Relaxing Yes, Inspiring No

James Taylor contributes vocals.

Sting has flirted with sweet, innocuous music for years, and with

Brand New Day it's apparent that the singer/ songwriter has

finally plunged headlong into the meringue that is adult contemporary

music. The new album subjects listeners to a good number of trite

melodies and some worldbeat-type stuff that sounds tacked on. Though

there are nice moments, they're few and far between and will require

more than a little patience from all but the most diehard Sting fans.

While Sting's voice has always been on the raspy side, the vocals here

are so sibilant and relaxed as to render many lyrics indiscernible,

which might not be such a bad thing, actually. In fact, if one is

willing to put in some intimate speaker- or headphone-time

(or simply glances at the lyric booklet), it soon becomes evident that a

good two-thirds of these songs are filled with the standard

verging-on-mystical Stingisms: "I may be numberless/ I may be innocent/

I may know many things/ I may be ignorant/ Or I could ride with kings

and conquer many lands/ Or win this world at cards and let it slip my

hands ("A Thousand Years"). Sigh.

"A Thousand Years," the album-opener, is a treacly song in which Sting's

unusually flighty vocals are augmented by floating keyboard chords and

programmed drum tracks. Next is the vaguely Middle Eastern-sounding

"Desert Rose," in which Sting practices his otherworldly chanting over

roiling world beats. "Desert Rose" (RealAudio excerpt) is a good bet for a single because it

has all the easy-to-swallow, slightly exotic appeal labels look for in

an effort to

tap adult contemporary markets.

While most of Brand New Day is just

soothing-to-the-point-of-dullness, some of it is out-and-out annoying.

On "Perfect Love ... Gone Wrong" (RealAudio excerpt),

a songwriter once known for his wit

plays the cuckolded lover with this: "This doghouse never was the place

for me/

Runner-up and second-best just ain't my pedigree/ I was so happy, just

the two of us/ Until this alpha male / Turned up in the January sale."

Later in the song a couple of bland raps kick in, kick out and

ultimately wind up on the sofa sipping tea.

With "Fill Her Up" (RealAudio excerpt), Sting tries his hand at the kind of wry country

numbers artists such as Lyle Lovett pull off with aplomb. Run through

with pedal steel guitar lines, the song attempts to jump from sly

portrait to heavy-handed moral to gospel rave-up in under five minutes,

and fails to do much of anything except cover a lot of ground.

Sting is too accomplished a songwriter and too skilled a musician not to

deliver a few gems, and a number of the melodies here display the knack

for pop hooks that made the Police one of the best bands of the '80s.

Unfortunately, too much of Brand New Day sounds, well, just plain

tired. And it leaves this former Sting fan yawning and dreaming of the

good old days.