like the reference to Eddie Cochran even if it's been spelt wrongly in the booklet! Sky hooks and tartan paint is another of the best with Johnston telling his story of his first day at the shipyard and the jokes played on him. It's got a sing-along chorus and a great sound. Peggy's song is a strong performance from Becky Unthank about her husband's demise. Show some respect is another community track with an upbeat sound. Lawry's duet in Practical arrangement gives a fuller story to 1 of the best songs.
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on 30 September 2013
I've been a massive Sting fan for years and used to eagerly await his new work. Sadly, in my opinion, the quality of his albums has diminished since Ten Summoner's Tales in the early 90s. Mercury Falling was a great album but not quite as good as TST. Brand New Day was great in places but the production of Kipper with his modern dance beats and over the top production spoiled it for me. Sacred Love had a few gems but compared to albums like The Soul Cages, Nothing Like the Sun and Ten Summoner's Tales, it seemed like a bit of a mess, especially the deluxe version with the bonus tracks: Like A Beautiful Smile is risible. The writer's block seemed to hit him again and the lute music and If on a Winter's Night albums were serious misfires in my opinion.

The Last Ship is a good album. Some songs like Practical Arrangement, And Yet and the Night the Pugilist Learned to Dance are wonderful songs with superb lyrics. The latter could have been penned by Cole Porter. Unfortunately, there are too many tub thumping Celtic numbers for my liking: What have we got?, Shipyard, Hadaway, Sky Hooks and Tartan Paint. After a few listens, it starts to grate. The album works better on the slower numbers. I Love Her but She Loves Someone Else is a gorgeous ballad. Peggy's Song and August Winds are very moving. The musicianship is first rate and the storytelling is excellent but you long for a All This Time or Mad About You tune to lift it to something better.

The main problem I have with the concept of this musical is how it centres around Northern working class lives. Being from a Northern working class background myself, these characters he has developed ring true. Despite this Sting mentioned in a recent Guardian article just how much money he had made from the Police reunion etc. I find him a hard person to like these days and that makes this work harder to appreciate. Is he saying that he is proud to have grown up in a shipbuilding community or is he thanking his lucky stars that he got as far away from it as possible? I heard an interview with him where he claimed that the Queen Mum looked him in the eye on one of her visits to the shipyard and that cemented in him a desire to leave the North East and "make money". Is Sting's career about producing sublime albums like his earlier work or is it just about making money?

Let's hope he can get back to producing high quality music without any gimmicks.
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on 17 October 2013
I have been a Sting fan since the very early 1980s. And like many here I have been listening to his music and buying his CDs for over 30 years now (I even had the chance to meet him, chat briefly, and shake his hand in a hotel we were both staying at for Live Aid in July of 1985 -- he was polite, gave me his autograph, but not much more. Still it was almost unbelievable because on that weekend I met about a third of the major performers at Live Aid who were at the same hotel -- including U2 -- the nicest group of the bunch!).

I have just about every project Sting worked on after 1980 and he was one of my favourite 2 artists through the next decades. After 2003's "Sacred Love" I was so disappointed, I felt like part of my youth had died. It then seemed to me he suffered from writer's block -- creating works with other people's music again and again. I backed out at that point... however, after listening to "If On A Winter's Night" again and again and again (even during the summer) I became a fan again. And I have to say that after only six listens to the Super Deluxe version of "The Last Ship" I am a happy fan again.

I admit that I don't think it is his best album (my vote on that goes -- hands down -- to "Soul Cages"). But I created a play list with my favourite 10 tracks from the Super Deluxe Edition of The Last Ship and it is certainly a very strong offering. To me, after a few listens it is in the same league as the solid "Nothing Like the Sun", which I didn't fall in love with after only one listen either. "The Last Ship" beats "Ten Summoner's Tales" in many ways, except that it lacks a track which is as strong as "Fields of Gold" -- however, the song "The Last Ship" is a tremendous outing for Sting's lyrical and musical abilities, as well as the melancholy "So To Speak". And "Practical Arrangement" is so strong that it almost moves me to tears (finding myself in a similar situation right now). So, it offers even the emotional spectrum to me that Sting has offered in his better albums for 30 years -- and why I went back again and again and again.

So, from me, Sting -- welcome back to my musical collection! I will have to pull out "If On A Winter's Night" and will even consider picking up "Song's From the Labyrinth" to explore this maturer side of Sting. I just wish he would have never released "Sacred Love" as my scars are still healing from that. But this album has gone a long way to healing the wounds. Like I said, if you buy the deluxe edition and create a play list your own 10 favourite tracks you will come close to having a great Sting album here nearly as strong as any but the Soul Cages.
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on 12 October 2013
I saw Sting on TV talking about his 'play with music', the musical based around the Tyneside shipyards where he grew up. As a Glaswegian, many of my friends worked in the Clydeside shipyards and as it interested me, I bought the download on spec and do not regret it.

Superb from start to finish, I'm playing it all the time and the cameo performances by Jimmy Nail and Brian Johnson are also excellent and help make this as good as it is. A history lesson as well as a well crafted story, all thread through the songs. Can't wait to see it on stage!!
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on 18 August 2015
I have been a fan of Sting's music for years. My first interest in The Police occurred when I heard the opening bars of "Walking on the Moon". The Police were an amazing band, but the internal tensions which fuelled the energy of the music, ultimately resulted in implosion of the band.

I followed the trajectory of Sting's solo career in earnest and whilst only being mildly impressed by his solo debut, Dream of the Blue Turtles, Sting managed to raise the bar with each subsequent release. Nothing Like the Sun showed an impressive blossoming of the maturity of Sting's songwriting culminating with Sting's masterpiece, the much maligned and misunderstood The Soul Cages, a truly haunting collection of songs which reflect upon loss, grief and ultimately coming to terms with that loss.

Next came Ten Summoner's Tales, Sting's big commercial hit. Jam-packed full of infectious pop hooks and killer choruses, it marked his commercial highpoint as a solo artist. Mercury Falling followed, another impressive collection of songs which again reflected a growing maturity in his songwriting and for the first time absorbed soul, country and folk influences. However...

Next followed Brand New Day, an attempt by Sting to update his sound with the use of drum machines and sequencing, with mixed results...this was the first Sting album I was truly disappointed by...next came the frankly awful Sacred Love...it was becoming obvious very quickly that Sting's muse was leaving him...

Sure enough, following this album, he spent many years searching for a new muse and suffered from writer's block for 8 years. During this time, he chose to look to the past for inspiration resulting in the tiresome reworking of the 17th Century Lute music of John Dowland on Songs from the Labyrinth (for the devotee only !). However, On a Winter's Night followed although still suffering from writer's block, Sting re-interpreted traditional songs and melodies with a winter theme. More successful than Songs from the Labyrinth, it marked the beginning of a rediscovery of Sting's muse via the traditional folk music influences of his North East upbringing...

All this brings us round to Sting's first studio album of original music for a decade, and what a return to form. This, for me, is his greatest collection of songs since Mercury Falling and it could be argued that it's his most consistent set of songs since Ten Summoner's Tales.

Over the last 3 weeks listening to this album, I have fallen in love with the songs, the lyrics, the performances and the concept of this album. With barely a bad song on the album, and each song written from the perspective of a character in his Broadway Musical "When the Last Ship Sails", Sting has most definitely rediscovered his muse.

If you are a fan of Sting's music, I cannot recommend this collection of songs highly enough...haunting, emotional, moving, poignant and ultimately, his best work in 20 years.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 July 2015
I used to follow Sting's music and career very closely in the early nineties, knowing all his lyrics both from his solo albums and Police by heart, the entire repertoire frequently being sung in the shower, though perhaps not as well as by the man himself.

Following Sting's album releases gradually became more and more disappointing, however, with Sacred Love being an absolute low point, exuding a lack of inspiration and creativity. When I heard of "The Last Ship" and heard the song "A Practical Arrangement", however, I knew something special was about to happen, and so the special edition album was promptly put on pre-order and for the first time since Ten Summoner's Tales was due to be released in 1994, I started counting the days until I could listen to some new Sting music.

It is quite different from his other music - then again, most of his other music is also different from his other music - and so I am sure it is not to everyone's tastes, but for me, this was the album that I was hoping for when I hear of it the first time. For the first time in almost two decades we have an album with clear inspirations and songs written with more musical and lyrical care and consistency than on any of his albums since The Soul Cages and Ten Summoner's Tales.

It is nice to again see musical inspiration from Northumbria and Wallsend-on-Tyne, and Sting finally returning to his roots and singing in the dialect he shed roughly fifty years ago, thinking it was the only way to get ahead in the world.

As a poet myself, I do appreciate clever wordsmithery in music, and it is nice to see Sting back on form with good and plentiful writing. If you see the lyrics written out, you will notice there are a lot of them too. It is a stage musical, after all, with many narratives, and so the album easily has more words than any other Sting album. But there is quality as well as quantity. Gone is the introspective soul-searching and grieving Sting trapped in his Soul Cages of 1991. This time he, and his co-singers, enter different characters with both empathy and well-worded lyricism. It is different, but clearly it works wonders for bringing him out of a creative slump, and hopefully it will keep him out too.

Despite a strangely incongruent singing welder, I will give this album top marks for both musical and lyrical content, and I also found the extended version album well worth it as I'd otherwise have missed such interesting songs as the lovely duet version of "A Practical Arrangement" and the beautiful "It's not the Same Moon".

To anyone waiting for another "Ten Summoner's Tales", "...Nothing Like the Sun" or even "Synchronicity", this album may come as yet a disappointment. To anyone with an open mind and appreciation for well-crafted music, or someone who has wished to hear something better from Sting than his last decade or two of gradually more and more contrived work, this should bring a smile to their face.

The stage musical may not have been a success, and I hope it will not dampen Sting's creative spirit, for this album and its many qualities are proof that Sting himself has come full circle. He is home again, and hopefully the comforts of home will find him playing with both the voices of his new characters and his old instrospection, creating new albums in years to come that will stand as new and timeless pillars of musical and lyrical mastery alongside his classics.

After listening to this, there is no doubt he still has it in him.
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