Given Sting’s far-reaching ambition and interests, it was merely a matter of time before he recorded an orchestral album, but 2010’s Symphonicities surprises by offering symphonic arrangements of his older songs instead of a new work. This is a canny move, for the common complaint lodged against rock-classical crossovers is against the quality of the material -- think Paul McCartney or Billy Joel -- a criticism that can’t be leveled here, as this is a selection of some of Sting’s best songs. By relying on his catalog, Sting wound up with an album that is pop, not classical, in structure, but the sound of Symphonicities is surely symphonic, with “Next to You” driven by sawing strings instead of buzzing guitars. Occasionally, this changes the impact of a song, but rarely does it alter its intent; indeed, there are a handful of tunes, like “Englishman in New York” and “When We Dance,” that feel unaltered in this larger setting. Naturally, it’s the Police songs that are changed most -- “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” bears a sprightly yet dreamy arrangement, “Roxanne” trades its reggae rhythm for a languid, seductive lilt -- and it’s also on these familiar songs where Sting’s engagement is palpable. He may not be radically reinventing these songs, but he’s certainly reinvigorated by this lush setting, and this energy prevents Symphonicities from falling into pretentious traps; it’s lively and fun, and it’s Sting’s most satisfying record in a long time.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine