Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]
Album: BRING ON THE NIGHT
A year after The Police disbanded following the conclusion of their Synchronicity tour in 1984, singer/bassist/main songwriter Sting began his solo career with the jazz-inflected, occasionally moody yet instantly catchy The Dream Of The Blue Turtles. This multi-platinum album spawned four hit singles and proved that he could survive without his former bandmates, even though for many of us Police fans his solo career would never quite reach the heights of his earlier work. This record was somewhat controversial in the jazz community, as he hired some of that genre’s top musicians to bring his new music to life: keyboardist Kenny Kirkland, drummer Omar Hakim, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and bassist Darryl Jones (who has played with The Rolling Stones since 1993). These players were frowned upon by many of their peers, including Marsalis’ brother Wynton, for playing mainstream popular music, but they probably helped introduce jazz to many people so I’ve never understood that criticism. Paired with backing vocalists Janice Pendarvis & Dolette McDonald, this ridiculously talented combo toured throughout 1985 & 1986, playing unique interpretations of Police & solo songs. In a career that’s had its share of pretentious moments, Sting chose to follow up his debut album with a 2-disc live recording that included six tracks clocking in between 6 & 12 minutes. Bring On The Night, a documentary film about the tour, was released in ’85, while the album of the same name appeared the following year…hence its inclusion in this series.
“Love Is The Seventh Wave,” the only hit single from Dream Of The Blue Turtles included here, appears as the second half of an 11-minute medley with The Police’s “One World (Not Three).” Otherwise, Blue Turtles is represented by album tracks. Three of its moodiest songs, “Moon Over Bourbon Street,” “We Work The Black Seam” and “Consider Me Gone,” have long been personal favorites, and the versions here are even stronger than their studio counterparts. These are offset by energetic performances like the pairing of two Police gems, “Bring On the Night/When the World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around,” their 1980 classic “Driven To Tears,” the medley of instrumental “Dream Of The Blue Turtles” with essential album track Demolition Man” and the J.B. Lenoir blues number “I Been Down So Long.” A few lesser-known Police songs show up with new & interesting arrangements: the b-side “Low Life,” the exquisite “I Burn For You” (previously available on the soundtrack to Brimstone & Treacle, the little-seen 1982 movie starring Sting for which I bought the album on the day it was released) and “Tea In The Sahara,” the closing track from The Police’s final studio album. Most artists wait until they have a few records under their belt before unleashing the obligatory double-live album but, considering he wrote the majority of The Police’s songs and they didn’t release a live recording during their career, perhaps Bring On The Night wasn’t such a bold move after all. Where Dream Of The Blue Turtles suffered from an often sterile studio sound, the concert recordings are bursting with life. Until last week I hadn’t played this album (or most of Sting’s solo recordings) in many years, and I’m pleased to report that it’s held up extremely well over the last three decades. It’s as vibrant & awe-inspiring as anything in his solo discography.