Just like with the previous CD, we also have some advanced copies available of the new Symphonicities CD. Please let us know if interested so that we can provide an overview of opinions. You can do so via our online contact form.
Here are already the 1st reviews:
[b]An Auto-Cover Album Scores A GoalAn Auto-Cover Album Scores A Goal[/b]
When Sting decided to DO NOT compose anymore and just record songs that already exists, he got a weird step doing the Lute album, then released an ok and cold Winter cd, but now with this Auto-Cover Album, SYMPHONICITIES(nice name), he delivers a nice shot to the world. Some New Clothes to the Emperor.
Differently from his friend Peter Gabriel, STING got some of his own worldwide classics like ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’, ‘Englishman in NY’ and ‘Roxanne’, mixed with some personal fan favorites as ‘When We Dance’, ‘I Burn For You’ and ‘She’s Too Good For Me’, and with this new arrangements for Orchestra, he gives himself a refreshment.
This is a Good Album. Not original, as we FANS expected, but for those who misses new songs from The Genius, this can be really pleasant.
And my tip is: Listen to this while you drive your car in a road. And play it LOUD. GOAL.
Since 2004s Sacred Love, Sting seems to have hit a creative dry spell, alternating between touring his back catalog (first with his Broken Music tour then the Police reunion) and the cover album route (although to his credit, his selections and instrumentation have been anything but traditional). Now the two paths intersect with Symphonicities, a collection of Stings music rearranged for and performed with an orchestra.
Does it work? Not entirely.
Next To You
The album explodes out of the gate with strings sawing away at the chords and an arrangement that parallels the original song. I say explode in quotes because I found the effect to be a bit baffling. The thin-sounding auxiliary percussion is no substitute for the pounding drums of the original, and ends up emphasizing whats missing as opposed to opening your ears to a new aspect of the song. It ends up sounding like a parody, almost like the cheap Vitamin String Quartet tribute CDs that were knocked out a few years ago. The intent may have been to have some fun (Look! The Royal Philharmonic is doing something CRAZY!), but it seems more self-congratulatory than anything. In any case, given the generally slower mood of the album, this is a strange way to get the listeners attention before immediately slowing down the pace. It sounds completely ridiculous, and is an arrangement that sheds no new light on the song. Im glad they had fun doing it (and theres no denying the technical skill involved), but as a listener, I cant imagine ever wanting to intentionally put this on. Fortunately, its brief.
Englishman In New York
This song lends itself very well to orchestral arrangement, because there wasnt much to do in terms of building upon it. Swap out the keyboards and bring in some plucked strings, replace Branford Marsalis with a clarinet, and there you have it. There are some very lovely variations and fills from the pizzicato strings as Sting moves through the verses, but otherwise its a gently enhanced variation on the original. It has a charming movie soundtrack quality and is pleasant enough to listen to. This song has a fixed ending (no fadeouts here!).
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Radically rearranged for orchestra, to the point where it sounds like an excerpt from a musical. The harp and strings that lead the build during the verses are gradually augmented by brass, giving a sense of joy to the proceedings. Its a thoughtful and competent arrangement, the vocals are fine, but it does nothing for me. Its fine as a novelty (perhaps even as a souvenir of the concert, but like Next To You, I cant imagine wanting to deliberately listen to this. The original is great, the Strontium 90 demo is charming, but I cant personally see the point of this version. Its like a pops concert – perhaps entertaining to observe an orchestra lighten up for an evening, but not something youd necessarily want to hear repeatedly. I normally dont like dismissing something as elevator music, but this is something youd hear in a waiting room (or in my case last weekend, over a planes PA system while boarding).
I Hung My Head
This has a beautiful orchestra intro that runs through a series of descending variations on the originals introductory guitar line, suggesting the gradual dawning of a new day. A wistful harmonica solo emerges to dance around the originals Memphis Horns line, and the stage is set to retell this sad story in a truly cinematic fashion. This song is where I realize this albums strengths (and weaknesses). The arrangements are more interesting and engaging when tackling lesser-played material. The hits have been re-imagined countless times, but song choices like this stand out because they dont generally get radio airplay or make the live setlist. Interesting to hear an electric guitar in one channel and an acoustic guitar (playing the same part) in the other channel.
You Will Be My Ain True Love
A bold and dark brass statement of the main melody quickly settles into a dark, solemn, and sparse arrangement. This version is all about the vocals, and with good reason. The harmonies are gorgeous and captivating. Again, this is a song that the average listener doesnt get to hear, and its truly rewarding. This more than makes up for the nonsense that opened this album. Two solid tracks in a row – perhaps this project is not as pointless as Id originally thought…?
Oh, wait. Her again. This song has been reimagined countless times, making it difficult to find something interesting about it. Roxanne backed by a wash of strings, Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, no extended jam (heh). Over and Out. I dont mean to sound cynical, and can see the possible appeal for the average listener, but even then, it veers close to self-parody.
When We Dance
Like Englishman, this is simply the original arrangement with the orchestra fleshing out the instrumentation. Simple, tasteful, pleasant, completely disposable.
The End of the Game
Now were back in business. This beautiful and epic song from the Brand New Day album was inexplicably relegated to b-side obscurity. It got a brief outing during the Broken Music tour, but here its finally free to be discovered by the general public. This is another gently enhanced version from the original and elevated even further by Jo Lawrys supporting vocals. Nothing revolutionary in terms of its new arrangement, but the song itself is strong and a highlight of Stings catalog. Its a treat to (re)discover, and is essential listening here.
I Burn For You
This is a rare Police song that Id first heard on Stings Bring On The Night album (as I suspect was the case for many people). Sting has promised (and failed) to return it to his setlist for years, but its finally reborn at last in all of its dark and dangerous beauty. Waves of strings continually wash over the familiar brooding keyboard loop melody, drenching the song in mood and atmosphere. The haunting vocal refrain is taken at the end…only to be brought to a fade!!! What the?!? Its incredibly disappointing to have something so promising end before it has time to breathe (especially -from the fan perspective- after waiting so long to hear it again). It was going so well, too. What a botched opportunity.
We Work The Black Seam
This opens with a bold brass and percussion statement of the chorus and repeating melodic line, and is almost driven entirely by this instrumentation. I like this song, but found the arrangement (especially at 7 minutes) to grow monotonous quickly. Why sit through this?
Shes Too Good For Me
Suddenly the orchestra wakes up and performs a frenetic take on this classic jam from Ten Summoners Tales. Like Next To You, it sounds completely ridiculous and wildly out of place in terms of track sequence (maybe even the overall collection). I barely got through this track and was left asking one question: Why?
The Pirates Bride
I personally found the Mercury Falling album and b-sides to be Sting at his most creative musically and lyrically. For some unfathomable reason, this sad beautiful song did not make the final cut, and like End of the Game, gets another chance to reach a greater audience. The great surprise is the theatrical presentation of the song. Jo Lawry takes on the role of the title character by singing the second verse on her own. The effect is startling, and youre pulled further into the story. Unfortunately, someone decided that it would be better to fade out on this song instead of drawing the arrangement to a close. The original might have faded out, but here it makes the whole thing seem like an afterthought and is an insult to an otherwise beautiful performance of a nice arrangement of a wonderful song. Frustrating.
If youre reading this, youre probably a major Sting fan. From one fan to another, heres my humble personal suggestion:
If you are a completist, and absolutely HAVE to own this, then do yourself a favor and **wait**. This is a vanity project that will be in the bargain bins in no time. You should have no trouble picking up a cheap used copy online in a few months. Dont spend more on this wildly uneven set than you have to. It is absolutely not worth it. There is nothing here that you NEED to hear, certainly nothing that cant wait a few months for a lower price.
If youre okay with the idea of purchasing individual digital tracks, then go for these and consider it a bonus EP:
You Will Be My Ain True Love
End of the Game
I Burn For You
The Pirates Bride
You wont be missing anything by skipping out on the others. Check them out on a YouTube or grab one of the free tour bootlegs floating around.
To his credit, Sting has chosen an interesting song selection. This set could have easily included the usual suspects such as Fields of Gold, Every Breath You Take, even Message in a Bottle. To bring out surprises like The Pirates Bride shows an effort to take advantage of the opportunity, even if tracks like Next To You come off as embarrassingly misguided attempts to be cute or clever.
Im all for the reinterpretation of familiar songs and find the process rewarding and interesting (I loved the all this time concert CD). However, there are only so many times you can go to the well before fatigue sets in. Perhaps Stings album days are behind him? He toured the hits under Broken Music, then again with the Police, a few one-off shows, and now this project. Who knows if he has another albums worth of original material? Symphonicities is a confusing listen, and is hardly essential. I truly hate to say this as a fan, but dont waste your money by spending full price on this. As much as Ive enjoy these songs over the years, theres too much other new and exciting original music from other artists to discover instead of continually treading water in the past.