Three kings of rock ’n’ roll from across the pond — Sting, Paul McCartney and Elton John — have coincidentally all released new albums at practically the same time. Here’s a look at ’em, mates.
Sting “The Last Ship” (A&M)
It had been a decade since Sting put out an album of new material before he ended the drought with his recently released “The Last Ship.”
In the liner notes, Sting freely admits that he worried he had lost the spark to compose. While there are no songs here that will become universal anthems such as “Roxanne” and “Every Breath You Take” from his days as the lead singer of the Police, or “If You Love Someone, Set Them Free” and “Fields of Gold” from his solo career, “The Last Ship” is a solid work.
Gordon Sumner grew up in Tynesdale, an English shipbuilding town that would be comparable to our Norfolk, Va. A couple of years ago, to celebrate his 60th birthday, Sting returned to his hometown to look up old friends and reminisce. As the album title indicates, Tynesdale underwent a rough transition as the shipbuilding business slowed down. “Dead Man’s Boots,” the fun pub drinking tune “What Have We Got?” and of course the title cut all pay tribute to a dying manufacturing business in which men had received good wages for an honest day’s work.
Sting has always viewed romance in a somewhat jaded manner and he continues to do so now that he’s 62. “Practical Arrangement” is his answer to Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do with It,” as he coolly discusses how an older man tries to woo a single mom by saying that he will be happy to provide for her and her child — if she agrees to marry him realizing that he will never be able to sweep her off her feet.
It isn’t all downer material, however. “And Yet” is a beautiful upbeat samba, while “The Night the Pugilist Learned How To Dance” recalls a girl Sting had a crush on in high school.
It’s all enough to make one hope we won’t have to wait another 10 years to hear from Sting again.
Paul McCartney “New” (MPL)
Paul McCartney certainly hasn’t had anything to prove to anyone for decades, but he still looks and sounds quite spry at age 71. And the eternal showman is still working hard to promote his work, recently giving impromptu concerts in Times Square and at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria.
The appropriately titled “New” is not going to make anyone forget his 1974 masterpiece LP, “Band on the Run,” but tracks such as “Queenie Eye,” “Save Us” and the title cut prove that McCartney simply isn’t not too old to rock out.
“On My Way To Work” is one of those observational looks at everyday life in the vein of his 1966 hit, “Penny Lane,” while “Appreciate” has the avant-garde feel of “A Day in the Life.”
While this is not McCartney’s best album, it’s also far from his worst. No one can accuse him of coasting on his name.
Elton John “The Diving Board” (Capitol)
Elton John was the biggest rock star of them all in the early to mid-1970s. Then as disco started dominating the pop charts in the late 1970s and rock bands such as Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles made their mark, Elton’s star dimmed. But to his credit, he was able to rebound nicely in the mid-1980s and kept making hits through the 1990s.
Elton and his longtime collaborator, lyricist Bernie Taupin, are prolific on the new album “The Diving Board,” as it contains 15 tracks. Now in their mid-60s, the two are in a reflective mood as they’re concerned about being isolated as they age (“Can’t Stay Alone Tonight”) and offer a number of tunes about childhood homes both real and illusory (“A Town Called Jubilee,” “Voyeur” and “Home Again.”)
The highlight of the album is “Take This Dirty Water,” in which Elton has a gospel chorus singing behind him on a melody that reminds one a bit of 1971’s “Country Comforts.”
Longtime Elton fans will not be disappointed with “The Diving Board.”