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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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.

The Police 1980

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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Ghost In the Machine by The Police

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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.

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1981 Images

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

 

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