Title: The Last Ship 2013
Formats: Disc, LP, Super Deluxe (*with concert video), http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/the-last-ship?store=music&keyword=the+last+ship
Genre: Music, folk stories, audio literature
Literary elements: Metaphor, allegory
Synopsis: Folk stories are always entertaining. Folk stories set to music to music are most enthralling. Sting, the artist, launches an entirely new category that one may call audio-literature. Once a well accomplished musician and song writer known as Sting, he is now is a dramatist and playwright/musical writer. He has created Geordie, audio-literature, folk stories. Listeners and readers follow his journey as he writes of the trails of his father, family, and friends, the ship builders. Joining forces with a Tyneside crew, he embarks upon the task of assuming the voices of his kinswomen and kinsmen. This album is the prelude to the Broadway show which will make a preliminary debut in Boston, Massachusetts later in 2014.
The audio component of this literature is important because Sting actually assumes a Geordie, literary voice. For the non-Anglo Saxon or non-Anglophile, this is the dialect of the Northeast of England (Newcastle-upon-Tyne). Listeners/readers gain a historical text focusing upon the area of old, as a center for the shipping industry. One also grasps the nature of the various jobs of ship builders. Sting provides the listener/reader with humorous insight into the personalities of ship welders. These hearty men are reputed to be slightly ‘looney’ because of their susceptibility/subjection to the intense fumes emitted during the welding process. Perhaps, as a result, these men are devoted music lovers and singers; enjoying the resonance of sounds experienced when they sing beneath their welding helmets. Few others appreciate the sounds which reverberate from the welders helmets But the men (according to Sting) are undaunted.
The voices in this anthology evolve naturally. The voices are those of the different characters speaking of their life and experiences. Here is a brief summary of some of the audio stories/songs: The Last Ship is a song that becomes as a metaphor and symbol within the format of musical alliteration via the visual images that listeners create. Dead Man’s Boots is an anthem (of sorts) of Sting and his defiance of the script of life written for him. The song reveals Sting’s resolve not to become entombed in the life of a ship builder; as those before him. August Winds is a serenade to the valor and strength of the ship builders. Practical Arrangement is one of those cantos from a tragic hero. You know that his love will never work out. But, you are intrigued with the hero’s desperate attempts to undo the will of fate. Ballad Of The Great Eastern is a song that focuses upon England’s greatest engineer, Brunel. Listeners/readers will learn a great deal about the Brunel era through this song. So To Speak is the tragic soliloquy of the protagonist of this musical. He makes a last stand for his integrity and self-worth as man in the face of his impending death. Finally, readers will listen to the philosophical symbolism of The Last Ship (Reprise). Sting brings his listeners and readers to terms with the reality of the launching our own last ships.
In short, this collection is one to listen to, read (the lyrics are provided with the album), and see (the video is available online and as a keepsake with the deluxe album set. Historians and Anglophiles pick up
the album and prepare for a trip to Boston and/or New York to see the full production of these stories on stage.
The concert video for The Last Ship is available online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbMY9lf58FA
Critique: I, by chance, happened to see the Sting concert for The Last Ship on British television, in December, 2013, during my extended holiday stay in the UK. I was excited and I wanted to get the album immediately because I enjoyed the stories that he told about each song and the journey that each song represented. I knew the potential for this work as a teaching tool. Sting, a former teacher, is still very much the teacher. Historians, English educators, Sociologists, and cultural researchers will be entertained and prompted to share this work with colleagues and students. I endorse the study and use of this work as a teaching tool for all academics.
****This song collection is Sting’s first in ten years and his first launch as a musical writer. It has been a long wait, but good things come to those who wait.