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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Sting

The Last Ship

Review by Gary Hill

I really love this new album from Sting. I think probably some will argue with me putting it under the progressive rock heading, but I think most people will enjoy it, anyway. I set it under prog in part because the sound is very much a combination of things that bring it into a unique musical territory. Secondly, it’s actually pretty closely related to the folk prog that many bands did in the 1970s. This is part folk music, part musical theater (it’s written for an upcoming theatrical production Sting wrote), part jazz and part world music (mostly Celtic). It’s quite an intriguing set that’s very effective.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Last Ship

I love the chiming sound on the acoustic guitar intro to this. The vocals come in over the top of a mellow acoustic guitar based backdrop. This has a real folk music meets gentle rock texture to it. The arrangement here gets quite lush and powerful as it continues. Sting’s vocals also get quite passionate.

Dead Man's Boots
This piece is more folk oriented. It’s really Sting’s vocals that sell this song. It does grow as it continues and the arrangement gets turned to rocking sounds later.
And Yet
This feels a bit like something from Dream of the Blue Turtles. It’s got a real swinging jazz vibe. As cool as the two openers were, this is even better. When this rocks out later it seems to combine that jazz element with blues and progressive rock. This is just so powerful. It drops back to mellower, but still quite proggy, sounds to end.  I love this piece.
August Winds
This piece is very gentle and folk oriented. It doesn’t grow beyond that. It’s not the best tune here, but provides a nice shift in tone and some variety.
Language Of Birds
The rhythm section is quite active here, with a real world music element. The sound beyond that is quite progressive rock oriented, but with some jazz and some world music in the mix. The jam at the end has a great Celtic rock meets prog sound to it.
Practical Arrangement
Somehow this delicate and pretty balladic cut makes me think of Steve Hogarth era Marillion a bit. The piano lends a jazz trio vibe. The tune is quite potent, but yet very mellow. I’d consider this one of the best here. A large part of the success of the piece is Sting’s vocal performance. As the arrangement fills out later it really feels like a jazz ensemble.
The Night the Pugilist Learned How to Dance
Folk music and musical theater combine here. There are some intriguing elements to this piece. I’m not a big fan of musicals, though and this feels a bit too much like that.
Ballad of the Great Eastern
Musical theater, sea-faring folk music and progressive rock are combined on this mellower tune. When it powers up to a bit of a jig, the arrangement gets quite powerful.
What Have We Got? (featuring Jimmy Nail)
Celtic music and high energy folk music merge with musical theater and something akin to progressive rock. This is very much along the lines of a Celtic theatrical piece. I’m really not crazy about this one. It’s interesting and creative. It’s just too theatrical for my tastes.
I Love Her but She Loves Someone Else
This is a very mellow tune. It’s quite folk-oriented and pretty. As the arrangement gets more instrumentation some classical and jazz elements emerge. It really gains a lot of emotion and power in that more lush arrangement.
So To Speak (featuring Becky Unthank)
I love this folk ballad. It’s mostly Sting’s vocals, but Becky Unthank emerges later. This is mostly mellow but it gets more powered up later.
The Last Ship (Reprise)
The opening cut is revisited here. This is a powerful and quite symphonic piece. It’s a great way to end this in part because of the bookend effect, but even more so because it’s just such a great song. 
 
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