Susan Reviews: The Last Ship

Sting (born Gordon Sumner) is one of those hold-overs from the last golden age of music.  His career took off as lead singer for the band The Police, whose pop singles such as “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” scored gold even when re-released. Since the break-up of The Police in 1986, Sting has had his share of solo chart-topping success with power albums such as Dream of the Blue Turtles, but I’m not sure his latest endeavor, The Last Ship, will do as well.

Don’t get me wrong – the album is lovely and showcases Sting’s wide range of talents in a heavy northern accent we didn’t hear during his Police years.  The songs – his first after a ten-year writing hiatus while he dealt with the deaths of his parents – are soft, almost melancholy, exploring the closing of the shipyards in the town he’d grown up in.  It’s a long, long way from “Roxanne” or “King of Pain.” Instead, we’re left with an album that vacillates between traditional-sounding folk tunes (the haunting title track, “The Last Ship,” which never seems to want to leave your head) and soft Sunday-brunch jazz (“August wind”).  If there’s a bad side to the album, it’s that it lacks the wider scope of variety we’ve come to expect from Sting as he has explored various types of music, from pop to rock to jazz to symphony.

If you love soft music, or ballads, or folk music, you’ll enjoy this album, The tunes are haunting, the lyrics thoughtful, with a presence so strong you feel as if you’re walking the streets through an old British-Isles sea town.  If you’re looking for chart-climbing pop singles, go back to Fields of Gold.

Make Tonight the Night

imagesEver notice how some people seem to have it all – talent, timing, and a killer smile?  John Barrowman has all that, and more.  Born in Scotland and raised in Illinois, Barrowman is an actor with a huge array of talents.  You may not know his name, but you may have come across his face.  He’s performed on Broadway (Anything Goes, Putting It Together), done extensive theater in London’s West End, done American TV (Titans, Central Park West, Desperate Housewives), frequently featured on BBC programs (including Any Dream Will Do and Tonight’s the Night),  appeared in feature films (The Producers, De-Lovely), and written three books. He is most well-known for the lead role of the time-hopping, immortal rascal Captain Jack Harkness on the BBC TV series Dr. Who and Torchwood. And on top of all that, Barrowman is a singer.

And an accomplished singer at that – he has more than ten albums to his credit, some of which have debuted as high as number twelve on the British album charts.  Whether he honed his voice on Broadway, or it was his voice that put him there is anyone’s guess, but he certainly has the capability to belt out a tune with the best of them.

Cheshire Library recently acquired his album, Tonight’s the Night: The Very Best of John Barrowman.[Cover] Barrowman is a showman, singing cover songs, but if you like easy listening – Barry Manilow, Neil Sedaka, Broadway singers, America’s Got Talent – give Barrowman a try! This album is nice in that it allows enough of a variety to really showcase some of his talent. My favorite tracks: You’re Just to Good to Be True and The Winner Takes It All.  Weakest: Few people should be singing The Police, outside of The Police, and his Americanized over-enunciation on She’s Always A Woman  bothers me.  Barrowman has a fantastic voice that tends to be held back by poor musical direction – slow, plodding music does him no good.  He needs those catchy all-out showtunes to really shine – and he’s one star that shines very brightly.