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BURNING STING : * * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty :

October 11, 1987|CHRIS WILLMAN

* * * * ". . . NOTHING LIKE THE SUN." Sting. A&M.

In the past, even Sting's biggest fans might have occasionally supposed that they were the ones getting stung, emotionally speaking. Even as concerted an effort to warm him up image-wise as the "Bring on the Night" documentary film only served to further the suspicion that underneath the man's cool exterior lay, well, a cool interior.

His second solo studio album, however, burns with real emotion, though its musical veneer is once again quite cool, as in \o7 jazz \f7 cool (more mellow even than the first album, in fact). Three of the 12 song titles include the word \o7 heart\f7 , and though you want to dock points when someone has the nerve to title a tune "Be Still My Beating Heart," you can't. It sounds like Sting actually has one (a heart, that is), full of romantic fear and trepidations, no less.

And there are again no points to dock when Sting predictably pulls out his Amnesty International stripes for "They Dance Alone," a moving companion piece to U2's "Mothers of the Disappeared" in which he describes the loved ones left behind by the imprisoned or dead dancing solo in protest and grief--a symbol good enough to be a metaphor, but actually a practice in Chile, the song's setting. The following cut, "Fragile," best brings together the album's romantic and topical tensions for an \o7 only human\f7 statement of faith.

Branford Marsalis (sax) and Kenny Kirkland (keyboards) are the key musical links between the last album and this one. With compelling jazzy-funky grooves that are insistently low-key and obsessive, ". . . Nothing Like the Sun" lives up, in a way, to its Shakespeare-derived title--it's \o7 noir\f7 through and through, but a curiously warm \o7 noir\f7 . Here in Sting's shadowland, the heat is finally, palpably on.

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