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An excellent overview of a masterful career
on October 18, 2011
Sting has been writing tunes at his peak for longer than almost anyone else around. From the flaming hot Outlandos D'amour all the way through Soul Cages, Summoner's Tales, and If On a Winter's Night, he puts out disc after disc of sophisticated, tuneful music with some of the catchiest riffs around, all without losing focus. He has expanded sideways into reinterpretation of renaissance music, and also reinterpreted some of his own music in a symphonic context. It is a lot of ground to cover in one disc, but Best of 25 years does a good job from a number of perspectives. First, the songs. Of course, since this is a "best of" disc, most everything is familiar to fans. There are so many good songs in his catalog that choosing the songs to include must have been difficult. "If you love somebody set them free", "We'll be together", and "fragile" are all obvious choices from his seminal "Nothing like the Sun" album. The remixes are nice, but honestly don't add a ton to what you have already heard. The magnificent and spare "Soul Cages" album is represented by only one cut, but is a great one--"All this time". Other tracks like "Fields of Gold" and "Desert Rose" are certainly high points as well, but the real joy for me was hearing the live cuts that end this compilation. "Heavy Cloud, No Rain" is such a fantastic song with a thrumming baseline, a steady beat and an interesting structure. It gets a great bluesy treatment live, and I liked it a lot. "Demolition Man", a song that I have always liked but never loved gets a really great rocking live version with the guitars up front, ringing and screaming. It sounds meatier than the studio cut, and Sting's voice is much more mature than for the studio version, and I think it sounds better. This is now my preferred version of the song. Lastly, I have to mention the new mix of "Never Coming Home"--a great song that got overlooked a little bit, buried on "Sacred Love", which was a good album but not up to the standards of its studio predecessor, "Brand New Day". This remix is hypnotic, swirling, emotive, and wonderful. I'm glad to see this jewel reset in another setting to give it another chance to shine.
Nothing here is a giant surprise, but the remixes are solid. The live cuts are excellent, and the new version of "Never Coming Home" is probably the best find on the disc. Dyed in the wool Sting/Police fans will want this for the live cuts alone; those who are not familiar with his overall body of work will find this a great introduction, and will surely lead them to explore his back catalog. 5 stars for the song selection, 4 stars for the remixes (they are good, but don't add a ton), 5 stars for the great live cuts, and 6 stars for Never Coming Home. Check it out.