Sunday, March 10, 2013

ten summoner's tales

Gordon Sumner stung his critics with the humor and heart of this eclectic ragbag of styles and had the biggest album of his solo career.  'Ten Summoner's Tales' shows Sting moving closer to pop music. After two intropective and mournful albums, 'Nothing Like the Sun...' dedicated to his departed mother and 'The Soul Cages' dedicated to his departed father he felt unburdened:     "I just felt that it had served its purpose personally in that I was, um, allowed to exorcise a few ghosts and uh, didn't really feel the need to do it again. So, I wanted to make a record that...get back to just writing songs about having fun, y'know? Um, which is obviously why, why I began the whole thing how many years ago? I'd write songs for, for fun. And um, I have to say that's exactly what happened. I was in a very good mood. I was, uh, with my band and I was writing songs to amuse them, to amuse myself, to amuse my family. And, uh, that kinda makes me smile when I listen to the record."

The recording took place at Lake House, Wiltshire and were produced by Sting and Hugh Padgham.  Sting reveals:    "I really don't like studios very much. I find them sort of prison-like environments. Y'know, where you don't see the air, or breathe the air, or see sunlight for months on end. So, I decided that I'd make a record at home. Y'know, with the kids around and...So I moved everybody out of the dinning room (laughs) and moved this equipment in, and, uh, and the band and their instruments and my producer and engineers. And we made a record at home in the dinning room. And the kitchen is next door so we had the nice smell of food going most of the day. And we could, y'know, walk out in the garden, open the windows and just live a real life instead of this sort of fake, uh, environment that the studio gives you, you know? It just made, it us happier basically."  The sessions included:   Sting on vocals, bass, harmonica, and saxophone; Dominic Miller on guitars; Vinnie Colaiuta on drums; David Sancious on keyboards; Larry Adler and Brendan Power on chromatic harmonica; John Barclay and Guy Barker on trumpet; Sian Bell on cello; James Boyd on viola; Richard Edwards and Mark Nightingale on trombone; Simon Fischer and Kathryn Greeley on violin; David Foxxe on narration; Paul Franklin on pedal steel guitar; Dave Heath on flute; Kathryn Tickell on Northumbrian smallpipes and fiddle; and David Sanborn on saxophone.  

'Ten Summoner's Tales' journeyed to number ten in Sweden; nine in Australia; five in the Netherlands; three in Norway and Switzerland; two in France, Germany, the UK, and the US; and number one in Austria.  The album cover photo was taken at Wardour Old Castle in Wiltshire, England, with Sting's Icelandic horse Hrímnir.  Sting explains the album's title:     "It's a mild joke. A mild literary joke, because my name, Sumner, comes from the medieval name Summoner. And a Summoner was someone who summoned you to court, or summoned you to see the king, or, you know...something. And, um, and the Canterbury Tales was written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the fifteenth century. Um, it's a collection of stories told by a group of pilgrims. So, there's a nun, there's a miller, there's a knight, there's a summoner, there's a pardoner, and they each tell a story. And there's a whole different...all kinds of stories. Romantic stories, funny stories, rude stories. All told in different styles. And there's a kind of ragbag. So I thought, there's, there's a connection here because my album is essentially a ragbag of styles, y'know? It comes from everywhere. The only thing that connects it is me. So, I thought with my connection here with this name, Summoner, and this, this, this album being a sort of eclectic ragbag of tunes I'll call it SUMMONER'S TALES, 'Ten Summoner's Tales'. So it's, it's a mild...It's quite complicated to explain to the Japanese, for example, even the French. The interesting thing about this Summoner's tale is that it's actually about farting. And, um, (laughs) It's...I mean there are depths to this joke that I didn't foresee...There's been humor in all of my, all of the records really, apart from 'The Soul Cages' which, which only had a market for the bereaved. But before that, y'know, there's a sort of... I had a tradition of sort of writing songs that were ironic or mildly funny. But people tended to concentrate on, y'know, the songs about issues. The political songs. Because they're easier to write about, y'know? It's, it's...There's a kind of handle there. And I think people got the impression at a distance that I was just writing about these sort of 'heavy' issues which wasn't actually the case. Um, and it's certainly not the case about my output, y'know? I think it's a broader output than that."

The album was nominated for the Mercury Prize and six Grammy awards including Album of the Year, winning Best Engineered Non-Classical Album, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, and Best Long Form Music Video. 'Ten Summoner's Tales' has eleven songs:  "I just like ten, as a number (laughs). I think we get around it by having the last number as a, as an epilogue. You know? It's a sort of after-thought...that you could listen to, at least, these songs and you really should put your amateur analyst hat to one side because...Maybe I'm kidding myself. I'll say you, you could listen to these songs and really, they're not really about me. But maybe I'm kidding myself. Maybe they are, y'know? Maybe you find out more from these songs than you would from deliberately autobiographical songs or confessional songs."

'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' found its way to thirty-nine in France, thirty-one in Germany, thirty in the Netherlands, twenty-eight in Ireland, seventeen in the US, sixteen in Switzerland, and fourteen in the UK.  It was nominated for Grammys for Song of the Year and Record of the Year and won the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.  Sting says:    "Quite deliberately in that the song is, are, is in two distinct parts. The first part is about the things I've lost faith in. It's quite easy to be, um, precise about the things you've lost, at least I've lost, faith in. Politics. Media. Technology. Things that, y'know, everybody feels this at the moment. And yet I, along with most other people, have a great deal of hope and y'know, a feeling of things can, things will and can get better. But so what do we place our faith in? What do we still have faith in? And I can't define that as easily as I can define what I don't believe in anymore. Uh, and yet it still exists. So I haven't defined it. I've just said, "If I ever lose my faith in you." And you, or you (laughs), could be, uh, my producer (laughs again). It could, it could be, uh, faith in, in God. It could be a faith in myself or a faith in, um, romantic love. It could be all of those things, but I don't define it. I think it's important not to define it, because it's, once you define something it's, it evaporates. I think it's important in, uh, this day and age when we're dictated to by MusicTeleVision that, y'know, what a particular song is about that, uh, the old ambiguity that songwriters had can be retained y'know?"

You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my belief in the holy church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could say all of this and worse, but
If I ever lose my faith in you
There'd be nothing left for me to do
Some would say I was a lost man in a lost world
You could say I lost my faith in the people on T.V.
You could say I'd lost my belief in our politicians
They all seemed like game show hosts to me
If I ever lose my faith in you
There'd be nothing left for me to do
I could be lost inside their lies without a trace
But every time I close my eyes, I see your face
I never saw no miracle of science
That didn't go from a blessing to a curse
I never saw no military solution
That didn't always end up as something worse,
But let me say this first
If I ever lose my faith in you
If I ever lose my faith in you
There'd be nothing left for me to do
There'd be nothing left for me to do
If I ever lose my faith
If I ever lose my faith
If I ever lose my faith
If I ever lose my faith in you

'Fields of Gold'
walked to fifty-two in Germany, forty-four in the Netherlands, twenty-five in Switzerland, twenty-three in the US, twenty-two in Ireland, and sixteen in the UK.  Sting reveals:     "I moved to the country for the first time in my life in, in England. And, um, there are barley fields right next door. And, uh, I remember walking through one day and, and just, just seeing this crop being moved by the, the, the wind and the sunshine. And it looked like, um, - well there could have been people making love in the barley! (laughs) Or the wind could have been, y'know, the wind seemed like it was making love to the barley. So, I thought that was a great metaphor for love. And, uh, I don't know. It's kind of a love song."

You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold
So she took her love for to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold
Will you stay with me, will you be my love
Among the fields of barley?
We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in fields of gold
See the west wind move like a lover so
Upon the fields of barley
Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth
Among the fields of gold
I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left
We'll walk in fields of gold
We'll walk in fields of gold
Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold
You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold

'Shape of My Heart'

He deals the cards as a meditation
And those he plays never suspect
He doesn't play for the money he wins
He don't play for respect
He deals the cards to find the answer
The sacred geometry of chance
The hidden law of a probable outcome
The numbers lead a dance
I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that's not the shape of my heart
He may play the jack of diamonds
He may lay the queen of spades
He may conceal a king in his hand
While the memory of it fades
I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that's not the shape of my heart
And if I told you that I loved you
You'd maybe think there's something wrong
I'm not a man of too many faces
The mask I wear is one
Those who speak know nothing
And find out to their cost
Like those who curse their luck in too many places
And those who fear are lost
I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that's not the shape of my heart

'Ten Summoner's Tales'
full album:

All songs written by Sting except where noted.

1. "Prologue (If I Ever Lose My Faith in You)" 4:30
2. "Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)" 5:12
3. "Fields of Gold" 3:42
4. "Heavy Cloud No Rain" 3:39
5. "She's Too Good for Me" 2:30
6. "Seven Days" 4:40
7. "Saint Augustine in Hell" 5:05
8. "It's Probably Me" (Sting, Eric Clapton, Michael Kamen) 4:57
9. "Everybody Laughed but You"  3:53
10. "Shape of My Heart" (Sting, Dominic Miller) 4:38
11. "Something the Boy Said" 5:13
12. "Epilogue (Nothing 'Bout Me)" 3:39

'Ten Summoner's Tales' recording in Wiltshire England on February 1993.  It was directed by Doug Nichol and won a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Video.  

00:20 : If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
06:10 : Love Is Stronger Than Justice
11:49 : Fields Of Gold
15:54 : Heavy Cloud No Rain
19:46 : She's Too Good For Me
23:05 : Seven Days
28:05 : Saint Augustine In Hell
33:24 : It's Probably Me
38:25 : Shape Of My Heart
43:26 : Something The Boy Said
49:02 : Epilogue (Nothing 'Bout Me)

Sting: bass/vocal

Vinnie Colaiuta: drums
Dominic Miller: guitar
David Sancious: keyboards
Brendan Power: harmonica

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