Album review: Sting’s Symphonicities

Symphonicities is billed as 12 Sting songs which have not simply been rearranged but fully reimagined in orchestral terms. Some rock music turns into saccharine elevator music when arranged for an orchestra. However, that is not the case with this album. Sting’s songs and voice fit organically with the arrangement, and many of the songs transcend their original beauty.

Part of what makes this album work is that each arrangement is tailored with the appropriate instrumentation to support each song. A full, robust orchestra drives the upbeat songs forward. Delicate arrangements enhance the mellow songs. Some tunes take on an entire new life of their own.

“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” glitters as if sprinkled with fairy dust. A flowing woodwind and string introduction leads into a chorus buoyed by a Caribbean beat. Flute, string, and harp runs add bright flourishes. The end of the song frolics with musical motives accompanying the words, “Every little thing she does “and “Magic” followed by wordless vocalization.

“You Will Be My Ain True Love” is a haunting song with sparse orchestration. Sting’s vocals blend with backup singer Jo Lawry over a wistful solo violin melody and string drone.

Luxurious seventh chords lend “Roxanne” a dark, sensual quality. The infamous reggae beat has been replaced with undulating accompaniment lines. The midsection of the song features melancholy cello and clarinet solos.

Unlike “Roxanne’s” personality transformation, the mood of “I Burn for You” stays close to the original arrangement. Strings and guitars play transparent harmonics during the delicate introduction. The drum kit entrance ushers in warm chords which enhance the intimate lyrics, “you and I are lovers/Nighttime falls around our bed”.

The liner notes state that “We Work the Black Seam” was inspired by a miners’ strike in the UK in the mid-80s. A brass ensemble is an echo of the colliery bands that Sting heard as a child in his hometown of Newcastle, England. The open harmonies of the brass chorale and the sparse percussion create a somber, stately mood.

Track listing is as follows:

1. Next to You
2. Englishman in New York
3. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
4. I Hung My Head
5. You Will Be My Ain True Love
6. Roxanne
7. When We Dance
8. The End of the Game
9. I Burn for You
10. We Work the Black Seam
11. She’s Too Good for Me
12. The Pirate’s Bride
Bonus Track – Straight to My Heart

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