ON THIS DATE (24 YEARS AGO)
October 13, 1987 – Sting: …Nothing Like the Sun is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 5/5
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
# Rolling Stone 4.5/5
…Nothing Like the Sun is a 1987 album by Sting. The title comes from Shakespeare’s Sonnet #130 (“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”), which Sting used in the song “Sister Moon”. He added that his inspiration for this was a close encounter with a drunk, in which Sting quoted the sonnet in response to the drunk’s importunate query, “How beautiful is the moon?”
The album was influenced by two events in Sting’s life: first, the death in late 1986 of his mother, which contributed to the sombre tone of several songs; and second, his participation in the Conspiracy of Hope Tour on behalf of Amnesty International, which brought Sting to parts of Latin America that had been ravaged by civil wars, and introduced him to victims of government oppression. “They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo)” was inspired by his witnessing of public demonstrations of grief by the wives and daughters of men missing in Chile, tortured and murdered by the military dictatorship of the time, who danced the cueca (the traditional dance of Chile) by themselves, with photos of their loved ones pinned to their clothes. “Be Still My Beating Heart” and “The Lazarus Heart” approach the subjects of life, love and death and also featured Police guitarist Andy Summers. Elsewhere on the album, “Englishman in New York”, in honour of Quentin Crisp, continues the jazz-influenced music more commonly found on Sting’s previous album, as does “Sister Moon”.
The album’s first single and biggest hit, “We’ll Be Together” (reportedly not one of Sting’s favorites), sported a prominent dance beat and funk overtones; it reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in late 1987 and even crossed over to the R&B charts. Overall, the album’s sales now stand at over 2 million, making it one of Sting’s best-sellers.
The album also inspired a Spanish/Portuguese counterpart, the 1988 mini-album Nada Como el Sol. It featured four of the songs from the album sung in either Spanish or Portuguese and in the case of “Fragile”, both languages.
Three years after its initial release on both the album and in single form, “Englishman in New York” was remixed in mid-1990 by Dutch producer Ben Liebrand, apparently to increase Sting’s commercial viability after a two-year absence in the charts. Providing a stronger dance beat, as well as an extended introduction, the song was a hit in clubs and reached number 15 on the UK pop charts. The maxi-single also included a dance remix of “We’ll Be Together” as a B-side.
…Nothing Like the Sun was one of the first fully digital audio recordings (DDD) to achieve multi-platinum status. It is also Sting’s biggest-selling album yet, with worldwide sales of 11 million copies as of 1997. The album won Best British Album at the 1988 Brit Awards.
ROLLING STONE REVIEW
By Anthony DeCurtis, January 22, 1997 (4.5/5)
… Nothing Like The Sun — a powerful, often hypnotic album that blends jazz and rock styles into a thoughtful suite of twelve songs about love, politics and the meaning of the individual life — avoids the self-conscious stiffness that marred Sting’s first solo LP, The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Whereas that album often seemed to be merely the sterile enactment of its fusion-jazz ambitions, … Nothing Like the Sun flows naturally.
The album’s title comes from a sonnet by Shakespeare that begins with the line “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.” Against the extravagant imagery of much Elizabethan love poetry, that sonnet articulates a human-scale vision of love for a flesh-and-blood woman who, far from standing on a pedestal, “treads on the ground.” Similarly, on … Nothing Like the Sun, Sting resists, for the most part, his tendency to drift into the mystic. Instead he locates the LP’s songs in an uneasy three-dimensional world of unruly emotions (“Be Still My Beating Heart,” “Sister Moon”), nightmarish social systems (“History Will Teach Us Nothing,” “They Dance Alone”) and personal commitment (“The Secret Marriage”).
Sting dedicates … Nothing Like the Sun to his mother, who died recently at fifty-three, and the songs about women on the record seem informed by the mother-son bond and the double-edged impact of its breaking at birth, marriage and death. “The Lazarus Heart,” the album’s shimmering opening track, weds Freud and The Golden Bough in its mythic dream of an artist whose creativity derives from a wound inflicted by his mother. The Chilean women in the stately “They Dance Alone” dance in mournful celebration of their husbands, sons and fathers, who were jailed or killed by the Pinochet regime.
For his band on … Nothing Like the Sun, Sting has carried over saxophonist Branford Marsalis and keyboardist Kenny Kirkland from the jazz outfit that backed him on The Dream of the Blue Turtles. He plays bass himself and has recruited drummer Manu Katché, percussionist Mino Cinelu and a host of guest stars (including Andy Summers, Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler). The arrangements are airily layered, with instruments and rhythms constantly doubling and counterpointing each other but never becoming so dense as to be stifling. Lively percussive currents keep songs like “Straight to My Heart” and “Rock Steady” moving along briskly.
The instrumental textures and introspective tone of the album preclude any explosive soloing or improvisation; that is something of a shame given the presence of players of the caliber of Marsalis and Kirkland. One of the more appealing surprises on the record, however, is guitarist Hiram Bullock’s lyrical soar during a startling cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” Gil Evans and his orchestra provide the perfect atmospheric setting for Sting’s eerie meditation on Hendrix’s surreally poetic love song.
… Nothing Like the Sun is also one of those records that help define a point of technological transition. Simply stated, it must be heard on compact disc — or, as a very distant second choice, on cassette. At fifty-four minutes, it’s too long for a single vinyl album, and spread thinly over four sides, it breaks too often and abruptly to sustain its otherwise consistent mood. The CD version also allows a greater appreciation of the record’s choice sonic details.
In any configuration, however, … Nothing Like the Sun represents impressive growth for Sting. His voice is rich, grainy and more mature; his ideas are gaining in complexity; and musically he is stretching without straining. His mistress’s eyes may be nothing like the sun, but on this fine new album Sting’s intrepid talent shines on brightly.
All songs by Sting except as noted.
“The Lazarus Heart” – 4:34
“Be Still My Beating Heart” – 5:32
“Englishman in New York” – 4:25
“History Will Teach Us Nothing” – 4:58
“They Dance Alone” – 7:16
“Fragile” – 3:54
“We’ll Be Together” – 4:52
“Straight to My Heart” – 3:54
“Rock Steady” – 4:27
“Sister Moon” – 3:46
“Little Wing” (Jimi Hendrix) – 5:04
“The Secret Marriage” (Eisler, Sting) – 2:03
“Ghost In The Strand” (Englishman In New York 7″/ Maxi Single)
“Ellas Danzan Solas” (They Dance Alone Maxi Single)
“If You There” (They Dance Alone 7″)
“Conversation With A Dog” (We’ll Be Together 7″/ Maxi Single)
“Someone to Watch Over Me” (Englishman in New York 3-inch CD single)
“Up from the Skies” (Jimi Hendrix cover with Gil Evans and His Orchestra, Englishman in New York 3-inch CD single)