The Soul Cages

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The Soul Cages
Studio album by Sting
Released 22 January 1991
Recorded April – November 1990
Studio Guillaume Tell, Paris
Villa Salviati, Migliarino, Italy
Genre Soft rock
Jazz pop
Length 48:10
Label A&M
Producer Hugh Padgham
Sting chronology
Nada como el sol
The Soul Cages
Ten Summoner's Tales
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Chicago Tribune 2/4 stars[2]
Entertainment Weekly C[3]
Los Angeles Times 3.5/5 stars[4]
Robert Christgau (dud)[5]

The Soul Cages is the third full length studio album released by Sting. Released in 1991, it became his second No. 1 album in the United Kingdom.[6] The album was dedicated to Sting's recently deceased father who died in 1989. The Soul Cages is a concept album in which the songs are a reflection of his relationship with his father and how he felt after his death. It spawned four singles: "All This Time", "Mad About You", "Why Should I Cry For You" and "The Soul Cages". The title track won the first ever Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 1992.

Overview and concept[edit]

The Soul Cages is a concept album focused on the death of Sting's father. At the time, Sting had developed a writer's block shortly after his father's death; the episode lasted several years, until Sting was able to overcome his affliction by dealing with the death of his father through music. The first song written for The Soul Cages was "Why Should I Cry for You", and Sting has stated the rest of the album flowed quite easily after that first hurdle was overcome. Most of the songs have motifs related to sailing or the seas (Sting's father, according to Sting's autobiography, Broken Music, had always regretted not becoming a sailor.) There are also references to Newcastle, the part of England where Sting grew up.

Album opener "Island of Souls" tells the story of Billy, the first son in a family line of riveters. As he watches the ships his father helped create set sail, Billy dreams of taking his father along with him to escape by sea; his dreams become more prevalent as his father is injured and given three weeks to live. "All This Time" chronicles Billy's desire to bury his father at sea. The middle section of the record focuses mainly on the town Billy lives in and its people, before the highly introspective "Why Should I Cry For You". Musically, a mournful Northumbrian Pipe motif at the end of "Island of Souls" returns to open "The Wild Wild Sea", where Billy loses his way in a tempest only to find himself steered to safety by the spirit of his father. In another fantastical narrative on the album's eponymous track, Billy's father is being held captive by a demonic fisherman, with whom Billy wagers his life in a drinking game in a bid to set his father's soul free. Finally, the album ends with the moody, slightly-enigmatic "When The Angels Fall", which serves as a final thesis on the Catholicism which so heavily influenced Sting's upbringing; particularly regarding his father's spiritual beliefs. Musically, the song acts as a full stop for both the album's content and Sting's own personal torment, with the song's fluctuating tonality finally resolving to a firm and secure G major, marking a return to “home” (in this case, the home key of the earlier, conceptually significant, track "All This Time”) and providing an overwhelming sense of acceptance, redemption and subtle-nostalgia; beautifully realised in the album's closing “lullaby” motif. The character of Billy is referred to in the third person for the first three songs and in the first person for the last three songs.

In an interview with Charlie Rose aired on 10 December 2010, Sting mentions that he is working on a "mood piece", a musical project and book in collaboration with Pulitzer winner Brian Yorkey. The work will be based on an album he released many years ago concerning the loss of his father, growing up in Newcastle and witnessing the passing of the shipbuilding industry there. He admitted being scared of the prospect of pulling it all together but expressed confidence in it working out. This project has since been confirmed as the upcoming musical 'The Last Ship': set in Newcastle during the 1980s and featuring new material composed by Sting. Although the project is in its early stages of development, playwright and collaborator Brian Yorkey confirmed Sting has already written a number of new songs for the project.[7]


At the time this album appeared, the music industry was starting to shift away from using CD longboxes. Sting, a committed environmentalist, wanted to eliminate the amount of cardboard waste caused by the longbox. The original packaging was a fourfold cardboard case that could be modified to look like a longbox, and folded back into a jewel box sized CD package for home storage. In Germany, the CD was sold in jewel cases as well as longboxes. The cover painting was a commissioned work by the Scottish artist Steven Campbell.

Until the release of Symphonicities in July 2010, The Soul Cages was the only studio album by Sting not to feature a photograph of himself on the cover.

Track listing[edit]

All songs were written by Sting.

  1. "Island of Souls" – 6:41
  2. "All This Time" – 4:54
  3. "Mad About You" – 3:53
  4. "Jeremiah Blues (Part 1)" – 4:54
  5. "Why Should I Cry for You" – 4:46
  6. "Saint Agnes and the Burning Train" – 2:43
  7. "The Wild Wild Sea" – 6:41
  8. "The Soul Cages" – 5:52
  9. "When the Angels Fall" – 7:48

Some pressings erroneously list "Why Should I Cry for You" before "Jeremiah Blues (Part 1)". As of 2013 a part 2 of "Jeremiah Blues" has not yet been released.

Additional tracks
  1. "Vengo del sur" (Spanish Version of "Why Should I Cry for You") — Bonus track for Spanish edition
  2. "Muoio per te" (Italian Version of "Mad About You") — Bonus track for Italian edition



  • "All This Time" (1991) – No. 5 US Hot 100, No. 1 US Mainstream Rock, No. 1 US Modern Rock, No. 9 US Adult Contemporary, No. 22 UK Singles Chart
  • "Mad About You" (1991) – No. 56 UK Singles Chart[6]
  • "Why Should I Cry For You" (1991)
  • "The Soul Cages" (1991) – No. 7 US Mainstream Rock, No. 9 US Modern Rock, No. 57 UK Singles Chart


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Austria (IFPI Austria)[9] Gold 25,000x
Canada (Music Canada)[10] Platinum 100,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[11] Gold 26,040[11]
France (SNEP)[12] Platinum 451,400[13]
Germany (BVMI)[14] Platinum 500,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[15] Gold 185,820[16]
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[17] Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[18] Platinum 50,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[19] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[20] Platinum 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone


Chart precession and succession[edit]

Preceded by
Serious Hits... Live! by Phil Collins
German Media Control Chart number-one album
1 – 21 February 1991
Succeeded by
Innuendo by Queen
Preceded by
MCMXC a.D. by Enigma
UK number one album
2 – 8 February 1991
Succeeded by
Doubt by Jesus Jones
Preceded by
The Very Best of Elton John by Elton John
Swiss Music Chart number-one album
3 – 10 February 1991
Succeeded by
Innuendo by Queen
Preceded by
Cambio by Lucio Dalla
Italian FIMI Chart number-one album
10 – 22 February 1991
Preceded by
Het beste uit de Top 40 van '90 by Various artists
Dutch Mega Chart number-one album
16 February 1991
Preceded by
The Very Best of Elton John by Elton John
European Top 100 number-one album
16 – 23 February 1991
Preceded by
The Immaculate Collection by Madonna
Canadian RPM number-one album
2 March – 6 April 1991
Succeeded by
Road Apples by The Tragically Hip


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  5. ^ Robert Christgau review
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