Ten Summoner’s Tales is the fourth solo studio album by English rock musician Sting. The title is a combined pun of his family name, Sumner, and a character in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the summoner. Released in 1993, it explores themes of love and morality in a noticeably upbeat mood compared to his previous release, the introspective The Soul Cages released in 1991 after the loss of both his parents in the 1980s.
This album contains two US hits; “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” reached No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 while “Fields of Gold” got to No. 23.
Ten Summoner’s Tales was shortlisted for the 1993 Mercury Prize. In 1994, it was nominated for six Grammy awards including Album of the Year (losing to Whitney Houston‘s The Bodyguard), winning Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance (“If I Ever Lose My Faith in You”) and Best Long Form Music Video, while “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” was also nominated for Record and Song of the Year. (wikipedia)
Elvis, Cher, Prince, Sade—their one-word names signify all that they’re musically and culturally about. British rocker Sting should be included among these musical icons as well. Born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, this former Police band member ventured into his solo career in 1985 and has produced twelve albums to date, including his fantastic, multi Grammy Award winning fourth studio LP Ten Summoner’s Tales, released 25 years ago. His music is like buying your favorite meal. You know what you’re going to get, it’s satisfying and you’ll get it again.
With The Police and as a solo artist, Sting has mixed elements of jazz, soft rock, New Wave and reggae, usually with a mournful or hard-hitting tone. However, this album has a softer edge than his previous ones. Even the title hits a light note, with it being a play on his family name, Sumner, and a tribute to the summoner from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.
The twelve tracks explore everything from love to loss to morality. The two chart toppers from the album are “If Ever I Lose My Faith in You” and “Fields of Gold,” landing at #17 and #23 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100. All the songs could be themes for The Canterbury Tales. For example, “Love is Stronger than Justice,” “Seven Days” and “Saint Augustine in Hell” convey Sting’s inner journey just as Chaucer’s tales explored his characters’ excursions. The music is uncomplicated, hopeful yet elegiac, and sun-kissed with Sting’s grainy voice.
On its 25th anniversary, Ten Summoner’s Tales highlights the troubadour skills of the “Englishman in New York” and is just as golden today as when it first dropped. In a time when pop music is about shock value more than content, Ten Summoner’s Tales hits the ears like a musical audiobook: a series of songs that tell a tale in sequence, delighting us in the storyteller’s soulful expedition. The album does Chaucer and the Mr. Sumner proud. (by Sonya Alexander)
After two albums of muted, mature jazz-inflected pop, the last being an explicit album about death, Sting created his first unapologetically pop album since the Police with Ten Summoner’s Tales. The title, a rather awkward pun on his given last name, is significant, since it emphasizes that this album is a collection of songs, without any musical conceits or lyrical concepts tying it together. And, frankly, that’s a bit of a relief after the oppressively somber The Soul Cages and the hushed though lovely, Nothing Like the Sun. Sting even loosens up enough to crack jokes, both clever (the winking litany of celebrity pains of “Epilogue [Nothing ‘Bout Me]”) and condescending (the sneeringly catchy cowboy tale “Love Is Stronger Than Justice [The Munificent Seven]”), and the result is his best solo record. In places, it’s easily as pretentious as his earlier work, but that’s undercut by writing that hasn’t been this sharp and melodic since the Police, plus his most varied set of songs since Synchronicity. True, there isn’t a preponderance of flat-out classics — only the surging opener “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” the understated swing of “It’s Probably Me,” and the peaceful ballad “Fields of Gold” rank as classics — but, as an album, Ten Summoner’s Tales is more consistently satisfying than anything else in his catalog. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
Larry Adler (harmonica)
John Barclay (trumpet)
Guy Barker (trumpet)
Sian Bell (cello)
James Boyd (viola)
Vinnie Colaiuta (drums)
Richard Edwards (trombone)
Simon Fischer (violin)
Paul Franklin (pedal steel-guitar)
Kathryn Greeley (violin)
Dave Heath (flute)
Dominic Miller (guitar)
Mark Nightingale (trombone)
Brendan Power (harmonica)
David Sancious (keyboards)
David Sanborn (saxophone)
Sting (vocals, bass, harmonica, saxophone)
Kathryn Tickell (northumbrian smallpipes, fiddle)
David Foxxe (narration – devil’s voice on 07.)
01. Prologue (If I Ever Lose My Faith in You) (Sting) 4.31
02. Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven) (Sting) 5.11
03. Fields Of Gold (Sting) 3.42
04. Heavy Cloud No Rain (Sting) 3.48
05. She’s Too Good For Me (Sting) 2.30
06. Seven Days (Sting) 4.39
07. Saint Augustine In Hell (Narration performed by David Foxxe (Sting) 5.18
08. It’s Probably Me (Sting/Clapton/Kamen) 5.10
09. Everybody Laughed But You (Sting) 3.54
10. Shape Of My Heart (Sting/Miller) 4.39
11. Something The Boy Said (Sting) 5.29
12. Epilogue (Nothing ‘Bout Me) (Sting) 3.43
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