ALBUMS / Popped in, souled out: Andy Gill on Sting, Deacon Blue, Lenny Kravitz and Living Colour

STING

Ten Summoner's Tales

(A&M 540 075-2)

is at about the same position as Steely Dan were in their later years: you can still glimpse the genuine pop spirit there, but it's so submerged by a welter of jazz influences it's hardly recognisable any longer. Thankfully, Ten Summoner's Tales - the title is a pun on Sting's real name, Gordon Sumner - claws back some of the pop territory that had been largely abandoned on his previous solo outings, resulting in the most approachable of his post-Police works.

Not that he's completely given up smartypants strategies: 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice', a likeable country pastiche, wanders off into a desultory jazz piano coda at its close, and 'She's Too Good for Me' makes a dramatic swing from the jivy body of the song to a pseudo-classical middle eight. But though still prone to bouts of unnecessary embellishment, Sting's song-writing here is comparatively unencumbered by sophisticate exhibitionism.

'Heavy Cloud, No Rain' and 'It's Probably Me', for instance, are simple, one-idea songs, and all the better for it. Better still is 'Seven Days', its long, ruminative verses capped by a strong, rising chorus that ascends through the eponymous seven days in classic 'Stormy Monday' / 'Friday on My Mind' manner. It's to Sting's credit - and that of AOR producer extraordinaire Hugh Padgham - that the song ends up sounding less like an exercise than a hit.

DEACON BLUE

Whatever You Say, Say Nothing

(Columbia 473527)

DEACON Blue have drafted in the production team of Steve Osborne and Paul Oakenfold to jolly up their sound on Whatever You Say, Say Nothing, a belated jump on to a baggy bandwagon that lit out for the wasteland round about the time of the last Happy Mondays album.

To give them their due, O&O seem baffled by Deacon Blue's mundanity, and seem to settle for an approximation of concert acoustics on many songs. The first track, 'Your Town', is an obvious set-opener, a galloping protest number with big, resonant guitars, breathy harmonies, and Ricky Ross's voice muffled and distant. It's the kind of hearty, unexceptional jock-rock that has stadiums reeling the world over.

They stick fairly close to this formula throughout, taking a real risk only with 'Last Night I Dreamed of Henry Thomas', which, with its odd, miasmic arrangement and sounds lurking and looming out of the murk, is by far the most interesting thing here. Immediately after, the LP closes with a reversion to anthemic breast-beating mode. Whatever they're saying, they're saying nothing new.

LENNY KRAVITZ

Are You Gonna Go My Way

(Virgin America CDVUS 60)

THE PROBLEM with retro-rock is knowing which strand of rock history to revive. Judging by the beefy boogie of his third album's title-track, Lenny's tour of earlier musical eras has brought him to Humble Pie, which is not the route one hoped he'd take.

Likewise, after the tidily crafted music of his first two LPs, the decision to make Are You Gonna Go My Way more of a band album looks like a mistake: whipping up an authentic storm takes the kind of purpose and aesthetic focus a dilettante such as Kravitz lacks. He's the epitome of the Jack Of All Trades, an omni-talented craftsman whose only true moment of mastery came with the smooth soul pastiche 'It Ain't Over Till It's Over'.

There is little here to compare with that song - the closest he gets is the over-produced psychedelic ballad 'Believe'. Trying to snag a significant lyric, too, is like trying to pin down fog: Lenny is clearly of the school that believes true pop genius resides in the endless re-configuration of a small selection of cliches, which he throws together with little zest. It's like a fading 10th-generation photocopy of real pop.

LIVING COLOUR

Stain

(Epic 472856)

THE INNER sleeve of Stain includes more thanks to equipment firms and business associates than information about the songs, which is about right: this album is for the benefit of fellow musos rather than fans, designed to showcase the band's virtuosity rather than make an ear-pleasing sound.

They state as much with the opener 'Go Away', deliberately unlovable heavy riffing rent asunder by another of Vernon Reid's John McLaughlin-esque guitar solos. 'Mind Your Own Business' - are you getting the idea? - takes the principle a bit further, with abrupt, pointless changes in tempo between verse and chorus.

There's plenty more ponderous bluster and ugly 10-league bootstomp riffing here, with the most interesting bits reduced to non sequitur fragments, like the sample-loop at the heart of 'WTFF', which paradoxically gets less interesting the more the band add to it. 'Hemp', a poem narrated by one Andrew Fairley, has a pleasant ghostly synth backing, but it sounds token, a glimpse of light intruding on the dark tunnel they're mining so assiduously.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital