With the release of his latest album, "The Soul Cages," Sting has distinguished himself as one of the world's biggest touring rock star who hasn't written a rock song in eight years.
Where its two predecessors, "The Dream of the Blue Turtles" and ". . . Nothing Like the Sun," were basically jazz fusion works laden with pop influences, "Cages" portrays a distant, almost new-age sound.
Only two songs on this departure album bare any pop sounds at all; the bouncy "All This Time," wisely chosen as the first single, and the title track, which is led by the big drum sound of Manu Katche and the light guitar riffs of Dominic Miller.
The entire album seems to center on the grief endured by Sting after the death of his father three years ago.
Sting has revealed in several interviews that he incurred a terrible "writer's block" during the process of putting the album together and that he attributes it to the fact that he never completely dealt with his father's death.
Well, here, in 49 minutes of lush, beautiful sounds, Sting truly wears his heart on his sleeve.
It turns out that musical and instrumental pieces came very early and easily in the recording process, but the words were extremely difficult to muster.
Sting has said he tried to recall the first images of his childhood to incite words, and once he thought about the shipyards of his hometown of Newcastle the words of the water and the images of the "rivers flowing endlessly to the sea" all came in less than one month.
Seemingly impossible to pigeonhole, Sting, now 39, enters yet another era in his stately catalog of music and achievements.
Except for the raspy vocals, "The Soul Cages" certainly bears no resemblance to any of the work of The Police. The brassy arrangements of his first two solo works are nowhere to be found, despite the return of Katche (drums), Kenny Kirkland (keyboards) and Branford Marsalis (saxophone) to the project.
It wouldn't be a major surprise to see the album sell far below any of his previous works -- it obviously wasn't written with a pop audience in mind. But, remember, the critics said the same thing about "The Dream of the Blue Turtles" in 1985.
The concert calendar . . .
Max's On Broadway welcomes Leon Russell (tonight), John Palumbo (Jan. 30), Marti Jones and Don Dixon (Feb. 3 & 4), Tough Luck (Feb. 9), Drivin N Cryin ( Feb. 10), Material Issue (Feb. 19), The Oyster Band (Feb. 20) and Ritchie Havens (Feb. 21).
Hammerjacks hosts Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers (Saturday), Precious Metal (Feb. 2), Child's Play (Feb. 3), Johnny Winter (Feb. 8), Firehouse (Feb. 9 ), Joe Piscopo (Feb. 16), Heaven's Edge (Feb. 22).
Coming to the Capital Centre are Keith Sweat, Bell Biv DeVoe and Johnny Gill (tonight), Neil Young, Sonic Youth and Social Distortion (Feb. 27), INXS (March 1 ) and Paul Simon (March 13).
Hall and Oates perform at D.A.R. Constitution Hall in Washington (Feb. 18).
Vanilla Ice comes to the Baltimore Arena (March 31).