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Sting Keeps His Faith in Style

Pop Music | Record Rack

September 26, 1999|ROBERT HILBURN

The singer's latest album thrives with intimacy and his individuality.

*** 1/2

STING

"Brand New Day"

A&M

The millennium is a perilous topic for songwriters, because it's so easy to embarrass yourself with grandiose or overly sentimental statements. So it's clear that Sting is in top form when he opens his latest album with a millennium-minded love song that doesn't come close to making you wince.

From its graceful melody to its delicate arrangement, the devotional "A Thousand Years" recalls the intimacy and individuality of the veteran singer-songwriter's most winning works. And things get even better with "Desert Rose," a tale of almost mystical longing filled with exotic images and highlighted by Sting's hookup with Algerian singer Cheb Mami.

Over the next eight numbers, Sting explores various facets of romance in a wide range of musical styles that move between bossa nova ("Big Lie, Small World"), down-home country ("Fill Her Up") and his trademark mix of jazz, pop-rock and world music.

"Brand New Day" (due in stores Tuesday) doesn't have the captivating focus of his best album "The Soul Cages," his 1991 reflection on the death of his father. The wry "Fill Her Up" and the moody "Tomorrow We'll See" (another story of a prostitute's plight) should work well in concert, but their overtly dramatic structures undermine the innocence and introspection of the album.

Mostly, however, "Brand New Day," featuring such guest artists as Stevie Wonder and James Taylor, overflows with the imagination and ambition that have characterized Sting's solo career.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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