Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Sting & Shaggy - 44/876 (2018)

  

Released April 2018

This is an odd, surprising coupling from two artists whose halcyon days are behind them (66 year-old Sting and 50 year-old Shaggy). Maybe is is not so much of a shock, though Sting has always liked his reggae, from those credible early Police cuts and Shaggy has also like to extend himself soulfully beyond mere ragga-style toasting. I have come to this album a year late and was sceptical when I first saw it, but upon first listen I was proved wrong. It is quite an endearing offering and well worth a listen. It functions both as a good contemporary reggae album and also a good Sting album. The artists blend pleasingly well together without any awkward self-consciousness. It all sounds quite effortlessly easy.

TRACK LISTING

1. 44/876
2. Morning Is Coming
3. Waiting For The Break Of Day
4. Gotta Get Back My Baby
5. Don't Make Me Wait
6. Just One Lifetime
7. 22nd Street
8. Dreaming In The USA
9. Crooked Tree
10. To Love And Be Loved
11. Sad Trombone
12. Night Shift                                      

"44/876" refers to the international dialling codes for the UK and Jamaica and is a quirky, fun and poppy number that sees both singers performing in their typical style. They merge quite well, although, for me, the bass sound is overpowering (and I love bass), but that is just the way of the contemporary genre. It is actually the only track where this happens, though. "Morning Is Coming" has a less booming bass sound, some archetypally Sting tenor saxophone backing and more great vocals from both of them. "Waiting For The Break Of Day" is an infectious Sting-dominated track that could easily be included on any of his other albums. Shaggy still has a vocal part, though, and it doesn't sound out of place. Personally, I find the sound production ideal on this one, in comparison to "44/876". Lovely, rumbling, melodic bass on it. "Gotta Get Back My Baby" has Shaggy singing more than toasting and he is pretty good, his vocals croaky and soulful.

"Don't Make Me Wait" is a lovely, summery, laid-back groove full of the feel of a Jamaican resort on a hot afternoon. Sting's voice on this is superb, as good as it has sounded for a long time. He sounds quite revitalised by this, coming across as if he is really enjoying himself. "Just One Lifetime" is a ragga cut with typical Shaggy vocals and rhythm. One would expect that Sting's arrival with his "Ten Summoner's Tales" delivery would just not fit in, but it is the opposite, it merges perfectly on another addictive pop/ragga number. "22nd Street" is a crooning, atmospheric, late-night Sting song enhanced by Shaggy. The strength of this album can be summed up in these two songs - the former a ragga song augmented by Sting, the latter a Sting song lifted higher by Shaggy. They do this really well.

"Dreaming In The USA" could, at times, be a Police song in its musical construction, although its lyrics are somewhat cheesy and superficial. It is infuriatingly catchy, however. "Crooked Tree" has Shaggy singing with a Buju Banton growl on a Sting folky, narrative song about a historical criminal's court appearance. It could easily be from his "Last Ship" album. The mood returns to a lively one on the poppy reggae of "To Love And Be Loved", which is another intoxicating, appealing number. "Sad Trombone" is a jazzy, very Sting song and one that would fit easily on to any of his solo albums. "Night Shift" is yet another really good song. This is up there with the best of Sting's solo output, for me. Stick it on a "Best Of Sting" playlist and it certainly would not sound out of place.

This is a highly recommended album, there is not a bad track on it.

B+

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