Island Of Souls
All This Time
Mad About You
Jeremiah Blues (Part 1)
Why Should I Cry For You
Saint Agnes & The Burning Train
The Wild Wild Sea
The Soul Cages
When The Angels Fall
The Soul Cages
"I think of it as my best work. All my albums sell about five or six million copies, so The Soul Cages wasn't exactly a flop. But it was attacked most in England for being pretentious. The buzzword was gloomy, I think, or depressing. Maybe I'm defensive about it, but it's very heartfelt, very earnest. I couldn't get away from these ideas about my background, my father, death..."
- Sting, Mojo, February, 1995
The Old Man and the Sea
Sting grew up near the giant shipyards of Newcastle, England, and some of his earliest memories are of the ships towering over the roofs of the houses on his row, a great industry and all of it's men tied to the sea. These early images are the anchor of the lyrics in this album, interwoven with introspection about the death of Sting's father. His previous album had drawn on his feelings regarding his mother, painting Nothing Like The Sun with a wide brush of emotional responses.
The Soul Cages is much darker, though no less colorful, despite the murky hues found within it's depths. Writing the album came in a sudden burst for Sting - he admits that he suffered a long bout of writer's block after the death of his parents. The breakthrough came as he found himself musing over his life, and he realized what a rich image the sea provided him as a metaphor for his own experiences and feelings. Sting released The Soul Cages in 1991, nearly four years after the release of his previous album.
Sting's crew of musicians for this album was much smaller than the first two recordings. First of all, Sting resumed playing bass full-time; Sting's current guitarist, Dominic Miller, made his first appearance on The Soul Cages, joined by pianist David Sancious (who had formerly worked with Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel), and by Vinnie Colaiuta, former drummer for Frank Zappa and Joni Mitchell. Sting said of his new group "They don't draw a line and say 'Well, this isn't music. This isn't what I like, therefore I won't play it.' They play everything. I hate prejudice in music. I think it's so negative - a function of fear more than anything else. I'm not a purist or archivist or musicologist. I like music as a continuum."
(quoted from www.sting.com)
Even though the band had been pared down from the size of it's previous incarnations, this caused Sting to launch into new musical territory. Sting has always desired to craft popular music, but popular music that is infused with intelligence and intricacies that don't always reveal themselves at first. The Soul Cages lists toward a more mainstream rock sound than the jazz fusions of Sting's first two efforts; this probably explains the immense popularity of "All This Time", the only song from The Soul Cagesthat managed to make any waves in the charts. (It would become Sting's second-highest charting solo effort, navigating it's way to #5 in the US, falling just short of the mark set by If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free, which made it to #3 in the US.)
An Ocean Voyage
For an excellent review of each of the songs contained in The Soul Cages, check out arielssongs review here. If I must pick my favorite songs from this recording, I would choose Why Should I Cry For You, and Mad About You - two very interesting songs about the intricacies of personal realtionships. The first is the thoughts of a son grieving over his deceased father, the other are the lovesick pleadings of the singer with an estranged lover; both songs are incredible revelations of the emotions of loss.
I think of this album as a whole, and not as a collection of songs. From start to finish, The Soul Cages is a journey of discovery - it is worth the effort to listen to the album all the way through, in order to really understand the statements Sting makes. Each song adds something to each of the others; there is a continuity to this album that his other efforts sometimes lack. The process of really hearing and understanding these songs can take some time - this is an extended ocean voyage, not some weekend cruise. Over the years since it's release, I have found that the album only takes on more meaning as I experience more of life's hurts and disappointments; Sting gives voice to many of my own questions and fears in these songs. There always seems to be something undiscovered in this recording each time I return to it.
By the numbers, The Soul Cages is not the most popular album of Sting's career, though it does contain one of his most popular songs. Many casual Sting fans dismiss the album as too dark, and in doing so, deprive themselves of the joy of discovering a work of great depth and passion. Sting's more strident followers recognize this album as his first really cohesive effort, a revealing and fascinating look at the psyche of the artist himself. In The Soul Cages, Sting completed his personal transformation from being brashly self-absorbed to becoming maturely self-confident, able to express himself without having to hide behind a facade of sneering bravado. I recommend that those who have stayed away from this album should summon their courage and strike out into the unknown waters of The Soul Cages.
My Sting Reviews
Singles, Maxi Singles and other Song Collections
All This Time [Single]
You Still Touch Me [Maxi Single]
I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying [Maxi Single]
Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot [Maxi Single]
The Dream Of The Blue Turtles
Nothing Like The Sun
The Soul Cages
Ten Summoner's Tales
Brand New Day
All This Time
The Soul Cages Concert Tour
Great Music to Play While: brooding over life, the universe and everything