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Sting & Shaggy: 44/876 review

In the video for Don’t Make Me Wait, the single that preceded Sting & Shaggy’s new album 44/876, the pair cruise through the streets of Kingston, Jamaica in a Jeep Wrangler and Sting hangs out, fist-bumping locals, drinking red stripe, playing pool and watching some old timers play dominoes. Later on, the former Police frontman sings with Shaggy at a booty-heavy local disco. Visually, this represents the new record very well… you know it’s a bit ridiculous but you can’t help but enjoy it.

The reggae songs are hooky, with plenty of strong melodies and soaked in self-referential cues “Shaggy and Sting ina combination… ” announces Shaggy over the intro of the title track, before Sting comes in and name-checks his “good friend Shaggy”.

The lyrics are largely feel good, with talk of getting back with ‘my baby’, beautiful days, Jamaica, birds singing, sunshine and the Caribbean sea. Occasionally, they veer towards parody, with one Sting-sung couplet in Just One Lifetime that almost made me laugh out loud: “We thought we’d make a run for it, not knowing where we’re headed, we packed the car with both our bags and filled her up unleaded”.

That song is one of a few that go beyond the frivolous and gently address wider issues. On the title track, Sting also points out that “the politics of this country, are getting to me” and on the pumping Dreaming In The USA Sting & Shaggy ruminate on the faded American Dream and the plight of immigrants (Shaggy pertinently uses this song to remind us that he once served his country).

The album fails to deliver a standout track that could conceivably be called ‘a classic’ but there is nevertheless something to enjoy at just about every turn, provided you leave any musical snobbery at the door. The song 44/876 (its title taken from the country dialling codes of the UK and Jamaica) drives forward purposefully with punctuating orchestral stabs and a skipping percussive beat, before leading into a more traditional reggae number, Morning Is Coming. Waiting For The Break Of Day is excellent, with its minor chord undertones, while 22nd Street is a jazzy and plaintive number with a nostalgic narrative of lost love which manages to survive this hilarious line from Shaggy: “To get yuh body was my goal, but yuh fit perfectly ina di wifey roll.

Sad Trombone is probably the nearest we get to traditional solo Sting, and it’s pleasingly evocative of past glories, with melodic elements and intonation recalling The Dream Of The Blue Turtles.

Shaggy sings and raps throughout the record and does a great job of just being Shaggy. Not being a fan, particularly, I was prepared for this to be a bit annoying, and a perhaps even a deal-breaker, but it wasn’t. Against the odds, 44/876 works, because even the average tracks are fun and are well produced (confusingly, by a longtime Shaggy cohort called ‘Sting International’). I quite liked the other Sting’s 2016 album, 57th & 9th, but compared to this new record it sounds a bit tentative and it’s not a bundle of laughs. I find myself wanting to play – and subsequently enjoying – 44/876 much more.

So who’d have thought it? Shaggy appears to be (Scooby) doing Sting a favour here – it’s not the other way around. It’s easy to be cynical about this collaboration, but I think the same instinct that drove Sting to the lute, has lead him to the path of Shaggy; that is the urge to do something a bit different, something that will keep him interested in creating new music.

44/876 is out now. For bonus points – and an extra dose of incredulity – buy the deluxe edition, which features four extra tracks including a Sting & Shaggy version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Changes Everything! Be aware that the 2CD super deluxe doesn’t include those four tracks but does offer some live material (read about the formats here).

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Sting

44/876 - 2CD super deluxe

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Amazon uk 6LP coloured vinyl box 32.13
Amazon de 6LP coloured vinyl box 37.99
Amazon usa 6LP coloured vinyl box 78.04
Amazon fr 6LP coloured vinyl box 29.49
Amazon it 6LP coloured vinyl box 45.34
Amazon es 6LP coloured vinyl box 41.99
Amazon ca 6LP coloured vinyl box 64.17
JPC de 6LP coloured vinyl box 39.99
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Sting & Shaggy

44/876 - deluxe CD

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Amazon uk 6LP coloured vinyl box 9.98
Amazon de 6LP coloured vinyl box 11.95
Amazon usa 6LP coloured vinyl box 16.55
Amazon fr 6LP coloured vinyl box 12.39
Amazon it 6LP coloured vinyl box 16.2
Amazon es 6LP coloured vinyl box 13.66
Amazon ca 6LP coloured vinyl box 14.96
JPC de 6LP coloured vinyl box 19.99
HMV uk 6LP coloured vinyl box 9.99
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Sting & Shaggy

44/876 - vinyl LP

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Amazon uk 6LP coloured vinyl box 23.99
Amazon de 6LP coloured vinyl box 21.99
Amazon usa 6LP coloured vinyl box 20.89
Amazon fr 6LP coloured vinyl box 17.49
Amazon it 6LP coloured vinyl box 24.29
Amazon es 6LP coloured vinyl box 21.99
Amazon ca 6LP coloured vinyl box 32.97
JPC de 6LP coloured vinyl box 27.99
HMV uk 6LP coloured vinyl box 23.99
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Sting & Shaggy

44/876 - standard CD

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Amazon uk 6LP coloured vinyl box 7.75
Amazon de 6LP coloured vinyl box 9.94
Amazon usa 6LP coloured vinyl box 9.97
Amazon fr 6LP coloured vinyl box 13.48
Amazon it 6LP coloured vinyl box 9.2
Amazon es 6LP coloured vinyl box 11.36
Amazon ca 6LP coloured vinyl box 13.53
JPC de 6LP coloured vinyl box 16.99
HMV uk 6LP coloured vinyl box 9.99
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44/876

1. 44/876 (Feat. Morgan Heritage & Aidonia)
2. Morning Is Coming
3. Waiting for the Break of Day
4. Gotta Get Back My Baby
5. Don’t Make Me Wait
6. Just One Lifetime
7. 22nd Street
8. Dreaming in the U.S.A.
9. Crooked Tree
10. To Love and Be Loved
11. Sad Trombone
12. Night Shift

Extra tracks (deluxe only)

13. If You Can’t Find Love
14. Love Changes Everything
15. 16 Fathoms
16. Don’t Make Me Wait (Dave Audé Rhythmic Radio Mix)

Bonus CD (super deluxe only)

1. Englishman in New York (Live at Shaggy & Friends, Kingston, Jamaica)
2. Fields of Gold (Live at Shaggy & Friends, Kingston, Jamaica)
3. Message in a Bottle (Feat. Agent Sasco) [live at Shaggy & Friends, Kingston, Jamaica]
4. Don’t Make Me Wait (Live at Shaggy & Friends, Kingston, Jamaica)
5. Roxanne (Live at Shaggy & Friends, Kingston, Jamaica)
6. Cherrytree Radio Interview

35 responses to Sting & Shaggy: 44/876 review

  1. DiscoDave2000 says:

    I had grave reservations about this album, but was happily surprised at how much fun these guys seem to be having and how that carries over to the listener. It’s been in heavy rotation in the car (along with Kasey Musgraves – Golden Hour, Leon Bridges – Good Thing and Josh Rouse -Love In The Modern Age). My personal fave tracks: Gotta Get Back My Baby, Don’t Make Me Wait, To Love and Be Loved, and YES – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Changes Everything to a reggae beat! Sting should do a Labour of Love type collection of his favorite songs in a reggae way. And I know that haters gonna’ hate… ;-)

  2. Julian H says:

    Kudos for a fair and well-written review.

  3. Neil says:

    What’s Super Deluxe about 2 CD’s and a bunch of crappy postcards that warrants £30 + for this ? Not that i would buy it anyway.

  4. andrewR says:

    Rubbish, surprised at you Paul usually more discerning . Sting and shaggy must have tax bills to pay or poorly paid immigrants to replace on his olive farm on the one hand and a largely forgotten one hit wonder career to reinvigorate on the other . Couldn’t the lord have taken these two and left prince and Bowie?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I based my review on repeated listenings to the album. You seem to just hate Sting & Shaggy. I guess SDE readers can decide.

      • Julian H says:

        And this is the exact reason why I tend to spend less & less time on forums. These debates, which quickly deviate from discussing the music or leaving the possiblity that somebody else might find something to enjoy and that they wouldn’t be “wrong”, and morph into ad hominem attacks against both music fans and creators. Give it a break, people? It’s art, and art is subjective (at least to a degree). /rant over

      • Graham Smith says:

        Well said Paul

    • Robbie says:

      Consider yourself lucky that the Lord didn’t take you so we could Keep Prince. My, my, my, what a stupid, stupid comment from you, Mr. andrewR

      • andrewR says:

        Just an opinion and tongue in cheek but my my aren’t some people righteous? Bad taste I might accept as a comment but stupid ??

  5. Steven Roberts says:

    “So, Mr. Sting – can I just ask you what the Hell you were thinking with that Andrew Lloyd Webber cover !?!”

    • DiscoDave2000 says:

      @Steven Roberts – I gotta say that I am loving that reggae-fied ALW cover. It’s totally unexpected.

  6. Klaus says:

    For those interested:

    Sting and Shaggy played a pre-release concert in a church in Cologne (Germany) in mid-april in front of 400 people who won their tickets via radio station WDR2.

    This can be watched via videostream on the website of said station up to May 17th.

    Here’s the link:

    https://www1.wdr.de/radio/wdr2/veranstaltungen/shaggy-sting-100.html

  7. Chris says:

    Sounds like Sting with Shaggy backed by Sublime and Sugar Ray.
    Bummer.

  8. John says:

    Well summed up Paul and others above…light frothy fun indeed! It puts a smile on my face for its upbeat tempos and the over the top moments. Cheers! :-)

  9. My god, it sounds atrocious :)

  10. CJ says:

    I had no idea what to expect, but I actually enjoyed listening to it. If this is the “something different” that keep Sting making music without picking up the fucking lute again, then by all means–allow them to be wedded artistically together forever.

  11. Olov says:

    Spot on, Paul. Great read, I totally agree with you.

  12. daveid76 says:

    I have to admit I enjoyed Don’t Make Me Wait, so it’s good to hear that the album is good.

  13. Nick Love says:

    Yes my wife and I both laughed and expected to hate this, but being a Sting fan I picked it up anyways and we both ended up enjoying it. Honestly like it better than anything he’s done since Desert Rose.

  14. Kevin M says:

    I like Shaggy but I don’t like Sting.

  15. maxx says:

    Have you heard the “Shaggyless” version that surfaced on the web???

    https://audiomack.com/playlist/thepoliceexcommunicated/44876-shaggyless-version

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Haha

    • Chris Squires says:

      Surely this version should just then be called 44?
      Or is that album name taken by Adele for use in 14 years time?

    • Paul E. says:

      That’s good stuff! More impressive would be to integrate Shagmaster’s vocals on “The Soul Cages”. Mash—up style doesn’t count, rather, legit cut and pasted vocals (in time & rhythm).

  16. Auntie Sabrina says:

    Whilst the single is very good, I’m not a fan of cardboard sleeves. Blossoms album is the same too…

  17. MusicFan says:

    I really like this album. As always Sting’s writing is great.

    Some of the formats are cheaper on the official store and P&P is very reasonable : https://store.universalmusic.com/stingandshaggy/

    Currently I’m immersed in The Soul Cages and The Last Ship project.

    In contrast to the fun he is having with Shaggy, The Last Ship (inc music and themes from The Soul Cages) is a gritty and politically charged melodrama.

    I urge everyone to see the theatre production. This is absolutely exceptional!

    I feel Sting is always at his best when exploring sociopolitical themes and in this case he is drawing on his direct experiences growing up in Wallsend Newcastle.

    After such a cathartic outpouring he deserves a bit of fun collaborating with Shaggy.

  18. Kevin S says:

    I agree. Much more enjoyable than expected! I particularly liked Sad Trombone and also – like Paul – thought it had a Blue Turtles feel.

    My advice would be – don’t get the deluxe version because no one should have to sit through the horrific version of Love Changes Everything!!

    • Tim in Miami says:

      Sad Trombone has the same horn line as the bass line in History Will Teach Us Nothing and the chorus owes a huge debt to Tomorrow We’ll See from Brand New Day

      It’s fun but I wouldn’t see the tour, which I feel is a letdown to Sting fans who already bought tickets to what they thought was a solo concert

  19. Trash says:

    Great and very apt review Paul. This line sums it up:

    “…there is nevertheless something to enjoy at just about every turn, provided you leave any musical snobbery at the door.”

    I thought I’d give it a chance, being a big Sting fan (Shaggy – not so much!) and I continue to be pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it is – in a light, Summery, frothy-pop kind of way (and there’s nothing wrong with that).
    I play it a lot more than Sting’s last solo album (which I rate as ‘just about alright’).

    Some final comments:
    – I think this is the first review I have read that correctly states the origin of the album title. I’ve read two reviews that have stated that the title is meaningless (as in ‘just random numbers’) – very annoying.
    – I was very much wondering who, or what. was meant by Sting International. So thank you for clearing that one up! :-)
    – For me “Love Changes Everything” is an absolute stinker, whether in its original form or as a cover version. Total garbage (and I almost never say that about any song – even ones that I dont like :-)!

    Thanks again Paul.

  20. Matthew says:

    I know this will be slated by many but that single is catchy and fun, personally I’ve found Sting solo work dull mostly.
    Sounds like 2 guys who genuinely get on having fun rather than any calculated career boost for either.

  21. Steven Robertson says:

    You know, I’m gonna give this a go, sounds like a fun listen.

  22. Davide (Italy) says:

    Once In a Lifetime is very very good and well produced
    Easy listening records…good for seaside days
    I’m following Sting from 1980…I was a teenager then…I’ve bought everything (lute, Symphonicities, Tha Last ship bluray…everything..)
    he will surely surprise again…#thepolice2018….can’t wait

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