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 & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on The Crimson Field
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
    Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

    Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

    The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
    Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

    Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

    This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
    Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

    Education: Secret of Taunton's success

    Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
    10 best smartphones

    10 best smartphones

    With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal