Sound — 7
Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner is a mouthful and difficult to memorize after one sole mention, which is probably why he decided to give himself a unique stage name: you would probably know him better as Sting. Sting has been creating and performing music for over four decades now. He became a household name as the lead vocalist and bass player for The Police, where he played a strong role in creating such now heavily hailed anthems as "Roxanne" and "Synchronicity II." While part of The Police, Sting embraced a style of rock which contained strong elements of jazz, punk, and reggae. Sting first began to embark on his own as a solo artist in 1981, with a memorable live performance with Eric Clapton and Phil Collins at a benefit concert, performing under the name The Secret Police. Towards the end of The Police's initial run, Sting released his debut studio album in 1985 and was met with praising critical and commercial acclaim. He guest starred on "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits, as well as two songs on Phil Collins' album "No Jacket Required." Sting also began to try his hand at more expansive musical genres as opposed to those embraced during his time in The Police, including blue-eyed soul and new wave. Throughout his entire career, Sting has released well over a dozen studio albums between all of his collective projects, worked with a long line of similarly prestigious musicians, and created countless hit radio singles. Many fans were left asking the question: "What more is there left for him to do?" In a surprising move, Sting recently announced he would be making a Broadway play, which is currently slated to make it's debut in 2014. Said to explore the themes of homecoming and self-discovery, the complexity of relationships and the importance of family, amongst others, Sting found himself embarking on a very personal journey; subsequently, he was inspired to create his first new studio album in ten years. "The Last Ship" shows Sting taking on a very different musical direction as compared to his earlier efforts. While his earlier efforts showcased a significant rock influence with various elements flavoring the performance, Sting instead entirely abandons that style and instead takes on one that is solely rooted in traditional Celtic and Irish styles. One of the more interesting examples off of the new album is the lead single, "Practical Arrangement," a piano ballad with string orchestral accompaniment and an emotional lead vocal performance from Sting.
Lyrics — 8
Some hard rock fans may have noticed that none other than AC/DC's Brian Johnson makes a special guest appearance on not just one, but two tracks on the new album. If you were expecting for a ball crushing falsetto performance, layered on top of distortion guitars and heart shattering percussion work, you came to the wrong album. Brian himself embraces his Northern England heritage and joins Sting for a bustling sea shanty on "Sky Hooks and Tartan Paint," which is jam packed with an upbeat accordion section and complimentary acoustic guitar playing. Just listening to Brian Johnson take on such a different approach to a musical genre that we're not accustomed to hearing is both humorous and captivating on it's own, let alone Sting taking this same style and slathering it across an entire new studio album. The music itself is tight, powerful, emotion-soaked and flawless. Even if it isn't your style, it gets your foot tapping in no time and does a noteworthy job at keeping your attention.
Overall Impression — 8
Albeit it isn't what you would first expect to hear from a new Sting album, "The Last Ship" is a dashing new outing which showcases strong instrumentation and emotion to spare. Any fan of Sting's earlier efforts and collaborations, as well as the guest musicians who make their own surprising appearances, should give this album a listen.