"Since I started this thing, people have constantly referred to it as my solo album, which of course is ridiculous," Sting wrote on the back cover of his first post-Police album, "The Dream of the Blue Turtles." "It's as if I had done everything myself. Well I didn't."
And that has been part of the attraction of Sting's musical odyssey over the past decade. There's no doubt whatsoever that he's been the captain of the expedition - the literate and occasionally metaphorical lyrics, the ruminative tone and that husky, clipped but accented vocal style are his hallmarks - but he's recruited superb crews that helped him explore many an uncharted sea.Those musicians have included saxophonist Branford Marsalis, subsequently the bandleader for Jay Leno's "Tonight Show"; keyboardists Kenny Kirkwood and David Sancious; percussionists Manu Katche and Omar Hakim; guitarist Dominic Miller and guest shots by the likes of Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler. The elegance of this "best of" collection is certainly as much a tribute to them as it is to Sting's professional growth and taste.
And "Fields of Gold" is truly excellent documentation of Sting's development. The earliest of the songs - "Fortress Around Your Heart," "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" - were at the time a noticeable jazzy shift beyond the Police, but the echoes of his older workstyle were still there. His melodies before and after the band's breakup were edgy and cutting edge, ideal for delving into recurring subjects such as doubt and borderline alienation ("Why Should I Cry for You," "Fragile"). But always he was polishing and perfecting his sound.
That musical maturity is evident in the autobiographical "All This Time" and in the introspective, almost art-song purity of melodies like the multileveled "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You," the warm and lovely "Fields of Gold" and even in the new track opening this set, an uncertain tale of a menage a trois, "When We Dance."
The album "Fields of Gold" includes 14 songs, all but two of which were lifted from four albums (though one is an alternate take): "Turtles," ". . . Nothing Like the Sun," "The Soul Cages" and "Ten Summoner's Tales." In addition to "When We Dance" he has appended "This Cowboy Song," whose jazz-funk style belies its title. It would have been nice to hear "Love Is the Seventh Wave" and/or "Shape of My Heart," perhaps in place of that second "new hit," but that's a small complaint when a group of songs flows and pleases this well.
Ultimately - and this is not at all always the case with greatest hits collections - "Fields of Gold" is more graceful and accessible than any of the preceding "solo" albums. Sting's star image is almost too removed, superior and postured at times, and many of his full albums seem to reflect those qualities. But this anthology of some of his best music from the past decade brings him a lot closer to earth . . . as if he's one of us, after all, if better and more grandly able to express certain feelings.
STING; "Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting 1984-1994," including: When We Dance, If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, Fields of Gold, All This Time, Fortress Around Your Heart, Be Still My Beating Heart, They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo), If I Ever Lose My Faith in You, Fragile, Why Should I Cry For You?, Englishman in New York, We'll Be Together, Russians, This Cowboy Song.