General
Album Title: Ten Summoner's Tales
Artist: Sting
Production: Hugh Padgham and Sting
Release Date: March 9, 1993
Record Label: A&M Records
Peak Chart Position: US #2; UK #2


Principal Musicians
Sting - vocals, basses
Dominic Miller - guitars
David Sancious - keyboards
Vinnie Colaiuta - drums


Track Listing
Prologue (If I Ever Lose My Faith In You) (4:27)
Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven) (5:06)
Fields Of Gold (3:38)
Heavy Cloud No Rain (3:42)
She's Too Good For Me (2:28)
Seven Days (4:36)
Saint Augustine In Hell (5:12)
It's Probably Me (5:05)
Everybody Laughed But You (3:48)
Shape Of My Heart (4:37)
Something The Boy Said (5:26)
Epilogue (Nothing 'Bout Me) (3:43)
Total Minutes: 51:48


Singles
If I Ever Lose My Faith In You (#17)
Fields Of Gold (#23)
Seven Days (#25)
Shape Of My Heart
Nothing 'Bout Me
She's Too Good For Me (France only)


Sting's solo albums always tend to be reflections of his mindset at the time of their release and Ten Summoner's Tales is no exception. His previous release, The Soul Cages, was a commercial flop and many critics of the day considered it Sting's last hurrah. This was truly quite foolish, as The Soul Cages is an absolutely brilliant album, but very, very intense. Sting had exorcised most of his inner demons connected with the death of his father through its recording and found himself at peace with the world around him. He was tired of writing "confessionals", as he termed them. Out of this tranquility arose Ten Summoner's Tales.

The title is a clever literary play on words. Sting's real name is Gordon Sumner (though even his wife refers to him as Sting), which derives from the word "Summoner". In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, one of the many pilgrims on the road to Canterbury is a Summoner, one charged with summoning people to court, and the allusion appealed to Sting, who taught English before his career in music. Ten Summoner's Tales and Canterbury Tales both utilize a wide variety of styles and messages in telling their assorted and disparate stories. The impression of Sting as a bard, telling fantastic fables and amusing anecdotes in a medieval setting is furthered by the album cover and sleeve photography, which feature Sting in various gothic settings, even going so far as to strap a lute over his shoulder and seat him upon a shaggy white horse.

Sting confesses that while he attempted to write an album that was intended to entertain, he could not divorce his own experiences and feelings from the music. Despite his claim in the final track that "You'll still know nothin' 'bout me", many of the songs are sung from the perspectives of characters that Sting has assumed or have been forced upon him.

The precise number of songs on the album varies depending upon which version of it you have. The American release contains 11 tracks, with the final song, Nothing 'Bout Me, labeled as an epilogue to remain in harmony with the title. Similarly, in releases which include the song Everybody Laughed But You, the opening track, If I Ever Lose My Faith In You, is made a prologue.

Citing his long-standing dislike for studios, Sting elected to record the album in the dining room of Lake House, his 400 year old Wiltshire home, not far from Stonehenge. He felt this allowed him and his band-mates to connect with each other and the project, despite the overly loud drums. The house gave off a much more genuine feel than that of a studio and became almost as big a contributor to the feel of the album as Sting himself. Sting was happy and his environment, with the windows open, a beautiful view of the trees and sky, and the smell of home-cooking wafting in from the kitchen, helped produce an album with a contented and relaxed atmosphere. Ten Summoner's Tales was a fun album to make, from beginning to end, and in the end, was a critical, commercial and personal success. It went triple platinum, produced two Top 10 singles and proved once and for all that Sting as a solo artist was here to stay.


Track Details

Prologue (If I Ever Lose My Faith In You) (4:27)
Written by Sting
This song reflects and attitude that must have been very popular at the time, because it became the most played radio song of 1993 in the United States. A great many people were becoming fed up with politics, science, technology, religion, the media and so forth, but most people still held on to hope. This hope, this faith as it is presented in the song, is what holds us together. It's not important what it is that you have faith in, perhaps yourself, God, your producer, love, the idea that things will get better... It doesn't matter as long as you have something. The song is not about having faith in any particular thing, but about the importance of hope.

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

Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven) (5:06)
Written by Sting
This is the first time that Sting delved into country to write a song. Granted, it is far from the stereotypical country sound, but the roots are definitely there, most particularly when the song jumps from the jazzy 7/4 verse into the 4/4 straight-up country chorus. The song lampoons Spaghetti Westerns, yet the core of the tale is almost Shakespearean. It tells a story of a well-armed band of brothers who arrive in a small town in desperate need of aid. The brothers are promised a wife apiece should they drive out the bandits that plague the town, but upon completion they discover that there is only one maiden to be had and brother turns on brother. After all, love is stronger than justice.

I look forward to a better day
But ethical stuff never got in my way
And though there used to be brothers seven
The other six are singing in heaven

Fields Of Gold (3:38)
Written by Sting
Quite arguably one of the most beautiful popular music songs ever written, Fields of Gold has but one shortcoming: it gets played entirely too often on the radio. Looking out over the waving fields of barley near his country home, Sting felt "it looked like there could have been people making love in the barley, or the wind seemed like it was making love to the barley" and he used it as the central metaphor in this touching love song. The lyrics are simple and deeply moving, as only the most uncomplicated of songs are capable. Fields of Gold, like many songs on the album, has a very Spanish feel to it, brought about by Dominic Miller's nylon stringed guitar accompaniment.

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

Heavy Cloud No Rain (3:42)
Written by Sting
Upbeat and funky, Heavy Cloud No Rain, is both fun and quite clever. Originally entitled Heavy Guitar No Brain, Sting reworked it when he became inspired by a drought England had been undergoing. The lyrics dip into the history books with a reference to the beheading of Louis XVI, who hoped for rain to give him a stay of execution. Sting then shifts to a farmer so desperate to revive his crops that he stoops to witchcraft, to no success. Then we fast-forward to present day where we confront the narrator's romantic troubles.

I asked my baby if there'd be some way
She said she save her love for a rainy day
So I look in the sky, but I look in vain
Heavy cloud, but no rain

She's Too Good For Me (2:28)
Written by Sting
She's Too Good For Me is about as close to straight up rock 'n' roll as Sting ever gets, until you get 64 bars in, of course... Not content to simply write a radio hit, he brings in a string quartet and quiets right down to add a little variety and jibe with the lyrics of the song. The song is about a man whose significant other doesn't seem to like much of anything about him, but Sting, both lyrically and in real life, listens to the Bard: "To thine own self be true."

Would she prefer it if I washed myself more often than I do?
Would she prefer it if I took her to an opera or two?
I could distort myself to be the perfect man
She might prefer me as I am. Oh,

Seven Days (4:36)
Written by Sting
In Seven Days, Sting gets to poke a little fun at his intellectual reputation, placing himself in the position of a man competing for the affections of a woman with a hulking behemoth of a man. The Seven Days the narrator speaks of are the days remaining for him to win her heart. The song was an attempt to challenge both himself and his talented band by writing a song in a melange of styles, reggae beat, show tune chords, in 5/4 time. The verse and chorus contrast dynamically, contributing to the sprightly and fun feel of the song. The song closes with a brief jump back to Sting's days with The Police as he sings the lyrics of Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic since it expresses the view of the narrator.

The fact he's over six feet ten
Might instil fear in other men
But not in me
The mighty flea
Ask if I am mouse or man
The mirror squeaked, away I ran
He'll murder me in time for his tea

Saint Augustine In Hell (5:12)
Written by Sting
This is a flat-out fabulous song. It's fun, it's dynamic, the lyrics are inspired and it's richly textured. On the surface, the story is about a young man who falls in love with his best-friend's girlfriend, who exacts his revenge upon him with a switchblade, and his subsequent journey to hell. Sting always found the story of St. Francis of Assissi fascinating, and his favorite quote from this famous religious personage, "God make me pure, but not yet", is echoed in the song's chorus. Sting was enchanted by the idea of St. Augustine going to hell and finding that its denizens were not so unlike himself.

The less I need the more I get
Make me chaste but not just yet
It's a promise or a lie
I'll repent before I die

It's Probably Me (5:05)
Written by Sting, Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton
It's Probably Me is one of the best songs on the album. Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton called Sting and asked him to contribute a song to the soundtrack of Lethal Weapon 3, which they were working on. Sting adapted the theme and wrote lyrics inspired by the movies, about the love and respect shared by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover's characters, much though they hate to admit it. The original recording featured Eric Clapton on guitar, but Sting and his band rerecorded it for Ten Summoner's Tales with a more "nocturnal" feel.

If there's one guy, just one guy
Who'd lay down his life for you and die
It's hard to say it
I hate to say it
But it's probably me

Everybody Laughed But You (3:48)
Written by Sting
This track was not included in the American release, though I can't see why. The tale in this particular song is about a young lover who is told by all his friends that the woman he wants is entirely out of his reach, though if asked she would have been the first to disagree. In the end, he loses touch with all his friends who go on to success and riches, only to lose it all. Yet all this time, the woman they said he had no chance with remained with him and they achieved a more tangible and lasting success. In this song as in all the others in this album, Sting's lyrical and story-telling skills make themselves plainly known.

Sometimes I would read of things they'd done in magazines
They made the scene
Everybody left with such important things to do
But I'm not blue
Everybody left but you

Shape Of My Heart (4:37)
Written by Sting and Dominic Miller
Shape Of My Heart sounds particularly like a flamenco song with the clear tone of the nylon string guitar throughout. I almost expect to hear castanets in the background. The lyrics in this one are especially brilliant. Sting weaves a tale about a skilled card-sharp whose interest lies not so much in the game itself, but in the mystical connections of luck and chance. Despite his philosophical yearnings, his blank mask betrays no sign of emotion and he finds it impossible to retain the affections of the woman he loves. This song also reflects the attitude of Sting towards the music industry. He plays the game, earning money and garnering awards, but he's really in it for the creative aspect and the chance to write and perform music for a living.

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

Something The Boy Said (5:26)
Written by Sting
Something The Boy said echoes back to The Soul Cages with its darker tone and particularly the preoccupation with death. It tells the haunting tale of an ill omen given by the son of a troop commander before they head out on a long journey across desolate wastelands. The captain dismisses their concerns, but the boy was right... Sting has an exceptional ability to write gory and spooky lyrics, though this song and The Soul Cages album are the only examples of this skill.

Am I dead or am I living?
I'm too afraid to care, I'm too afraid to know
I'm too afraid to look behind me
At the feast of the crow

Epilogue (Nothing 'Bout Me) (3:43)
Written by Sting
Ten Summoner's Tales closes with a perky little tune about the tendency of philosophical critics to pick apart his songs. It's jazzy and upbeat, contrasts nicely with the previous track, and is an excellent way to end the album. The lyrics take the form of the narrator explaining that even if you took an NSA-like attitude towards investigating him, you would find nothing more than the fact that he is a simple man leading a simple life.

Search my house with a fine tooth comb
Turn over everything 'cause I won't be home
Set up your microscope, and tell me what you see
You'll still know nothin' 'bout me




If You Liked This Album...
I would strongly recommend listening to Sting's first solo album The Dream Of The Blue Turtles if you are a fan of the jazzier elements of this album. If you are more of a fan of the musical tangents Sting began taking with this album (Spanish, Country, etc...), then you should listen to his later releases, Brand New Day and especially Mercury Falling.

My sincere thanks go out to tes for developing an excellent album writeup format which I have borrowed with her permission. If you intend to node an album, this is the way to do it. See: Band On The Run; Abbey Road Thanks also to trembling for finding the U.S. chart info for me. Lastly, I'd like to thank Eco for pointing out my misinterpretation of Something The Boy Said.


Sources:
Sting 101 - users.sisna.com/clio95/sting.html
Sting.com
Ten Summoner's Tales album sleeve

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