Thursday, November 30, 2017

30 on the 30th: Nothing Like the Sun and "Straight to My Heart"

Coming almost to the end here of my series of great albums that I still listen to, 30 years on. I started with U2 in March, then there was Prince in April, Suzanne Vega in May, Level 42 in June, The Grateful Dead in July, Def Leppard in August, INXS in September, and Bruce Springsteen in October. And what now, on the 30th of November, as winter finally begins to really set in here in Kansas? Sting's majesterial Nothing Like the Sun.

Yes, that's right, Gordon Sumner himself: Sting. You liked him, once. Oh, I know, you don't believe you ever did; you've forgotten, or you might even actively insist that you remember hating the man. Especially late 1980s Sting, with his seemingly aristocratic flirtations with Latin American and North African rhythms and jazz instrumentation, with his oh-so-enlightened devotion to protecting the rain forests, with his casual referencing of how his records were banned in Chile by Augusto Pinochet, and most of with his long hair, right? I swear, Sting probably even beats out U2's Bono for the title of major recording star whom everyone insists they never liked these days.

Well, anyway, the point is, you're delusional. You may not have been the man's greatest fan ever, you may have never really forgiven him for breaking up The Police, but you bought his albums, and put up with his world-beat noodling and mediocre poetry and jazz affectations because the results were so much more than the sum of their parts. This album, in particular, was fantastic, filled with clever, engaging, challenging, fun, moving, thoughtful music. Everyone was listening to it, myself included, and we kept on doing so, even as tastes changed, because some of its tracks were just so infectious. And then, I guess sometime around 1995 or so, everyone suddenly decided Sting was a pretentious hack, and had always been a pretentious hack, and the love we all had for this album dropped out of sight. (The only time I saw Sting was when he was on tour for his later album, Mercury Falling, in 1996, when we were living in Washington DC, and I can still remember the gleeful, vicious snark that the Washington City Paper employed in talking about his show. Which was awesome, by the way. Natalie Merchant opened.)

Anyway, here we are, 30 years on, and I love this album still. What track to choose? My favorite (or, at least, my favorite original composition from the album; I confess I really adore Sting's cover of "Little Wing" on Nothing Like the Sun, as overplayed as it definitely became), "Straight to My Heart." Something about this tune just grabbed the college-freshman me: it was a goofy paean to a surprisingly ordinary romance ("Come into my door / Be the light of my life / Come into my door / You'll never have to sweep the floor"), and yes, sure, it made me feel sophisticated and worldly and fine. Watch Sting sing it live from 1988 in Verona; maybe all the annoyance will come rushing back--but the coolness of the song will too.

2 comments:

Matt said...

I liked Sting, and still like a fair bit. (Mercury Falling is a good album). I did recently listen to some sort of live album I have (called "all this time" - I'm not sure if it's an official thing or not - I have a lot of weird bootlegs/pirate disks bought in Russia, and this might be one. I'm really not sure.) Man was that some awful, over-done crap. I was so sorry to listen to it, because I generally like Sting, and the put me off to him for a bit. So, avoid that if you can, but yes, generally really pretty good.

Russell Arben Fox said...

Heh. I confess that I really like All This Time... as a live album; yes, not every track on it is as tight as it ought to be, but several of his songs--especially the lead up to "Every Breath You Take," which is his closer, of course--just builds like the best live concerts should. Have you listened to his latest, 57th & 9th? A weak album overall, but a worthy effort for a 65-year-old who has been away from rock and roll for over a decade, or so I thought.