Did Sting, Stew, and Summers do it right?
The Police – what a run! 5 albums in 5 years, 12 absolutely unforgettable singles, and a whole bevy of other great tunes. It’s just some of the best rock and roll music of that era, or any era, really.
In my view, the middle 3 albums are classic LP’s, and I go back and forth on which is the best. But that’s fun to debate!
I think The Police probably called it quits at the right time. Spend a little time with Sting’s solo catalog and you realize it’s best it didn’t cross Police lines.
Release Year: 1978
My Rating: B
On The Police’s debut, the best moments are the reggae-tinged moments: “So Lonely”, “Can’t Stand Losing You”, and the closer “Masoko Tanga”. The rest is a bit meat-and-potatoes, which is to say, nothing wrong at all and satisfying in its own right, but not entirely memorable. Could do without The Police’s habit of including weird novelty songs on their albums, which began here with the totally stupid “Be My Girl – Sally”. It’s a big ol’ speed bump on an otherwise strong LP1.
HIGHLIGHTS: “So Lonely”, “Can’t Stand Losing You”, “Masoko Tanga”
Reggatta de Blanc
Release Year: 1979
My Rating: A-
The classics are of course totally classic, and it was the right move to emphasize the reggae-thang, even if it was a trio of white boys doing it. “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” is lesser known but no less fantastic. It’s not quite a perfect album, but I’m hard-pressed to find any stinkers. Also, it’s funny to me how much they sound like late 70’s Rush at times!
HIGHLIGHTS: “Message In A Bottle”, “Regatta de Blanc”, “Bring On The Night”, “Walking On The Moon”, “The Bed’s Too Big Without You”
Release Year: 1980
My Rating: A
A total classic, this is where all the parts landed perfectly. THAT GUITAR SOUND! Total pop majesty, incisive, ethereal, in the moment and up in the air. And the songs, WOW. What’s the best one? I have no idea, but I will say that “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” has gone from one I once hated to perhaps my favorite Police song. What is it about that song that makes it so perfect?
HIGHLIGHTS: “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”, “Driven To Tears”, “When the World Is Running Down, You Make The Best of What’s Around, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”, “Man in a Suitcase”
Ghost in the Machine
Release Year: 1981
My Rating: A
As front-loaded with the hits as The Joshua Tree, but also like the Joshua Tree, the rest of the record stands strong and makes this one another classic. Love the horn work on the middle tracks, kinda like a template for that neat Oingo Boingo sound. A lot of hidden gems on this one, but my absolute favorite is “Secret Journey”, which seems to be the record’s beating heart. I go back and forth on whether this is The Police’s best LP or Zenyatta.
HIGHLIGHTS: “Spirits in the Material World”, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, “Invisible Sun”, “Demolition Man”, “One World (Not Three)”, “Secret Journey”
Release Year: 1983
My Rating: B
What a mess! Half of the songs are absolute masterpieces, and the other half are totally problematic! Let’s dispense with “Mother” first, which totally should have been left off, it’s another one of Andy’s stupid joke songs. I’d have preferred “Someone To Talk To” if they really felt an Andy song was necessary. “Walking In Your Footsteps” ain’t bad, but it just feels like a dinosaur song for kiddos. Then you’ve got subpar songs like “Miss Gradenko” and “O My God”, these should have been b-sides. Instead, throw in “Murder By Numbers” (which was on the album, kinda) and then “I Burn For You” and “Once Upon A Daydream” and you’ve got a solid, maybe even classic, LP5. But I think Sting had one foot out the door at this point.
HIGHLIGHTS: “Synchronicity”, “Synchronicity II”, “Every Breath You Take”, “King of Pain”, “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, “Tea In The Sahara”
Fallout / Nothing Achieving 7"
Release Year: 1977
The Police’s debut single, before Andy Summers joined the band. Uninteresting punk rock. Both tracks are OK for what they are I guess, but not exactly worth seeking out unless you’re a competist. I think it does highlight the value that Andy Summers would bring to the band when he joined shortly thereafter.
B-Sides and Other Rarities
- “Dead End Job”: Outlandos-era b-side, this is a fantastic bass-driven punk workout, but the key thing here is Summers’ understated and strange guitar work. A different approach would have made the song sound plain like their first single.
- “Landlord”: Regatta-era b-side. Fast-paced punk freak out. Not all that different from the feel of “Dead End Job”. Deece.
- “Visions of the Night”: Another Regatta-era b-side. Almost sounds like a Who song, Sting doing his best Roger Daltrey impression. Aight.
- “Friends”: A tongue-in-cheek song about cannibalism from the Zenyatta-era. Ugh, thank God it was a b-side.
- “A Sermon”: Zenyatta-era, but sounds like something from the Outlandos-era. Nothing special.
- “Shambelle”: Solid Ghost-era instrumental b-side.
- “Flexible Strategies”: Groovy funk workout from the Ghost-era. Sounds like an in studio spontaneous jam.
- “Low Life”: Ghost-era. Feels like a lesser version of “Murder By Numbers”. Do with that what you will.
- “How Stupid Mr. Bates”: Interesting soundtrack piece, kinda spacey.
- “A Kind of Loving”: Ugh, is this an Andy song?
- “Murder By Numbers”: Kinda a b-side, but it’s the last track on the streaming version of Synchronicity, so maybe not? Still, shoulda been an album track over other tracks from that album.
- “Someone to Talk To”: An Andy song that ain’t half bad. I mean, it ain’t great, but it’s not as awful as some of his other songs.
- “I Burn for You”: Dreamy and atmospheric love song. One of my favorite Police rarities.
- “Once Upon a Daydream”: Another dreamy and atmospheric love / murder song. Another fave rarity.
- “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ’86”: I always liked this. I mean, the original was a classic in the first place, so I’m not sure why they felt the need to update it, but for what it is, it’s pretty great.
- “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da ’86”: Not as successful a remake as “Don’t Stand ’86”. Not sure what Sting was thinking back then.
Release Year: 1995
My Rating: B+
Double live album. A Regatta-era club show and a Synchronicity-era stadium show. Solid document of the band in 2 different modes, one in superfast punk style, one in maxxed-out rock star fashion. I guess it’s The Police at the beginning and the end. Not particularly memorable for me, but good to have, nonetheless.
HIGHLIGHTS: “So Lonely (1979)”
Certifiable: Live in Buenos Aires
Release Year: 2008
My Rating: A
I actually prefer this live document of their reunion tour to the Live! album. They figured out some of the more difficult songs and just sound really good.
HIGHLIGHTS: “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”
MISCELLANEOUS / RELATED
- Sting (solo): eventually…