Sting: . . . All This Time

Jason MacNeil


. . . All This Time

Label: A&M
US Release Date: 2001-11-20

If you've been fortunate to see the special behind-the-scenes documentary that coincided with the album, you may find this album to be lacking a noticeable amount of tension and initial feeling. Originally intended as the secret Policeman's ball after yet another successful album and world tour, the date of the show, September 11th, will be permanently remembered for something entirely different. In the documentary, Sting and band mates sit watching the tragic events unfolding, discuss the evening's performance and whether or not to perform. Like most of that day's footage, the stark reality speaks volumes more than any syllables uttered. They then agree to perform "Fragile", which opens this album. As the subdued musicians walk onstage, Sting speaks of the tragedy and how they may or may not continue after the opening song. Unfortunately, the snippet of mixed feelings, emotions and sadness is edited from the album configuration. Dedicated to those who lost their lives on that day, the record is eclectic and engaging even by Sting's standards.

"Fragile", a very jazzy arrangement with its salsa and Latin feel, has all the makings of a Sade outtake or b-side, with a sultry delivery Sting has become more comfortable emitting since performing songs for the motion picture "Leaving Las Vegas". The violin and orchestral overtones are visible also on "A Thousand Years" slide into the subtle, muzak territory, but strays away enough from it to be considered credible. One also notices the early introductions of the band during the bridge of "Perfect Love . . . Gone Wrong", a possible sign that they make stop soon afterwards.

What is one of the major obstacles facing an album of rearrangements is the possible bastardization of original classics. Although "All This Time" is hard to compare in terms of importance to a tune like "Roxanne", the song loses a lot of its steam immediately after the chorus, resembling a Steely Dan studio session performance than an actual pop/rock song. The live feeling is also noticeably stilted as between song banter is spliced from the proceedings, although there is some hand clapping sprinkled throughout to create a less stagnant situation. "Don't Stand So Close to Me" is another audible miscue, despite the best of inventive intentions. The song appears to end listlessly without any passion or theatrics. It's as if they are all performing in synchronicity but with all of them on some numbing autopilot. But given the circumstances, perhaps it was one of the furthest things from their minds

"When We Dance" is one of the surprising better songs on the record, with the harmony vocals of Janice Pendarvis and Katreese Barnes giving a much-needed infusion of soul and positive energy. "Roxanne" is another key component, with the piano styling of Jason Rebello and trumpet of Chris Botti adding enough substance to put it seemingly over the top. But then again, a good song is a good song is a good song, so a great accordion version wouldn't be an unfathomable possibility. The hit parade continues with the well-placed wall of sound in "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" which ascends to an almost telegraphic gospel rendition.

What is key to this album isn't that every song has been completely remade, but revamped enough to add a certain spark. A perfect example is "Fields of Gold", which sounds closest to its original. The use of flamenco guitar and slight harmony backing vocals are very pleasing and soothing to hear, but the spacious use of the instruments reminds one of Dire Straits, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You" is along the same lines, but is slightly more creative with its subtle bridge orchestration. If there are two throwaways among the 15 they would have to be "Moon Over Bourbon Street" and its Siamese twin "Dienda", both loose jazz ballads which add little to the overall proceedings, with Sting adding a Louis Armstrong growl on the former. But on the whole, the album is worth listening too, despite the context being sonically lost.





'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.


Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.


3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".


'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.