By DONNA BALANCIA
Sting and Shaggy are an unlikely duo who have collaborated on the feel-good album of the year with the lively and beautiful work, 44/876.
The music is excellent, in the vein of the best of The Police and The Boombastic Collection. The record brings back good times and bears out a life well-lived with a sense of humor.
The two musicians who are well past their 40s have broken the age barrier and have created an album that appeals to everyone and anyone who wants to learn a thing or two about songwriting — and life.
“Don’t Make Me Wait” to love you, the breakout single released has an accompanying video that is a good time show, and these two music superstars prove that age is not a factor when it comes to living it up.
Sting and Shaggy Are Living ‘Just One Lifetime’
“Just One Lifetime” is a winning song, maybe one of the best songs on the album. With consistent reggae beat and Sting’s self-harmonies, it is the kind of song The Police would have released. It gives a tip of the hat to Lewis Carroll with the recurring line, “The time has come to talk of ships and shoes and sealing wax, cabbages and kings.”
There’s the R&B slow-style song “22nd Street.” It’s a duet about love and brings back feelings of Freddie walking up the street where Eliza lives in “My Fair Lady.” But this is more like a bromance between Sting and Shaggy, who sing against a background of violins and diminished keys.
“Dreaming In The USA,” is a tribute to the commercialism of America. It’s an impossibly happy song even for Sting. Shaggy of course sings about the part that has to do with obtaining a visa. The song is not a good fit for Shaggy’s bass vocals, although he wraps the song strong with his special Shaggy-style machine-gun rap.
‘Crooked Tree’ and ‘To Love And Be Loved’
“Crooked Tree” is a great exercise in storytelling. It’s a dramatic courtroom scene and a commentary of the court system, presumably in Jamaica, with Shaggy as judge and Sting as criminal who tells the story of his bad family and his crooked tree. This is a song that goes back to the true old songwriting style that uses great yarn-spinning with verse, “The good Lord carved a crooked soul out of a crooked tree.”
“To Love And Be Loved” is a pure reggae style song that falls right into the bailiwick of both Sting and Shaggy. A simple song that repeats the phrase “To Love And Be Loved,” this is a winner on the album.
“Sad Trombone” is a beautiful story about starting out in a major key then sliding into the minor notes. “Some things they just stay with you after they have flown and it always comes back down to the bone.” It’s one of those songs that bop along, a little downbeat. But it’s truly a Sting sad song, similar in tone to “Englishman in New York.”
Creating the Record Took a Team
“Night Shift” actually sounds like workers on the warehouse line. But there’s a lot more going on here, as it sounds like someone’s relationship is on the rocks. Sting pussyfoots around talking about going to work and not coming home. But it’s Shaggy who puts the hammer down, saying he’s not coming home and don’t come looking.
Check out “Morning Is Coming” here:
Jamaica and New York are Significant
44/876 was recorded in Jamaica and New York with Sting and Shaggy being joined by various musicians and writers including Robbie Shakespeare of Sly and Robbie, dancehall sensation Aidonia, Morgan Heritage, Branford Marsalis, Agent Sasco and Sting’s longtime guitarist, Dominic Miller as well as writers Taranchyla, Dwayne “iLL Wayno” Shippy, Shane Hoosong, Machine Gun Funk and Patexx.
The sessions were produced in part by Sting International (“Oh, Carolina,” “Boombastic” and “It Wasn’t Me,”) and by Martin Kierszenbaum who has previously written and produced songs for Sting, Madonna and Lady Gaga. Sting International, Robert “Hitmixer” Orton, and Tony Lake mixed 44/876.
The album 44/876 is released on Friday, go to Sting.com to order.