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.
on 1 December 2013
I have a certain partiality to Geordie accent, stories and locality. That's why I moved up here from London. I also spent some time working in a dockyard in Wallsend where Sting was born and brought up. So this CD was especially interesting to me. I particularly liked the songs "What Have We Got", "The Language of Birds" and "So To Speak" being very evocative of the area. And the title song "The Last Ship" especially so as I got to see the streets of Wallsend that back onto where the Swan Hunter ship building yards were and to relate to the idea of the ship gradually growing and blocking out the sunshine on the streets until it was launched and the street would be flooded with light and sunshine again!
Even if you have no affinity with Newcastle, you'll love this cd. I guarantee it!
on 23 September 2013
It's quite an eclectic selection of songs yet united by the maritime theme. There are some very beautiful songs, typically thoughtful and sometimes profound. It's wrong to criticise if you're looking for a pop/rock album, it's just not that. It's hard to review properly because Sting 's vision is for a play but the mental scene is clearly set to great effect. There will be scoffing at Sting' s detour into his native tongue but I think it's a good piece of music not really intended for his own repertoire. At the end of the day I've found it strangely uplifting and I'm curious to see what the legacy will be. It's been playing all day in the van and while Sting is flawed, even by his own admission it's a sublime and strange bit of genius.
on 23 December 2013
this album is the best album ive heard in the last 20 years. this is stings best album its not really an album but the music from a play about the lives and times and conditions in the newcastle shipyards.
the lives the characters put together with jimmy nail. and others. please watch bbc
i player THE LAST SHIP.
a live performance with the most amazing ensemble you can see and get the flavour of this phenominal project.
please dont miss out on a once a lifetime experience to watch and hear a wonderful performance.
this is a story where you can appreciate a true wordsmith whose rhyme and use of words will not be surpassed.
i hope you enjoy this as much as i have. get the mp3 download as the cd version only has 10 tracks only half the story. the mp3 download has the full 20 tracks. hope this helps you make a wise decision.
many thanks. MICK COUSINS.
on 4 November 2013
I saw Sting perform one of the songs from this album on TV and bought the album on the strength of one track. I have not been disappointed. This is a fabulous album and it gets played a lot. His now older, slightly raspy, voice suits the mood of the album well. Personally I think this is his best for some time.
on 23 November 2013
Yep you read that right. In my opinion this is the best album Sting has ever made. It so warm and passionately written. Sting sounds fantastic singing in his native Geordie. You can tell he is doing exactly want he wants and not letting anything influence him
Everyday since I brought this album I don't think a day has passed without listing to a song of it. To me a sign of a great album is when your favorite song changes. When I first got this I couldn't get enough of Dead man's boots. Now I can't get So to speak out of my head.
In a day and age when manufactured pop music dominates the charts this album to me was such a breath of fresh air. As you are unlikely to ever here any of these songs on the radio, I couldn't recommend anymore that you buy this album. I promise you won't regret it.
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.
on 23 September 2013
Right. Here it is: you should know by now whether or not you usually like Sting's music. Those who don't, or want an album the Police would have released, will probably write this off as another pretentious indulgence. I doubt this will win many new fans. But I have enjoyed this a lot, travelling between Bristol and London today, on the day of its release.
It is a very carefully crafted album. The song writing is tight. The lyrics tell stories, evoke places, create characters and explore the longings within significant relationships. There are some cracking tunes and I found myself humming them on and off all day. Sting's voice has lost none of its quality. Much has been made of him singing in his native, regional, accent. It doesn't particularly bother me. It fits with the songs he has written. The arrangements are varied, but draw on conventions which feel like journeying across the sea, or resting up in port, or singing along in a tavern.
This is a serious nostalgic, mainly folk, album, full of life, love, humour and brokenness. It demands and rewards attention. I'm not sure how often I will make the space to listen to this- it isn't easy listening- but whenever I do I am sure I'll regret leaving it so long. I also sincerely hope it won't be the last time Sting sets sail. This album is a reminder that ten years has been too long to wait for one of the greatest song writers of his generation to bless us with twelve new songs. A pure indulgence.
Update:Nearly a week on I have listened to this repeatedly. I feel at home in the album and my wife feels she is on holiday when it is on. I've played tracks to family and friends, who have initially been surprised by the folk sound- most similar to the Soul Cages- but have also loved it. Well worth repeated listening.
This album of songs which form the libretto of Sting's stage show (which has now closed) in New York is an entertaining, heartfelt and passionate collection, the subject matter of which is clearly very dear, very close to Sting's heart. He addressed his childhood years in songs such "All This Time", but on The Last Ship, Sting thoroughly immerses himself in the shipbuilding / heavy industrial background of his Wallsend upbringing. There's wit and humour in here, and musically it's a very good listen. My one criticism of it is that perhaps too often the melodic and lyrical content are a little at odds with one another; in one or two odd places, the songs almost collapse under the weight of what he's trying to say. It does exist without the performance visuals very well, but I can't really recommend it to the fans of Sting, the purveyor of melodic pop music for grown-ups. Maybe try to give it a listen before you invest;I found that after a few plays, it became truly compulsive, but there again, coming from North East England myself, the subject matter is something that's close to my heart, too, so perhaps I am biased.
We've waited about 10 years for a new Gordon Sumner album, and my copy of The Last Ship came down the ether at just after midnight giving me access to a first listen via Amazon Cloud before the hard copy arrives (apparently) later on today. I chose the Amazon Exclusive Super Deluxe Edition - rather OTT but there you go - because the CD is a present for a friend, and it's nice to get an MP3 version myself so that I can avoid the embarrassment of asking him if I can borrow it...
So what's it like? Well - good to great in places, and rather annoying in others - the annoying bit mainly being when he puts on this rather manufactured Geordie accent which sounds more of a mix of Scouser and Irish to me; it's plain that he wanted to create the atmosphere of the Tyneside shipping yards of days gone by, but it just doesn't sound like the Sting I thought I knew. Thankfully not all of the songs are sung in that rollicking lilt, I prefer the songs that he sings in his more familiar accent and style.
The standard album gives you 12 tracks and the mega-incredible-super-deluxe version I have adds 8 more so I suppose you get roughly equal value for money. Having listened to all 20 songs I felt as if the album needed that number to compensate for the half-dozen or more songs that I just didn't care for, and the result is that I reckon I have about 10 that I do like. It's perhaps worth mentioning (me being a parent) that one of the songs - Jock the Singing Welder, which is only on the Deluxe version - does include some very strong language even if it's meant to amuse and is in fairness in keeping with the nature of the song.
The first track (and the title song) sets the tone for the album as a whole, and is a curious mixture of Sting singing semi-normally together with that slightly curious accent that paints pictures of a bygone era. It's followed by Dead Man's Boots, which is clearly a snippet of Sting's own past and in particular his relationship with his late father. I haven't read his autobiography but it's not hard to see (well, hear) that he didn't get on with his dad that well, and wanted a very different life from the one his father bestowed him. He certainly achieved that, needless to add. Track Three - And Yet - thankfully reverts to more familiar form in terms of lyrics and how they are delivered. By now I was feeling a little more hopeful that the album as a whole would work for me. It's still a vaguely autobiographical piece, but it's not quite so self-centred. By the time I was into August Winds, the fourth track, I was thinking and hoping that the accent-heavy stuff was beginning to fade away, but it was still there - unconvincingly as before.
I like Practical Arrangement, track five, which is an appeal to live with a woman and her son - a woman who doesn't yet love him but might 'given time'. It's the first of the tracks that demonstrates the sound of Sting that most of us are familiar with, and has little in the way of introspection or association with the shipyards. It's followed up by a catchy little song The Night the Pugilist Learned How to Dance. And then it's a song about Isambard Brunel called Ballad of the Great Eastern - partly sung and partly spoken. Not for me, that one. Jimmy Nail then features on the ninth song What Have We Got? which is all folksy and lively, best performed live I would have thought and for those who have an attachment of some kind to the part of the world that 'has nowt and has got nowt else'.
I also like I Love Her But She Loves Someone Else, track ten, it has some of the best lyrics and occasionally repeats some of the lines in Practical Arrangement. It's a far better song to listen to alone than some of the others which seem slightly out of place. This one is much more like 'the real Sting' I remember. I just wish it was longer than the 3:41 minutes than it is.
So To Speak, track eleven, reverts to strong localised accent and seems to speak of a man in serious ill health, probably dying of cancer. It features a cameo by Becky Unthank whose Geordie accent is far more natural and authentic than Sting's. The 12th and final track (on the basic album) is a reprise of The Last Ship, which isn't a favourite for me.
The bonus CD of 8 more tracks includes more folksy stuff featuring Jimmy Nail, Brian Johnson and Jo Lawry which I'm not keen on. But there are more familiar Sting-like songs such as It's Not The Same Moon but also a song by Rachel Unthank (Becky's sister) and I have to say that these two female singers seem to much more convincingly portray the images and sounds of northern shipyard family life, compared to Sting that is.
So there's a lot of nostalgia in this collection of songs, nostalgia that inevitably will mean more to some and virtually nothing to a lot of others, myself included. The folksy style of many songs will be a surprise to anyone who hasn't listened to Sting for a decade or three, and it's a million miles away from The Police, that's for sure. But he's over 60 years old now, and while I personally think he's still 'got it' and more than capable of delivering thoughtful and beautifully produced songs, in The Last Ship Sting has tried - not altogether successfully - to catch the mood of a time and place that will not appeal to as wide an audience than he has been used to in times past. It's an album that I feel he has created for himself more than his audience, and while he seems to be very pleased with the result, I feel that he could have done better. What's good is good enough however, and the number of likeable songs is just about enough to constitute an album that I will play again - in parts.
The hard copy CD did arrive on the promised date, via Amazon Prime. Ordered late on Saturday 21st, arrived Monday 23rd around mid-day