“Ten Summoner’s Tales”


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Sting’s fourth post-Police solo set is his least conceptually or musically ambitious, probably his least intriguing, certainly his least personal. But that in no way strikes against the album’s inherent pleasures, which are great.

The bearable lightness of being in “Ten Summoner’s Tales” provides some needed levity after Sting’s stab at exploring the meaning(lessness) of life in “The Soul Cages,” and offers all the virtues of a top craftsman at work with fewer pretensions than a Chaucer-derived title might lead you to expect.

His fusion inclinations have tapered off, so while there’s at least one goofy experiment in genre-bending--"Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven),” which lightheartedly melds Morricone, be-bop, country and funk--these are mostly just soft-spoken pop-rock songs, realized by terrific players who don’t wear their disciplines too far out on their sleeves.

Sting alternates between generic devotion anthems and character sketches. Two movie themes--the noir -ish “It’s Probably Me” (from “Lethal Weapon 3") and “Shape of My Heart” (from “Three of Hearts”)--are quiet standouts. There’s playfulness aplenty driving the blues-rocker “She’s Too Good for Me” and the passionately jazzy “Saint Augustine in Hell” alike. By the time Sting brags in the “epilogue” to these scattershot “Tales” that “you’ll still know nothing ‘bout me,” he’s close to right, but the impersonality is no hindrance to the fun summoned.


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