The Good: Some truly memorable singles, Vocals, Many of the lyrics, Duration
The Bad: Only five truly recognizable, enduring, songs
The Basics: Sting was struggling to find his own sound for his first solo decade, which undermines much of Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 – 1994.
When it comes to compilation albums – albums that claim to be either the “best of” or “greatest hits” of an artist or group without providing much (if any) new content) – I am often amused by studios and artists who jump the gun. While the most severe example of this phenomenon might well be James Taylor’s Greatest Hits (reviewed here!), my current Artist Of The Month, Sting, is another artist who may have prematurely presented the “best of” with Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 – 1994. To his credit, Sting only claims these are the best works for his first decade as a solo musical artist and the album is not bad or claiming to be “greatest hits” from that era.
Unfortunately, Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 – 1994 is a lackluster compilation album unlikely to sell the enduring greatness of Sting as a musical artist. It appears in his first decade – and I was conscious and a music listener during that time – he struggled to find his own, distinct and interesting sound. Some of the songs on Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 – 1994 sound like they could have been b-sides from The Police and that diminishes some the idea that Sting is presenting on his own (or it strengthens the concept that he truly ruled the Police and they might as well have stuck together and followed his vision for a few more years).
With fourteen songs, clocking out at a hefty 65 minutes, Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 – 1994 is very much the embodiment of Sting as he made music on his first four albums (plus two singles new to the compilation). All fourteen of the songs were written by Sting and he is the primary vocalist on all of them. While he is not credited as a producer on Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 – 1994, the albums from which the songs were culled had quite a bit of Sting’s creative influence so even if this album is not one he endorsed, it is indicative of his work.
On Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 – 1994, Sting is presented as a pop-light rock musical artist who foreshadows his future works with the new singles on the album. “When We Dance” is a melancholy pop ballad that has a musing quality that sounds distinctly like Sting. Instrumentally, Sting’s works on Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 – 1994 are dominated by keyboards, bass, and drums, with a few guitar-driven tracks. The keyboard/piano sound helps create a more mellow, light rock feel for the album and while it is not the most energetic album, it is not at all bad. The most musically distinctive song is probably “Fields Of Gold” as it does not sound like any other song on the album or like any tracks made by The Police.
Vocally, Sting is known for his smooth, tenor voice and that is well-represented on Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 – 1994. Sting has a very natural voice on almost all of the songs (“Be Still My Beating Heart” is a little more produced), but in general, he sings clearly in the mid-register vocals that give him a slightly smoky sound that is very listenable.
Most of the songs on Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 – 1994 are about romantic relationships and Sting’s poetics evolve over the course of the album. On one of the album’s two unique songs, Sting captures the intensity of desire incredibly well when he sings “If I could break down these walls / And shout my name at heaven's gate / I'd take these hands / And I'd destroy the dark / Machineries of fate / Cathedrals are broken / Heaven's no longer above / And hellfire's a promise away / I'd still be saying / I'm still in love” (“When We Dance”). In that way, he proves he is an artist who planned to remain relevant long after this album was released.
Sting is poetic, but Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 – 1994 is a mix of popular songs like “Fields Of Gold,” “All This Time” and “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” and utterly forgettable songs, like “They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo)” and “Fragile.” The result is an erratic compilation album that is not as enduring as (one hopes) a career retrospective of Sting’s works will eventually be. Only for the singles-only fan who wants a little more than just the radio hits, Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 – 1994 is otherwise an average album easy to pass by.
The best track is “Fields Of Gold,” the low point is the unmemorable “Why Would I Cry For You?”
For other works featuring Sting or The Police, please visit my reviews of:
Songs From The Labyrinth
Every Breath You Take: The Singles - The Police
For other music reviews, please visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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