The Soul Cages is the third full-length studio album released by Sting and the first to feature longtime guitarist Dominic Miller. Released in 1991, it became his second No. 1 album in the United Kingdom.[8] The album was dedicated to Sting's recently deceased father who died in 1987.

The Soul Cages
Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 17, 1991 (UK)[1]
January 21, 1991 (US)[2]
RecordedApril – November 1990
StudioStudio Guillaume Tell, Paris
Villa Salviati, Migliarino, Italy
GenrePop rock[3]
ProducerHugh Padgham
Sting chronology
Nada como el sol
The Soul Cages
Ten Summoner's Tales
Singles from The Soul Cages
  1. "All This Time"
    Released: January 8, 1991
  2. "Mad About You"
    Released: February 1, 1991
  3. "The Soul Cages"
    Released: April 1, 1991
  4. "Why Should I Cry for You"
    Released: May 21, 1991
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[4]
Chicago Tribune2/4 stars[5]
Entertainment WeeklyC[3]
Los Angeles Times3.5/5 stars[6]
Robert Christgau(dud)[7]

It spawned four singles: "All This Time", "Mad About You", "Why Should I Cry for You" and "The Soul Cages".

The title track won Sting the first ever Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 1992.


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 he 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 said that 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 wrote in his autobiography, Broken Music, that his father 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 (with the exception of "Mad About You", which is based on King David's story from the Bible's Books of Samuel), 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 mentioned that he was working on a "mood piece", a musical project and book in collaboration with Pulitzer winner Brian Yorkey. The work would 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 musical The Last Ship.


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 front cover, although he does appear on the back cover of both albums.

Track listingEdit

All songs 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"5:51
9."When the Angels Fall"7:48

Some pressings erroneously list "Why Should I Cry for You" before "Jeremiah Blues (Part 1)" in the liner notes.

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 (ft. Zucchero Fornaciari)


Adapted from liner notes


  • Arranged by Sting
  • Produced by Sting and Hugh Padgham; QSound production assisted by Brian Cowieson and Scott Willing
  • Recorded and mixed by Hugh Padgham; assisted by Simon Osbourne, Yves Jajaget, Bruce Keene, Al Stone, Brian Scheuble and Efren Herrera
  • Technical assistant to Sting: Danny Quatrochi
  • Mastered by Bob Ludwig
  • All songs published by Magnetic Publishing, Ltd/Blue Turtle Music


  • "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[8]
  • "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 Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[32] Gold 35,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[33] Gold 25,000*
Belgium (BEA)[34] Gold 40,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[35] Platinum 100,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[36] Gold 26,040[36]
France (SNEP)[38] Platinum 451,400[37]
Germany (BVMI)[39] Platinum 500,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[41] Gold 185,820[40]
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[42] Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[43] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[44] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[45] Platinum 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


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