[Review] Sting: The Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985)

Sting sucks all the fun out of Synchronicity and it still sounds awesome.

Kronomyth 1.0: The tortoise and the heir.

The guitarist was making ambient fuzz records with Robert Fripp. The drummer was scoring Francis Ford Coppola movies. The singer was taking a break from acting to make a jazz album. Has any pop band ever held a greater conceit of itself than The Police? Even in this, Sting outdid his bandmates with The Dream of the Blue Turtles. That it didn’t rock by any measure was no surprise because rock had become unbecoming to a man of Sting’s measure.

He had evolved into the jazz sophisticate, a renaissance man who had forsaken the beastly bass for its high-strung superior and surrounded himself with “legitimate” jazz players (most notably Branford Marsalis). Worse, Sting had fashioned a cross for himself as a social crusader, which led to the tiresome lectures of Russians, Children’s Crusade and We Work the Black Seam. Top it off with a beret and it’s no wonder a lot of people wanted to take Sting down a peg.

But… the man is enormously talented. Any question that Sting was the source behind The Police’s greatest music is answered with Fortress Around Your Heart, the best song The Police never recorded. If You Love Somebody Set Them Free and Love Is The Seventh Wave, while wordier than some might have liked, are also remarkably well done. In many ways, this reminds me of Pete Townshend’s Empty Glass, an album that lacked some of the vitality but none of the creativity of the bandiwork before it.

The Dream of the Blue Turtles established Sting as a serious solo artist even as it turned off rock fans who felt the singer was full of himself. Critics like their heartthrobs and highbrows in different categories, and Sting had insinuated himself into both without their benediction. Playing jazz music, walking in the shadow of Kurt Weill, teaching literate history lessons in the lyrics and looking good while doing it was a step too far, apparently. The Dream of the Blue Turtles is fair warning that Sting intends to take a higher road than the beat he walked with The Police. It was a risk, but one that paid off, how else?, handsomely.

Original elpee version

A1. If You Love Somebody Set Them Free (4:14)
A2. Love Is The Seventh Wave (3:30)
A3. Russians (3:57)
A4. Children’s Crusade (5:00)
A5. Shadows in the Rain (4:56)
B1. We Work the Black Seam (5:40)
B2. Consider Me Gone (4:21)
B3. The Dream of the Blue Turtles (1:15)
B4. Moon Over Bourbon Street (3:59)
B5. Fortress Around Your Heart (4:48)

All songs written by Sting.

The Players

Sting (vocals, guitar), Omar Hakim (drums), Darryl Jones (bass), Kenny Kirkland (keyboards), Branford Marsalis (saxophones, miscellaneous percussion), Dolette McDonald (backing vocals), Janice Pendarvis (backing vocals) with Jane Alexander (backing vocals), Stephanie Crewdson (backing vocals), Vic Garbarini (backing vocals), Eddy Grant (congas on B2), Joe (backing vocals), Kate (backing vocals), Elliot Jones (backing vocals), Dominic Muldowney (arranger on B4), The Nannies Choir (backing vocals), Frank Opolko (trombone on A2), Rosemary Purt (backing vocals), Danny Quatrochi (Synclavier assistance, backing vocals), Pete Smith (backing vocals), Michael Sumner (backing vocals). Produced by Sting and Pete Smith; engineered by Pete Smith and Jim Scott.

The Pictures

Photography by Max Vadukul and Danny Quatrochi. Artwork and design by Michael Ross and Richard Frankel.

The Product

Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc on June 1, 1985 in the US and Canada (A&M, SP/CS/CD-3750), the UK (A&M, DREAM/DRERMC-1), Australia and New Zealand (A&M, RML/RMC-53134), Brazil (A&M, 170094), Germany (393 750-1/2), Japan (A&M, AMP-28125), Venezuela (A&M, 500.048-L) and Yugoslavia (RTB, 2223031) with lyrics insert and innersleeve; reached #2 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 3x platinum record) and #3 on the UK charts. Also released on blue vinyl elpee in 1985 in Australia (A&M, RML-53134) and on picture disc elpee in 1985 in the UK (A&M, DREMP 1).

  1. Re-released on remastered compact disc in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 528).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc on November 22, 2006 in Japan (A&M, UICY-6580).

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