Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – STING “BRING ON THE NIGHT”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]

Artist: STING

Sting - Bring On The NightA 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.

Sting with band 1985-86

“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 Sting with Omar Hakim and Darryl Jonesinstrumental “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.

18 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – STING “BRING ON THE NIGHT”

  1. Kevin
    June 23, 2016

    I think I am in the minority of Police fans who think that Sting’s first four solo albums are as good as anything he did with his former band (I would even argue that The Soul Cages is the best thing he’s ever done, period). This live album is good fun. Sometimes I think the two medley/jams go on a bit, but at the same time, it’s great to hear that band stretch out. I agree that these are the better versions of “We Work The Black Seam” and “Consider Me Gone,” and the album’s version of “Burn For You” is beautiful (and different from the movie version that includes Omar’s drum freak out). Sting could be a pretentious ego-maniacal control freak, but he could also be pretty great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin, I’m sure there are plenty of fans who like The Police and Sting equally. As much as I love Sting’s first 4 solo albums, and I agree that The Soul Cages is his masterwork, I miss the manic energy and quirky sense of humor that The Police brought to Sting’s songs. Certainly the musicianship is hard to beat either way, but song-for-song I will always be partial to the spiky-haired trio. I’m glad we agree about the live versions outstripping their studio counterparts. Thanks, as always, for stopping by.


      • Phillip Helbig
        June 23, 2016

        I’m not really a Sting or Police fan, though they aren’t that bad. I’ve always found sting to be a bit arrogant, which has perhaps put me off a bit. What I do like about the Police, though, is Stewart Copeland. He’s a really good drummer and vastly underrated. And he, like I, is a fan of the splash cymbal! He’s also done a lot of other stuff, I mean a lot, but this is practically unknown.


      • Here in the U.S. Stewart Copeland has always been very highly regarded and, of the drummers whose bands came to prominence in the mid- to late-’70s, Copeland and Neil Peart were always considered the top two. I’ve stolen so many little flourishes from him over the years with various bands I’ve played in, none of which sounded like The Police. I took pride anytime someone would approach me after a gig to say they enjoyed my Stewart Copeland-esque fills in a particular song.


  2. J.
    June 23, 2016

    Nice post, Rich. Though not a fan of Sting, I was actually just reading about this one after learning of the jazz leanings.

    As well as the Rolling Stones, I believe Darryl Jones played with Miles Davis before joining Sting. A helluva CV!


    • Thanks, J. I was aware of the impressive pedigrees of all the musicians from Sting’s first solo band, but I don’t think I knew about Jones’ connection with Miles Davis. Very cool bit of trivia. Thanks for sharing.


  3. mikeladano
    June 23, 2016

    My sister got me into Sting. I have yet to fully explore his catalogue and this one is on my “want” list.

    I had forgotten what a band he had on this one! Thanks for the reminder.


    • Your sister gets extra credit for getting you into Sting. Not sure if you’ll like everything in his catalog but I’m sure you’ll appreciate his first few albums and this live one. I could see you loving The Police, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mikeladano
        June 24, 2016

        I do love the Police…thanks again sis!


  4. Vinyl Connection
    June 23, 2016

    Here’s an artist where everyone feels the need to lay out their position, so I won’t buck the trend. Like The Police (early, more) Enjoyed DotBTs, (not much of a Sting fan; it’s the plonker factor). Love live albums, this one is classy musically though I”m uncertain about medleys.

    Nice write-up Rich. Any post that has me pulling out the album immediately is a winner!


    • Thanks for joining in the discussion, Bruce. Not surprised you enjoy early Police. Of course with only 5 records in their discography across a 5-year period, aren’t they all “early”? I completely agree with you about medleys, but I think Sting chose wisely and never edited a song too much.

      I’m glad this post had you pulling out the album. As I mentioned in the post, I hadn’t played any solo Sting records in many many years, so I was curious to find out how this one would hold up. It has me ready to revisit some of his other albums, which were huge for me in the ’80s & ’90s.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Murphy's Law
    June 24, 2016

    I had forgotten about this album. One of my roommates in college had this album – I was pleasantly surprised. I was (and am) a big Police fan, especially the first 3 albums. I bought …Blue Turtles when it came out and I liked about half of it, but the live versions improved the songs I normally skipped. Admittedly, after the pretentiousness of “Nothing Like the Sun” I wandered off and have never put in the effort to see if I’ve missed anything.


    • I’m surprised it took until Nothing Like The Sun for the pretentiousness to get to you. I was able to look past that aspect of Sting’s music because I loved his voice, songs and the musicianship on his albums. The next two albums he released (The Soul Cages and Ten Summoner’s Tales) are pretty spectacular but I lost interest soon after that. I’ve heard good things about his current tour with Peter Gabriel, though.

      I’m glad we agree about the live versions being better than the Dream Of The Blue Turtles studio versions. I wish I could have seen him on that tour.


      • Murphy's Law
        June 29, 2016

        Nothing Like the Sun is the point where I couldn’t ignore the lyrics and just listen to the music.

        That same roommate bought The Soul Cages when it came out. I heard it once and never gave it another try.


      • I can understand your aversion to Sting’s catalog starting with Nothing Like The Sun and won’t try to convince you otherwise. I need to play those albums again since it’s been well over a decade. I loved them but I’m curious to see how they’ve held up.


  6. Great choice. So many highlights for me: Kirkland’s incredible solo on ‘When The World Is Running Down’, a much superior ‘Tea In The Sahara’ to the studio version, ‘Low Life’, ‘Another Day’, Branford’s playing on ‘Children’s Crusade’… Much of it really does stand the test of time.


    • Thanks, Matt. I was pleasantly surprised by how well this album has held up over the last three decades. As someone who lost interest in Sting’s music more than a decade ago I wasn’t sure how it would sound to me now. I guess it’s hard to beat a well-recorded live album with amazing musicians.


  7. Pingback: Forty Year Friday – GENESIS “SECONDS OUT” | KamerTunesBlog

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