Bass Player magazine recommends the new Sting album, and I heartily concur. Here’s the review by Chris Jisi:
Sting’s first rock album in 13 years, 57th & 9th (named for the Manhattan intersection near the recording studio), is a first-rate, ten-song collection that touches on all phases of Mr. Sumner’s broad musical career. The first single, “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” has a heavy Police presence—with its chugging-eighths groove, arpeggio guitar parts, and shifting key centers—while “Petrol Head” pivots between the Police and roots rock. “50,000,” dedicated to such departed greats as Prince, Glenn Frey, and Lemmy, rides a muted verse (with Sting tuning the E string on his ’53 Fender Precision down to D) before bursting into a stadium-ready classic rock hook, a formula present on “Down, Down, Down,” as well. Sting’s Celtic persona emerges on the 6/8 “Pretty Young Soldier” and the guitar-and-vocal ballads “Heading South on the Great North Road” and “The Empty Chair” (for journalist and ISIS victim James Foley).
Summoning the jazzy, solo Sting side is the Middle Eastern-tinged, European refugee-focused ballad “Inshallah,” and the exotic “If You Can’t Love Me,” with descending bass notes creating harmonic colors against a repeated four-note pattern, set to Vinnie Colauita’s 7/8 drum figure. Finally, there’s the somber topic of climate change presented via the upbeat, super-catchy rock bossa “One Fine Day,” which, with its Latinlike pushes in the bass line, make it Sting’s best 4-string work on the album.
It’s precisely the Police-like opening track, “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” that first hooked me, along with the magnificently smoldering meditation on mortality, “50,000,” where Sting muses on the “what is it all worth?” factor of stardom.
My favorite part of the post-Police side of Sting is exhibited on the guitar-and-vocal pairings on “Heading South on the Great North Road” and “The Empty Chair.” So also on “Inshallah” which is both haunting and catchy.
Skip the bonus tracks version, which offers nothing additional worth hearing, but do be sure to grab hold of the ten-track album version. Sting should keep returning to that corner of NYC, if only to remind us how great music could be when record companies allowed it to be smart.