The Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting

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The Dream of the Blue Turtles by StingFollowing a remarkable five years of stellar success with The Police, vocalist and songwriter Sting launched his solo career with his 1985 debut The Dream of the Blue Turtles. With this, Sting worked hard to distinguish his own sound away from the distinct styles of his former trio, bringing in a coterie of jazz, R&B and world style backing musicians. Lyrically, the tunes cover interpersonal as well as topical issues, which work well in some instances but come off a little preachy and pretentious in others.

Sting claims that he decided to leave the Police while onstage at Shea Stadium in New York in August 1983 in support of the group’s top-selling album Synchronicity. The group actually never formally broke up, but all three members focused on their individual projects in the mid 1980s. For Sting, this included working on the 1984 benefit project, Band Aid, and providing the intro vocals for Dire Strait’s hit song “Money for Nothing” from their 1985 album Brothers In Arms.

Co-produced by Pete Smith, the album was recorded both at Eddy Grant‘s studio in Barbados and at LeStudio in Quebec, Canada, a studio used frequently by Rush in the early to mid 1980s. Wanting to move away from the “confines of pop”, Sting’s goal was to erode the boundaries between rock and jazz by using top musicians familiar with both.


The Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting
Released: June 1, 1985 (A&M)
Produced by: Pete Smith & Sting
Recorded: Blue Wave Studio, Saint Philip, Barbados and Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec, January 1984–March 1985
Side One Side Two
If You Love Somebody Set Them Free
Love Is the Seventh Wave
Russians
Children’s Crusade
Shadows in the Rain
We Work the Black Seam
Consider Me Gone
The Dream of the Blue Turtles
Moon Over Bourbon Street
Fortress Around Your Heart
Primary Musicians
Sting – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Bass
Kenny Kirkland – Keyboards
Branford Marsalis – Saxophone
Darryl Jones – Bass
Omar Hakim – Drums

The moderate cool jazz/pop with a good hook off “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” starts things off. Steady throughout, the bridge section breaks out of the main groove as an interesting change on this Top 10 hit. “Love Is the Seventh Wave” follows with highly philosophical lyrics above an electronic reggae arrangement. The song’s title is derived from a popular saying among surfers and sailors and it concludes with a brief homage to “Every Breath You Take” from Sting’s former band. Speaking of The Police, there is one remake on this album, “Shadows in the Rain”, originally released on 1980’s Zenyatta Mondatta. This version starts with an off-beat drum entry and the shout by someone of “what key is it in?”, building tension until the song breaks into an upbeat blues jam with an impressive sax lead by Branford Marsalis.

Co-written by Sergei Prokofiev, “Russians” features a synthesized and ominous vibe with lyrics that are both profound – (“We share the same biology, regardless of ideology / I hope the Russian love their children too”) – and a bit outdated philosophically. Other topical tracks include “Children’s Crusade” is a ballad with lyrics that speak of the devastation brought about by heroin addiction, and “We Work the Black Seam” with a chanting-like melody over some African beats and lyrics that speak of working men and modern industrialization.

Sting 1985

The jazz-tinged tunes continue with “Consider Me Gone”, with fine drumming by Omar Hakim to accompany Darryl Jones‘s bass, which later temporarily breaks into a fine jazz phrase. The title track is a short but entertaining piano jazz jam, with the title itself coming from an actual dream by Sting where aggressive and quite drunk blue turtles were doing back flips and destroyed his garden. Sting provides fretless bass on “Moon Over Bourbon Street”, while some distant horns give the arrangement lots of atmosphere beneath the narrative vocals. Like it begins, the album concludes with a strong pop song, “Fortress Around Your Heart”. This is, perhaps, the most “Police-like” track on Dream of the Blue Turtles with subtle key changes in the verses, animated drumming under the hook and very profound lyrics throughout. Marsalis’ final sax lead closes out the album on a fine note.

The Dream of the Blue Turtles reached the Top 5 in various countries on both sides of the Atlantic, answering the doubts as to whether it was wise to abandon the uber-successful Police. Later in 1985, a documentary film called Bring On the Night was released, focusing on this jazz-inspired project.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1985 albums.

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Brand New Day by Sting

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Brand New Day by StingSting‘s sixth solo record, Brand New Day was a 1999 critical and commercial success that ultimately earned a Grammy Awards for both Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The album is filled with tracks of generous length composed through an easy approach and recorded with expert studio production. The result is a multi-million selling Top 10 album that closed out the decade and century on a high note for the former Police front man.

Sting decided to leave the Police (albeit unofficially) after the tremendous success of 1983’s Synchonicity II and the subsequent stadium tour. The trio agreed to next concentrate on solo projects with Sting’s 1985 debut The Dream of the Blue Turtles achieving multi-platinum success. Sting was now an established solo artist who collaborated on several other pop projects and allowed him to transcend the Police as a pop icon. 1987’s Nothing Like the Sun was nearly as successful as its predecessor as was the Grammy winning 1993 album (his fourth solo effort), Ten Summoner’s Tales. However Sting’s 1996 album, Mercury Falling was a commercial disappointment.

Producer Hugh Padgham was originally slated to produce the album which would become Brand New Day, but Sting changed direction and decided to co-produce it with Kipper. The album was recorded in various European studios throughout 1999.


Brand New Day by Sting
Released: September 27, 1999 (A&M)
Produced by: Sting & Kipper
Recorded: Il Palagio, Italy, Studio Mega, Paris, Right Track Recording and Avatar Studios, New York City, Air Lyndhurst Hall, London, 1999
Track Listing Primary Musicians
A Thousand Years
Desert Rose
Big Lie, Small World
After the Rain Has Fallen
Perfect Love… Gone Wrong
Tomorrow We’ll See
Prelude to the End of the Game
Fill Her Up
Ghost Story
Brand New Day
Sting – Lead Vocals, Bass, Synths
Dominic Miller – Guitars
Kipper – Keyboards
Manu Katché – Drums
Vinnie Colaiuta – Drums

Brand New Day by Sting

 

A long synth swell intro leads to the percussion driven verse of “A Thousand Years”, with Sting’s voice oft mimicking the string melody. The hit “Desert Rose” follows and the world influences are evident with an Arabian feel to it throughout. This song, which features a duet performance with Algerian singer Cheb Mami, was a hit worldwide including the Top 20 in the UK and the US.

“Big Lie, Small World” is a jazzy song throughout with choppy guitar and bouncy bass under a fine melody leading to an equally fine horn lead to complete the track. “After the Rain Has Fallen” is the most upbeat and most intense song thus far as a funk/rock arrangement with strong hook and more subtle use of synths, while “Perfect Love… Gone Wrong” ranges from cool jazz to French rap but the novelty wears thin pretty quickly.

Sting

The real heart of the album comes on its original second side, starting with “Tomorrow We’ll See”, a fine track which builds in intensity as it maintains its cool jazz format throughout. “Fill Her Up” is where the album takes its biggest left turn with a lyric heavy Western arrangement with catchy melodies and rhythm, featuring guest James Taylor and pedal steel guitar by BJ Cole. “Ghost Story” at first sounds like Medieval English folk but then morphs into a more pop oriented love song for another interesting track, This all leads to the closing title track “Brand New Day”, as Sting saved the best pop song for last, with Stevie Wonder‘s harmonica adding a perfect compliment.

Following the success of Brand New Day, Sting found continued success as a solo artist into the new century and finally reunited with the Police for a world tour in 2007.

1999 images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1999 albums.

 

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Reggatta de Blanc by The Police

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Reggatta de Blanc by The PoliceDriven by the strength of two UK number one singles, Reggatta de Blanc helped launch The Police into the commercial stratosphere. Building on the strength of their 1978 debut, Outlandos d’Amour, this second album marked a slight change in the band’s sound, with a more polished and refined production of the trio’s energetic musical performances. The album’s title loosely translates to “white reggae”, a label which aptly describes the core of the group’s signature sound but falls short of touching on the depth of their influences.

In 1976, American drummer Stewart Copeland was playing in a British progressive rock band called Curved Air when he met former school teacher turned musician Gordon Sumner, professionally known as Sting. The two jammed and contemplated starting a punk rock band with guitarist Henry Padovani. The trio toured the UK as a supporting act and even recorded a single called “Fall Out” in 1977. Later that year, Copeland and Sting merged with two members of a band called Strontium 90, Mike Howlett and guitarist Andy Summers. About a decade older than the other musicians, Summers had much music industry experience dating back well into the sixties with groups such as Eric Burdon and the Animals. After some live gigs, the Police pared back to a trio with Sting composing original material. Copeland’s older brother, producer Miles Copeland, helped finance the Police’s first album, Outlandos d’Amour, released in 1978. On the strength of the single,”Roxanne”, Miles got the group signed with A&M Records, and the later hit “Can’t Stand Losing” sparked the group’s first tour of the USA.

Like it’s predecessor, Reggatta de Blanc was recorded at Surrey Sound with producer Nigel Gray. The studio was considered too small for a major label act but it was where the group was comfortable recording. With a small budget and limited time for recording, some of the material was re-purposed from previous group projects.


Reggatta de Blanc by The Police
Released: October 2, 1979 (A&M)
Produced by: Nigel Gray & The Police
Recorded: Surrey Sound Studios, Leatherhead, England, February – August 1979
Side One Side Two
Message in a Bottle
Reggatta de Blanc
It’s Alright for You
Bring on the Night
Deathwish
Walking on the Moon
On Any Other Day
The Bed’s Too Big Without You
Contact
Does Everyone Stare
No Time This Time
Group Musicians
Sting – Lead Vocals, Bass, Synths
Andy Summers – Guitars, Synths
Stewart Copeland – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The opener “Message in a Bottle” was the lead single from the album and subsequently became the group’s first number one hit on the UK Singles chart. This jazzed up reggae with a definitive pop/rock sheen was derived from a riff that Sting had developed while on the first American tour in 1978. The potent and metaphoric lyrics about finding other lonely “castaways” were written during the Surrey studio sessions. The title quasi-instrumental “Reggatta de Blanc” commences with Copeland’s rapid percussive intro, leading to bass rhythm under various delicate guitar textures and vocal chanting and yodeling throughout. Composed collectively by the trio, this evolved from improvisational stage jams during performances of the hit “Can’t Stand Losing You” and the track went on to surprising win a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1980.

On “It’s Alright for You” the group reached back to their punk roots, albeit with a little more of pop smoothness and variable tempos to make it a dance bop. Sting’s “Bring on the Night” has an extended, dramatic intro before settling into another fine pop/reggae track with some of the lyrics re-purposed from a song he wrote with his former band Last Exit. “Deathwish” follows as an interesting closer to the original first side, using several simple riffs, phrases and beats all fused together for a unique kind of jam.

The Police 1979

The textual “Walking on the Moon” was built on Sting’s simple bass riff, Summers’ atmospheric chord strum and very subtle high end percussion by Copeland. Sting said he wrote it as “walking around the room” while intoxicated one night after a concert, remembering the tune the following morning but altering the title. The song became their second British chart topper and a big hit in many other countries but did not chart in the United States. The first of two songs to feature Copeland on lead vocals, “On Any Other Day” is a happy-go-lucky rock track about the crumbling of domestic life. This is followed by the pure reggae track “The Bed’s Too Big Without You”, another track originated by Sting during the Last Exit days. Copeland penned the next two songs, “Contact” which features a crisp and jangly intro riff by Summers trading of with rich synths in the verses, and “Does Everyone Stare”, a tune where Summers plays piano Copeland does his second lead vocals. “No Time This Time” is a strong, punk-like rock closer which actually includes a rare guitar lead. The song was previously released as the B-Side to the “So Lonely” single in November 1978.

Reggatta de Blanc was the first of four consecutive albums by The Police to reach #1 on the UK Album charts. Soon after the group embarked on their first world tour, branching out into places that had been seldom destinations for rock performers like India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Greece, Egypt and Mexico.

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1979 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1979 albums.

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Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits

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Brothers In Arms by Dire StraitsDire Straits reached their commercial peak and achieved worldwide fame with their fifth studio album, Brothers In Arms. All the songs on this album were composed by lead vocalist and guitarist Mark Knopfler and he and the group honed their signature sound of r&b and jazz with an increased sense of pop song craft that ultimately paid off as the album dominated charts worldwide and won two Grammy awards. It is also notable for being one of the first directed towards CD sales by offering extended versions of some songs and, as a result, Brothers In Arms became the first CD ever to sell over one million copies in that medium.

Early in the 1980s, Dire Straits had a couple of successful albums with 1980’s Making Movies and 1982’s Love Over Gold. The latter of these two featured long and experimental songs with extensive piano and keyboard Alan Clark’s piano and keyboard work and was the first Dire Straits album produced by Knopfler. The group embarked on an extensive world tour before taking a break in late 1983 and early 1984.

Recording for Brothers In Arms took place on the Caribbean island of Montserrat during the Winter of 1984-85. The album was co-produced by Neil Dorfsman, who made good use of the limited space of the small studio. During the sessions, group drummer Terry Williams was replaced by Omar Hakim, who reportedly recorded all of the album’s drum parts in just two days. A second keyboardist, Guy Fletcher, also joined the group for the first time during recording.


Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits
Released: May 13, 1985 (Vertigo)
Produced by: Neil Dorfsman & Mark Knopfler
Recorded: AIR Studios, Montserrat, November 1984–March 1985
Side One Side Two
So Far Away
Money for Nothing
Walk of Life
Your Latest Trick
Why Worry
Ride Across the River
The Man’s Too Strong
One World
Brothers in Arms
Group Musicians
Mark Knopfler – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Alan Clark – Piano, Keyboards
Guy Fletcher – Keyboards, Vocals
John Illsley – Bass, Vocals
Omar Hakim – Drums

The opening track, “So Far Away”, was also the album’s lead single, reaching the Top 20 in the UK. The song features a very simple but effective structure, with two complementing guitar patterns and subtle vocals by Knopfler. Lyrically, the track speaks of distance in a relationship, whether it be real or symbolic. The only song to feature a co-writer and co-lead-singer, “Money for Nothing” was co-written by Sting (credited as Gordon Sumner). The song was a pure pop attempt that paid off big time, as this catchy dance track with a crunchy riff became the group’s most successful single. The lyrics were inspired by a conversation Knopfler heard while in an electronics store in New York City, with the words delivered entirely as a third person narrative.

 
“Walk of Life” is the best pure pop song on the album and the high point of danceable pop before the album comes down to a more mellow level. Musically, it is built a classic Hammond organ line by Clark along with a contrasting Western-style guitar by Knopfler. The melodic lead vocals are nicely complemented by interesting backing vocal patterns, which made for another smash hit worldwide and the group’s biggest commercial hit in their native UK. Starting with a signature saxophone by Michael Brecker, “Your Latest Trick” is Adult contemporary at its best, utilizing fine electric piano chords and a steady bass by John Illsley along with jazzy, clicking percussion by Hakim. “Why Worry” may be the finest overall song on this album, as a quiet and reserved ballad with finely picked guitars throughout. It starts with a long, subtle guitar intro and remains mellow throughout, building only slightly during the chorus with a nice, descending keyboard line in between verse sections. Poetic lyrics persist throughout;

Why worry, there should be laughter after the pain, there should be sunshine after rain, these things have always been the same, so why worry now…”

The album’s second side has less pop pursuit with several tracks lyrically focused on militarism. “Ride Across the River” contains a very slight reggae beat and distant horns throughout the long, story-telling song. “The Man’s Too Strong” is an acoustic, outlaw country-style track with interesting hard electric guitar riffs after each chorus, while “One World” is much weaker musically with a totally 80s style of fretless bass, standard funk guitar, simple beats and cheesy keys. The album concludes with the title track, “Brothers in Arms”, which starts with a dramatic key swell before settling in with a slight guitar lead in the vein of Pink Floyd. Later, the track contains calm but effective melodies before the keys and lead guitars carry the mood through most of the second half of the song.

Dire Straits in 1985

Early in 2015, Brothers In Arms re-entered the UK Album Charts, making it a total of 356 weeks it has spent on those charts. It is one of Earth’s best-selling albums, having sold over 30 million copies worldwide. Another successful world tour followed, including 21 straight nights playing in Sydney, Australia in 1986. However, another long break after the tour led to a temporary breakup of the band, and they would not release another studio album until 1991, six years after Brothers In Arms.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1985 albums.

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Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police

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Zenyatta Mondatta by The PoliceZenyatta Mondatta was the hinge album which fell right in the middle of The Police‘s short career as an active band. True to form, this third studio release by the group contains a fine balance between their reggae-influenced roots of their first two albums in the late seventies and the more complex new wave rock of their final two albums in the early eighties. The result is a work that achieved both critical and commercial success and solidified the group as deserving of a perch in the top echelon of rock groups.

Formed in 1976 as a budding punk band, the Police members experimented with elements of reggae and jazz. Copeland’s brother and record executive Miles Copeland III agreed to finance The Police’s first album, Outlandos d’Amour in 1978, which was driven by the international hit “Roxanne”, and brought the group to the US for the first time. In October 1979, the group released their second album, Reggatta de Blanc, which topped the UK albums chart and spawned more hit singles.

Co-produced by Nigel Gray, Zenyatta Mondatta, was recorded during a break in the band’s first world tour. The band members have expressed disappointment over the final output as it was “rushed” due to much pressure from the label. Further, the band could not record in their home country due to tax reasons and instead did so in the Netherlands. However, this rushed atmosphere may have added to the dynamic elements and overall energy of this record.


Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police
Released: October 3, 1980 (A&M)
Produced by: Nigel Gray & The Police
Recorded: Wisseloord Studios, Hilversum, Netherlands, July–August 1980
Side One Side Two
Don’t Stand So Close to Me
Driven to Tears
When the World Is Running Down, Make the Best of What’s Still Around
Canary In a Coalmine
Voices Inside My Head
Bombs Away
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
Behind My Camel
Man In a Suitcase
Shadows In the Rain
The Other Way of Stopping
Group Musicians
Sting – Lead Vocals, Bass, Synths
Andy Summers – Guitars, Piano, Synths, Vocals
Stewart Copeland – Drums, Synths, Vocals

With a dramatic intro to the song and the album, subtle synths lead to and eventually follow the guiding beat which lead to the album’s most indelible and popular track, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”. Expert instrumentation effect on simple riffs and beats complement Sting’s catchy melody which aligns with the guitar riffs. Lyrically, the song puts a new twist on the Lolita story, even going so far as to mention that story’s author, Nabakov. Fantastic rhythms bring in the dramatically simple but effective track “Driven to Tears”, on which Summers has a very short, screeching rock lead to add ever-more variety. this second song’s theme examines the divide between rich and poor.

“When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around” is repetitive in almost a dance-rock fashion, built on Copeland’s simple but potent beat beneath the melodic and frantic vocals of Sting. The ability to take this hypnotic three-chord progression and add subtle dynamics and vocal inflections to give the song a more substantive feel. “Canary In a Coalmine” has an upbeat ska/reggae backing to harmonized lead vocals.  “Voices Inside My Head” has a disco beat with a funky bass and reverb effects on the guitar, which conjures images of David Gilmour on Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Eventually, this song takes a bit of an African feel with some chanting vocals and slight drum variations. The first side ends with “Bombs Away”, written by Stewart Copeland. Bright and upbeat music betrays the dire apocalyptic sarcasm of the lyrics, while musically Copeland’s rapid-hat shuffle is complemented nicely by the simple and rounded bass notes of Sting.

 
The gibberish hook of “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” is almost regrettable because the music is so well-formed on this track, perhaps the finest on the album, and Summers’ true highlight. The guitar riffs throughout are bright and catchy, with rich harmonic textures and tasteful use of electronic effects. Released as a single, the song became the first for the group to reach the Top 10 in both the United Kingdom and the United States. “Behind My Camel”, is the most controversial on the album as Sting refused to play on this instrumental composed by Andy Summers (who took on bass duties himself). Pure theatrical, droning, guitar-driven track is unlike anything else on the album and it surprisingly won the Grammy Award in 1982 for the Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

While the album is solid to this point, it does seem to lose some steam down the stretch. “Man In a Suitcase” reverts back to the pure reggae, upbeat and light, with exceptionally good bass throughout by Sting, including an incredibly long decay of a single note coming out of the bridge section. “Shadows In the Rain” is a more deliberative track, built with a simple bass and drum groove riff along with a couple of piano notes each phrase, while Summers’ guitar places some distant rock motifs. Copeland’s “The Other Way of Stopping”, starts with what sounds like a chorus of drums in the intro, finely highlighting the choppy skins of the drummer, which is really the only highlight of this closing instrumental, which means the album may have been about a track too long.

Zenyatta Mondatta was a worldwide hit, landing near the top of nearly a dozen national charts. More importantly, it launched The Police into the furious second half of their career which saw even more success in the near future.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1980 albums.

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Synchronicity by The Police

1983 Album of the Year

Synchronicity by The PoliceThe Police saved the best for last with 1983’s Synchronicity, ending their short five year and five album recording career with their masterpiece. And although the album was once again co-produced by Hugh Padgham,  as on 1981’s Ghost In the Machine, it marked a significant shift away from the dominant reggae/ska influences of the band’s first four albums. The album got it’s title from the theory of synchronicity by Carl Jung, who believed that life was not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order, which led to the insights that a person was both embedded in an orderly framework and was the focus of that orderly framework. The end result was a potent blend that hit all the major criteria (in our opinion, of course) that make a truly great album – an entertaining, original, timely, cerebral, and human collection of music. For these reasons, Synchronicity is our clear choice for 1983’s album of the year.

Like many great albums, Synchronicity was born out of struggle and strife. The marriages of both bassist/vocalist Sting and guitarist Andy Summers had recently failed and, after half a decade of constant touring and recording, the once tight-knit trio had begun to conflict with each other. The group took a break in 1982 in order to pursue outside projects. Sting was starting to land bit parts in films while Summers collaborated with former King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp on the instrumental album I Advance Masked. Drummer Stewart Copeland composed the musical score for the film Rumble Fish which spawned the radio hit single “Don’t Box Me In”. But as each member found their own success, that only served to widen wedge among The Police as a group and all had pretty much resolved that the band’s demise was soon imminent. So the group resolved to make a final masterpiece born out of the stress of the looming break-up. It wasn’t easy, as the three band members recorded their parts in separate rooms for the basic tracks and Padgham added subsequent overdubs with only one member in the studio at a time.

The result is diverse and daring, with the most experimental tracks of the album front-loaded on side one and the “hits” reserved for the second side. With this one last best shot of showing the world everything they were capable of doing, both in performance and production. The music contains a plethora of rhythms, from reggae, blues, and African to straight up pop/rock, while the theme is about things past or ending and the scope migrates from the global to the personal.

 


Synchronicity by The Police
Released: June 1, 1983 (A & M)
Produced by: Hugh Padgham & The Police
Recorded: Le Studio, Quebec, Canada, December 1982-February 1983
Side One Side Two
Synchronicity I
Walking In Your Footsteps
O My God
Mother
Miss Gradenko
Synchronicity II
Every Breath You Take
King of Pain
Wrapped Around Your Finger
Tea In the Sahara
Murder By Numbers
Band Musicians
Sting – Lead Vocals, Bass, Keyboards, Oboe, Saxophone
Andy Summers – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Stewart Copeland – Drums & Percussion

 

“Synchronicity I” starts the album with a synthesized arpeggio pattern accented by a driving bass and drum beat. It is a rather simple and direct (albeit frantic) piece with some multi-vocal parts and harmonies by Sting that lyrically introduce Jung’s theory of the “collective unconscious”. “Walking In Your Footsteps” follows with native percussion and a good melody above the oddest of simplistic arrangements. The lyrics relate extinct dinosaurs to modern day humans and the then-common theme of humanity’s ultimate nuclear destruction.

The first song on the album to contain a somewhat traditional arrangement, “O My God” is bass driven throughout with a bit of funk guitar chords, some light synth pads, and strong and soulful vocals. The song is a real showcase for Sting with the bass, the anguished lyrics and voice, and the outtro saxophone solo above an improvised-sounding ending. “Mother” is a Summers composition that sounds like a cross between The Velvet Underground and Alice Cooper. Summers vocals are raw, yet weirdly entertaining and some horn sounds are added to intensify the “insanity vibe”. Copeland gets his own composition with “Miss Gradenko”, a return musically to the band’s reggae / new wave fusion. Short and deliberate with a great bass and very measured but effective lead guitar, the lyrics tell of a romance in the middle of a communist bureaucracy wrought by paranoia in the Kremlin.
 

 
“Synchronicity II” is the best song on the album and the one song were The Police break into a full-fledged, hard rock arrangement. From the beginning wailing vocals of Sting to the fantastic guitar textures by Summers, switching from chords to note patterns seamlessly. The musical tone follows the lyrics closely, which describe a man’s working day and domestic life and compares it to the seemingly unrelated Loch Ness monster, making this a more true title song than “Synchronicity I”. Overall, this song which reached the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic, sounds like no other Police song and is a true classic of the 1980s.

The album’s second side begins with “Every Breath You Take”, a song almost totally built on Summers’ sonic texture with Sting’s simplistic rhyming on top. The bridge contains some well-placed piano notes and Copeland shows great restraint by the utter basic-ness of his drum beat, on this song which is actually rather up-tempo but deceptively throws a vibe of a ballad. Overall, “Every Breath You Take” became one of most successful singles ever, topping the Billboard charts for nine weeks and the song won Song of the Year at the 1984 Grammy Awards.

King Of Pain single“King of Pain” is a simple sing-song tune which morphs into a Caribbean grove accented by some more pure rock. The song displays the instrumental genius of the band and production quality of Padgham and contains a rather traditional (and excellent) rock guitar lead by Summers. Lyrically, Sting references painful everyday occurrences to symbolize the frustrations of everyday life with the narrator sees his fate as predetermined. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” is a classic ballad with excellent ambiance, sort of like “Every Breath You Take” from a different point of view – but with superior lyrics which references mythological and literary characters.

The bass driven “Tea in the Sahara” concluded the original LP (which omitted “Murder By Numbers”) and kind of brings the overall scene to a conclusion in the desert. Sting’s performance is more solo than anywhere else on the album, with the bass leading the way and the lyrics based on the novel The Sheltering Sky. A long drum intro starts the closer “Murder by Numbers”, co-written by Sting and Summers. The tune eventually fully kicks in as a cabret number with lyrics comparing political power to the development of a serial killer.

Synchronicity reached number one in many countries and was nominated for the “Album of the Year” Grammy. The Police set off on a world on a year-long world tour, which ended with a hiatus that was effectively the end of the group. The trio did reconvene in 1986 to record a new album, but after a half-hearted attempt, that project was abandoned. The Police would not fully reunite until 2007, over two decades after their break.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.

 

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Classic Rock Christmas Songs

Classic Christmas Rock SongsNearly from its inception, rock and roll and Christmas songs have made for a potent mixture of holiday-flavored punch. This marriage dates back to 1957 with the first Elvis Presley Christmas Album and Bobby Helms’s timeless “Jingle Bell Rock”, a rockabilly Christmas classic which was actually written by an advertising executive and a publicist, joining together the overt commercialism with these early anthems. However, it wasn’t all about dollars and cents, as demonstrated in 1963 when major Christmas initiatives by producer Phil Spector and The Beach Boys were pulled off the shelf after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Below we review our favorite songs during the classic rock era. Please be sure to let us know which ones you like best, including those that we omit.

Christmas by The Who, 1969“Christmas” by The Who, 1969

This is a truly fantastic song from the rock opera Tommy but, as such, this song is only about Christmas for a short period of the song, the rest of the song is spent pondering whether the aforementioned Tommy’s soul can be saved as he is deaf, dumb and blind – lacking the capacity to accept Jesus Christ. This aspect of the song works exceptionally well in the scheme of the album, but not so much in the scheme of it being a Christmas song. That said, no song captures the majesty of children on Christmas day as well as this one.

Happy Xmas by John Lennon, 1971“Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon, 1971

John Lennon’s voice is fantastic and the song itself evokes the kind of melancholy Christmas spirit I find in great Christmas songs. The backing vocals work very well and the bass guitar, sleigh bells, chimes, glockenspiel all play their part as well, a testament to the excellent production by Phil Spector. It does sound a little dated with the overt political correctness and, of course ant-war sentiment. Then there is a bit of irony, foe, although the song advocates “War is Over”, the personal war between Lennon and Paul McCartney was at a fevered pitch with Lennon poaching McCartney’s lead guitarist for this very song just to stick him in the eye a bit. So, in that sense, I guess war was not quite over.

I Believe In Father Christmas, 1975“I Believe In Father Christmas” by Greg Lake, 1975

You really do learn something new every day. In fact while doing research into this song’s origin I discovered that this is actually a Greg Lake solo song and not an Emerson, Lake, and Palmer song which I had always believed because of its inclusion on their 1977 Works compilation album. This new revelation does not diminish my love of the song one iota. The song was written by Lake with lyrics by Peter Sinfield. Lake says the song was written in protest at the commercialization of Christmas, while Sinfield says it is more about a loss of innocence and childhood belief. I tend to believe them both, as I’ve always found the melancholy song to be much too complex to be written about any single subject or incident. Musically and melodically, the song is a masterpiece, with Lake’s finger-picked acoustic ballad complemented by ever-increasing orchestration and choral arrangements. Each verse is more intense than the last and the arrangement elicits all kinds of emotions, far deeper than the typical “feel good” Christmas song.

Father Christmas by The Kinks, 1977“Father Christmas” by The Kinks, 1977

Just listen to the first fifteen seconds of this song and you will see, it’s amazing! Starting with a Christmas-y happy piano melody and sleigh bells before punk-influenced guitar and drums crash in with the impact of a meteor. Lead singer Ray Davies sings as two characters in the song; the first is a department store Santa (“Father Christmas”), the second is a gang of poor kids. Davies makes his vocals more forceful for their demands, “Father Christmas give us some money!” I have long thought Davies is probably the most underrated singer in Rock, and the Kinks may be the most underrated band in rock history. What other band appeared in the British invasion did a few concept albums and then practically invented punk rock!? Dave Davies lead guitar is fantastic, definitely the most entertaining work in any of the Christmas songs on this list. The drums are also a huge high point as they roll franticly between verses. If you needed a definition of it, this IS Christmas Rock!

Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy, 1977“Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy”
by David Bowie & Bing Crosby, 1977

This partial cover (Bowie’s “Peace On Earth” part was original, while Crosby sang the traditional “Little Drummer Boy”) was actually as about as original a compositions as any Christmas song with a rock theme to it. So why does this song make the cut? Well it is fantastic! It’s DAVID BOWIE and BING CROSBY! It’s a great little song that feels like Christmas. Two totally different artists from different genres and eras coming together to sing a song for a television special, only around Christmas could this happen. Well, in fact it was recorded in London in August of 1977 for an upcoming Christmas special and Crosby passed away in October, before it aired, making it even more special.

A Wonderful Christmas Time, 1979“A Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney, 1979

Not to be out done by his former Beatle mate turned musical rival (see above), Paul McCartney launched the post-Wings phase of his solo career with “Wonderful Christmas Time”. A song with an uncanny ability to instantly put one into the Christmas spirit, this synth-driven, new-wave ballad showcased McCartney’s mastery at writing pleasant pop songs in just about any sub-genre. Unfortunately, his “wonderful Christmas” was interrupted soon after the new year of 1980, when he got busted In Japan for marijuana possession and spent ten days in prison before he was released.

Christmas Wrapping, 1981“Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses, 1981

“Christmas Wrapping” is a really fun new-wave style song that jives musically by an otherwise obscure group. The song goes through quite a few little progressions – a little guitar rift and some jolly percussion instruments introduce the listener to the song’s primary beat of guitar and drums. Lead singer Patty Donahue flirts with actually rapping through the song which comes out really cool despite my less than enthused relationship to that genre. The interlude of horns really makes this song fun as they bridge the gap between verses.

2000 Miles, 1983“2000 Miles” by The Pretenders, 1983

Not really intended to be so much a Christmas song as a lament about missing someone with the hope they return at Christmas. It was nevertheless released in 1983 in advance of the band’s 1984 album Learning To Crawl because of its holiday season potential. The vivid lyrics which paint the Christmas landscape and activity, along with the masterful delivery by lead vocalist Chrissie Hynde above the simple folk-guitar riff, makes this one for the ages.

Thank God Its Christmas, 1984“Thank God It’s Christmas” by Queen, 1984

This is a Christmas rock song that often gets overlooked but is virtually impossible to ignore due to Freddie Mercury’s singing. Co-written by drummer Roger Taylor, the drums have a smooth grooving feeling, albeit very processed. Mercury’s backing keyboards and occasional Christmas bells give the song that holiday feeling it needs. The addition of the guitar later in the song by the other co-writer, Brian May adds some earthiness, but the song would benefit from more of it. The piece never quite transcends the mellowness or the karaoke-like quality of the song, but is still a Christmas classic.

Do They Know Its Christmas, 1984Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid, 1984

Sure, it is outrageously corny, especially when you are watching Boy George and other eighties has-beens singing next to the likes of Bono and Sting. But underneath all the silliness lies a pretty good song, written in a decent style of British pop. This song is the brainchild of Bob Geldof, lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, who co-wrote this song along with Midge Ure, and then they brought together these top-notch English musicians to perform under the name Band Aid as all proceeds went to relief for the Ethiopian famine of 1984-1985. The success of this single eventually lead to the worldwide benefit concert Live Aid, the following summer.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, 1985“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”
by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1985

The only true cover of a “traditional” Christmas song on this list, this song was actually recorded in December 1975, but was not released for a solid decade when Bruce Springsteen began putting together his triple live album 1975-1985. It was put out as the B-Side to his single “My Hometown” in 1985 and has since become a holiday staple and rock and pop stations worldwide.

Another Christmas Song, 1989“Another Christmas Song” by Jethro Tull, 1989

We conclude with a beautiful and elegant song put out by Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull during their leaner years, this May be one that many do not know. From the 1989 album Rock Island, this is actually a sequel to “A Christmas Song” put out by Jethro Tull on their 1968 debut album two decades earlier, but is far superior in beauty elegance than the original. With some light flute, drums, and the occasional wood block sound and other percussive effects, the song features Tull’s traditional guitarist Martin Barre who nicely accents the flute line from Anderson in the interweaving musical passages. Lyrically, it describes an old man who is calling his children home to him for Christmas and subtly drawing their attention to other parts of the world and other people;

Everyone is from somewhere, even if you’ve never been there
So take a minute to remember the part of you that might be the old man calling me…”

Through the 1990s and early 2000s, the Christmas rock tradition continued with fine originals such as “Christmas All Over Again” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, a rendition of “Heat Miser” by The Badlees, “Don’t Shoot Me Santa Clause” by The Killers, and Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights”. It is likely this tradition will continue for years to come.

~
J.D. Cook and Ric Albano

                

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Ghost In the Machine by The Police

Buy Ghost In the Machine

Ghost In the Machine by PoliceGhost in the Machine is the fourth album by The Police and the first to actually use an English title, albeit the title was borrowed from the Albert Koestler novel of the same name. Although it used the foundation of a simple three piece power sound with reggae beats and a punk edge that was built by the band’s previous three albums, this album is a definitive evolution towards more ethereal jazzy sounds that would later come to fruition on the Synchronicity album in 1983.

For the first time since the band’s formation four years earlier, a dominant influence was starting to emerge from lead vocalist and bass player Sting, who lobbied for the addition of synths, layered horns, saxophones, and lyrics heavily influenced by philosophical theory. This new direction caused a riff with the other band members, especially drummer and original founding member Stewart Copeland, and proved to be the beginning of the end for this short-live and talented band. As it turned out, the more mainstream (and well-earned) popularity the Police achieved, the further they grew apart, disbanding after the break through of Synchronicity and the headlining world tour that followed.
 


Ghost In the Machine by The Police
Released: October 2, 1981 (Jet)
Produced by: Hugh Padgham & The Police
Recorded: Le Studio, Quebec, Canada, January – September, 1981
Side One Side Two
Spirits In the Material World
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Invisible Sun
Hungry for You Demolition Man
Too Much Information
Rehumanize Yourself
One World (Not Three)
Ωmegaman
Secret Journey
Darkness
Group Musicians
Sting – Bass, Keyboards, Saxophone, Lead Vocals
Andy Summers – Guitars, Synths, Backing Vocals
Stewart Copeland – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

 
The album opens with “Spirits in the Material World”, which sets the tone for this collection with a steady synth riff against, a syncopated drum beat, and philosophical lyrics –

There is no political solution / to our troubled evolution / have no faith in constitution / there is no bloody revolution…

Originally written by Sting in 1976, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” is the most upbeat song on the record although the lyrics suggest it’s about a guy with a crush on a girl and he is trying to get up the nerve to talk to her. It nicely fluctuates between a calm, piano arpeggio during the verse and a classic, steel drum-fueled reggae during the chorus. The song reached #1 on the mainstream rock charts, making it the biggest pop hit on the album.
 

 
What do you do if your lyrics are too hot for the English speaking world? Set them against the backdrop of a ska beat and sing them in French of course. “Hungry For You” has probably confused many non francophone listeners who may think they just can’t understand the words (because they’re in French).

The band returns to philosophical rambling with “Rehumanize Yourself”. The beginning of this song sounds like it may have influenced The Bangles hit “Walk Like and Egyptian” with Horns drifting and soaring above the racing beat.

I work all day at the factory/I’m building a machine that’s not for me/There must be a reason that I can’t see/You’ve got to humanize yourself…

Invisible Sun by The Police

“Invisible Sun” continues the philosophical introspection with monotone vocals and lyrics poetically describing the mundane tasks of the day and hoping for an unseen reward at the end of the day. These words were especially striking when set against the imagery of the music video, showing footage of struggles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.

The feel of Ghost in the Machine is clearly a departure from the previous Police projects. Guitarist Andy summers probably had the least amount of influence on this album, simply due to the pure displacement by the presence of all the other instrumentation. That’s not to say that this isn’t a good listen, as the band was well on their way to their creative apex.

~

1981 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1981 albums.

 

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