Reggatta de blanc
October 2, 1979
- Message in a Bottle
- Reggatta de Blanc
- It's Alright For You
- Bring on the Night
- Walking on the Moon
- On Any Other Day
- The Bed's Too Big Without You
- Does Everyone Stare
- No Time This Time
A brief three months after their debut album 'Outlandos d'Amour' was released, The Police were back in Surrey Sound Studios recording tracks for their second album. This time there was a distinct air of confidence about the sessions. Whereas the debut was recorded piecemeal over six months or so, 'Reggatta de Blanc' came together very quickly, with the band actually cancelling two weeks of studio time that they did not require. Stewart Copeland recalled, "This time the material wasn't rehearsed but the band was. We knew each other's styles because we'd been playing together constantly for eight months, which we hadn't been doing when we recorded the first album. 'Reggatta' took us three weeks to record. We just went into the studio and said 'right, who's got the first song!'"
Sting was equally positive about the recording, "That was where it all clicked. There was so much happening in my writing and singing, Stewart's and Andy's playing, and suddenly it all meshed together. We had reggae influences in our vocabulary and they became synthesised into our infrastructure until it was utterly part of our sound and you couldn't really call it reggae anymore. It was just the way we played. I think 'Reggatta' was that moment for us."
A mere week after starting the session, the band were filmed at a one-off show at Hatfield Polytechinc for the BBC series 'Rock Goes To College', and they debuted a new song they were working on, 'Message in a Bottle'. Interrupting the recording for another tour of the States and a short UK tour the Police returned to Surrey Sound in August 1979 to complete the album before headlining the Reading Festival. 'Reggatta' was released in early October and certainly lived up to the expectations raised by the release of 'Message In A Bottle' a month previously, and stayed at the number one spot for four weeks. The band set off once more for the States before returning to the UK for a sell-out tour of major venues - Police fever had struck, and they were THE band of 1979.
Apart from a further three classic songs in the shape of 'Message In A Bottle', 'Walking On The Moon' and 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', the album featured several other strong tracks such as 'Bring On The Night', 'Deathwish' and several of Stewart Copeland's catchy, quirky tunes.
"We recorded our second album in much the same way as our first, even though we'd had some chart success with 'Roxanne' and 'Can't Stand Losing You' and a successful tour of the US under our belts. We used the same studio, although by now we could afford the day rate and brand-new multitrack tapes. I suppose we were a little superstitious about our good fortune and didn't want to change things too much."
"That was where it all clicked. There was so much happening in my writing and singing, Stewart's and Andy's playing, and suddenly it all meshed together. We had reggae influences in our vocabulary and they became synthesised into our infrastructure until it was utterly part of our sound and you couldn't really call it reggae anymore. It was just the way we played. That's the great thing about rock'n'roll. It bastardises everything, and I much prefer mongrels over pure races. As a musician, you learn your craft and emulate and copy people, and suddenly there's a moment in your development when you grow up and finally become yourself. I think 'Reggatta' was that moment for us. Then we got caught up in the whole business of becoming a "successful rock group" and almost lost it. We calmed down after that, but we had to work hard to get back into that serendipitous state again."
"'Reggatta de Blanc' was actually a stage jam from the middle of 'Can't Stand Losing You' that eventually solidified into a new piece."
Stewart Copeland: Revolver, 4/00
"I think this is far more of a good dance album than the first one. That's one facet I'm really pleased about."
"It was a real easy album for us to record; it only took three or four weeks. 'Outlandos' was recorded over a six-month period in bits and pieces. On 'Reggatta' we actually cancelled two weeks of studio time. This time the material wasn't rehearsed but the band was. We knew each other's styles because we'd been playing together constantly for eight months, which we hadn't been doing when we recorded the first album."
Stewart Copeland: Trouser Press, 12/79
"Reggatta de Blanc took us three weeks to record. We just went into the studio and said 'right, who's got the first song!' We hadn't even rehearsed them before we went in."
Stewart Copeland: Sounds, 1/80
Review from Mojo by John Harris
In which success allows the trio to stretch out, cut down on the faux-punkery, grope towards a more grandiloquent musical language, and let their more experimental side run riot - as on the instrumental(ish) title track. Replete with the recorded debut of the strange Esperanto that Sting would gleefully employ on-stage ("Gee-yo, Gee-yo, Gee-yo-yo", indeed), it was edited down to under three minutes and brazenly picked as Track 2, and stands as a freeform try-out for the expansive art-pop that was becoming their metier (see also 'Walking On The Moon' and the effects-laden verses of 'Deathwish'). 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' is so stereotypically Police-esque that it verges on the self-parodic; better, by some distance, is 'Bring On The Night', equally representative of their debt to reggae, but taken somewhere compellingly different by Summers' African-ish guitar figures and doom-laden lyrics bound up with much-documented '70s anti-hero Gary Gilmore. Note also a trio of songs by Stewart Copeland: 'Contact', the paean to paranoia 'Does Everyone Stare' and 'On Any Other Day', and absurdist looks at suburban torpor that is hardly great art, but satirises new wave's accent on social realism to neat effect. Oh, and there's also the divine 'Message In A Bottle'.
Review from the New Musical Express by Tony Stewart
If people weren't so busy establishing joyless divisions of rock acceptability, creating slums of fashion and-ha! - credibility then people wouldn't hesitate to acknowledge that The Police are a great pop singles band.
Reggatta de Blanc clarifies their position with considerably more emphasis than their debut, 'Outlandos d'Amour'. The most significant differences are that the second LP exploits their hits, shifts control from three to two of the group (at times developing into a duel between Sting and drummer Stewart Copeland); and perhaps because of this, often strips away the affectations of the most distinctive aspects of their style, revealing a mentality engrossed with '60s rock'n'roll.
Not that it makes The Police any the less enjoyable, only that their brilliance is erratic over the length of an album, their uniqueness superficial and very much dependent on vocalist/bassist/image/hitman Sting. But his talent lies in the charisma of that dry, strained voice and his luck in occasionally concocting a pop melody and hooking that 'original' sound - original only because its origin is buried too deeply in peoples' subconscious to identify.
Ironically, very little of Sting's personality managed to find its way onto this (or the previous) album, whereas Stewart Copeland - obviously intent on stating some kind of jellybellied Police democracy - injects his own idiocy into it. his three songs ('On Any Other Day' and 'Does Everyone Stare') ere unfunny attempts at humour the first a litany of domestic melodramas that could have been Soap out-takes; the second s contrived story of a misfit.
Copeland's increasing dominance only shifts the power axis to the detriment of the band. His material stomps through the rudiments of traditional rock: a complete antipathy to what their best music suggests. Nevertheless he is still an integral Police-man because his joint compositions - 'Deathwish', based on a Bo Diddley beat, and Its Alright For You, a pure 50s/'60s headshaker - expose similar roots and fascinations. And whenever guitarist Andy Summers appears (rarely) by-gone techniques of shrill harmonics, sweet screaming and a mousey scratchiness are revived. Sting's bass also delves into past phrasebooks to the extent that his lines on 'No Time This Time' are straight from the old pop hit 'Judy In Disguise'. Lyrically there are similar traits, a lack of depth, freshness and insight. There isn't anything as excellent as 'Roxanne' on this LP, and even 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' a companion piece to 'Can't Stand Losing You' - is merely a lame expression of remorse, whereas 'Losing You' was a gem of snubbed petulance.
Although Police music hardly withstands a critical stripping down, together the parts create great atmosphere. 'Message In A Bottle' you know about; 'Deathwish', a motoring madness song, succeeds because of its construction, the way two different rhythm; are juxtaposed to create the impression of speed; 'Bring On The Night' and 'Walking On The Moon' are familiar Police style, a mixture of dub, pop and rock. Brought to you by the same team that made Outlandos, including a very similar sleeve design, the important development is that they know the potential of this LP, while nobody really understood what they had with the debut. As a result the stylistic distinctiveness - Sting's reggae voice, the dub rhythms - are louder and forced: an investment. But if things continue the they are then by the next album The Police will either be a rock'n'roll revival band, or Sting will have become a pitiful parody. Summers may have left. For all this, they can be an exciting band and, besides 'Message', there are two great singles on this album... Oh yeah, Police please me.
Review from Rolling Stone by Debra Rae Cohen
Those people who indicted the Police's debut album - citing the trio's arch exploitation of the New Wave - will find plenty on 'Reggatta de Blanc' to justify charges of recidivism. The group once again exhibits the same high-standard, crafty superciliousness that marred 'Outlandos d'Amour'. "The other ones are complete bullshit," announces drummer Stewart Copeland, introducing the new record's 'On Any Other Day', his mocking chronicle of suburban miseries. "You want something corny?" he asks. "You got it" is his answer. Elsewhere, bassist-frontman Sting's spliff-and-swagger reggae vocals often sound bloodless and condescending, checking off rather than embodying emotions.
As with 'Outlandos d'Amour', however, such criticisms are rendered moot by the sheer energy of the band's rhythmic counterpunching. There's enough life in 'Reggatta de Blanc' to make you suspect that the Police's image of elite detachment - like that of the Mod-icon character Sting played by Sting in the movie, 'Quadrophenia' - is just another pose. Nothing on this LP is instantly catchy as last year's 'Roxanne', with its introductory giggle and pop-harmony chorus, but almost all the compositions capture you eventually. Constructing and repeating terse, rhythmic hooks. Sting. Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers set up patterns and crosscurrents like body builders training side by side. Songs, whether reggae or rock, rarely end. Instead, they build through chanty choruses, shift tempo and fade away. Each tune is honed by a distinct production or structural gimmick: the phased vocals in 'No Time This Time', the rhyming-list lyrics a la Bob Dylan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' in 'It's Alright For You', the Who's 'Magic Bus' chassis in 'Deathwish'. An evocative reggae track, 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', combines Sting's ululating, drawn-out syllables and the tense, whirring jabs of Summers' guitar to make up the chorus hook.
In 'Reggatta de Blanc's' best cut, 'Message In A Bottle', Summers twists a sinuous, repetitive guitar line (borrowed from Blue Oyster Cult's 'Don't Fear The Reaper') around the pounding, anchoring bass. Copeland's quick hi-hat fills add to the song's feel of fatalistic urgency, while Sting's lilting mock-reggae wails - papier-m?chÃƒÂ© plaintive through they may be - work like the siren of an emergency vehicle, guiding and warning of momentum. It's a perfect example of why I've always found the Police less offensive than arresting.
Review from Beat Instrumental
The Police are presently enjoying phenomenal success. They seem to have been taken under everyone's wing. At Reading the audience of mud drenched hippies cheered like crazy every time a Police record was played over the PA. Their gigs attract a very varied bunch of people. Punks and Rastas stood side by side and enjoyed things together. The Police are a classic peace band.
'Reggatta de Blanc' (or 'White Reggae') kicks off with the single that shot its way to number one and stayed there for a bit, 'Message In A Bottle'. It was an obvious hit, but so many other tracks on this album would make it as singles too. 'It's Alright For you', the excellent 'Bring On The Night' (if that isn't a smash...) and side 2's opener 'Walking On The Moon'. The album is just bursting at the seams with hits.
There's a nice little story I can tell you that goes with a track on side two called 'Does Everyone Stare'. It was written by drummer Stuart Copeland and the way he did it was on a tape machine at home. He got together a rough demo with him playing the piano and singing on it, to play the rest of the band. The demo, however, has been cutr onto the beginning of the track. So what you hear first is Copeland's actual demo, with hiss, radio breakthrough, the lot, then the band gradually coming in. The tuning and switch over on the mix is superb. It gives a rare insight into how songs are actually constructed.
As with the Joe Jackson album, this one isn't as immediate as their debut. It takes a little time to grow on you, but eventually does. It also proves to me that Stuart Copeland is, after all, one of the best drummers to have emerged in recent years. To see him live is to see him best, but this album puts his playing into a better light than the first one. His combination of stamina, power and originality put him up there with the best. Long may he live.
Andy Summers also proves to be an inspiration on guitar, playing with a rare subtelty, and Sting has already proved himself to be a great bassist, though his singing prowess does tend to distract.
If the Police can keep coming out with albums like this, they'll be around for a long time yet. I hope they are.
Review from Smash Hits by David Hepworth
Supremely confident and perfectly poised second shot from Sting and Co that elevates their love affair with the Beatles and reggae to new heights of accomplishment. Slightly flawed by one jokey vocal from Stewart Copeland, but overall it surpasses their debut by virtue of a new rhythmic flexibility and adventure. Features 'Message In A Bottle' and their best track so far in 'The Bed's Too Big Without You'. Loose in the best sense of the word. Bop till you drop.
Review from Sounds by Gary Bushell
D'amour of da same...
Nothing: I've played this disc several times now and all that's left at the end is a big fat zero in the reaction stakes, tinged with boredom and nagging feelings of bewilderment. I just can't understand why this album will sell as well as it undoubtedly will because it doesn't even begin to move me, to make me want to dance or sing or relax or anything at all 'cept play something genuinely exciting to make up for wasting my time.
It's very clean, cold, clinical. Very bland. Very ordinary and cautious. Very Melody Maker. Very big in America where hipper cats will convince themselves they're buying something authentically 'new wave' and this daringly 'outlaw'.
The Police operate in that area paralleling the early sixties white reshaping of R&B - the late seventies white remoulding of reggae, an area fruitfully developed by the Clash, the Ruts and the Members. And the difference between those and the Police can be summed up in one word: passion.
'Reggatta de Blanc' is totally devoid of the passion which constitutes the backbone of good reggae and good rock. They boast neither rock'n'roll attack or a genuine feeling for reggae, their lane approximation being less moving than even the Barron Knights.
Fans of this band will be more than satisfied with this however as 'Reggatta de Blanc' is very much an unsurprising extension of the groundwork covered by 'Outlandos d'Amour'. Thus tight and competent poppy perversions of rasta rhythms make up the backbone of pleasantly unspectacular easy-listening ditties featuring the usual high-pitched vocals from Gordon Sumner which I find very trying and unattractive.
The only tracks that stand out from the uninspired mishmash are the new single 'Message In A Bottle' which is mildly entertaining (I know a lot of people disagree but then a lot of people buy Bellamy Brothers records too0 and the excellent title track which is in a class of its own with it's moving, magnetic chants reminiscent of some Zulu War soundtrack.
But the rest of the album approaches sub-Panaroma levels of non-excitement. It could almost come with a sticker 'This album is guaranteed not to entice you away from the washing up'. Of course there's no doubt that it will sell in vast quantities and join Dire Straits in the US album charts so the Police can be very rich boys. Just don't try and kid me that this anything to do with rock'n'roll.
Review from Words
We were among the first to spot the potential of The Police when this tight rock-reggae trio were struggling to establish their debut album 'Outlandos d'Amour' in Britain. Meantime, America discovered them & they were away with both the album & the single 'Roxanne' dominating the US charts. Our 'spies' at the Reading Rock Festival in August came away thoroughly won over after The Police put on a tremendous 'live' performance before that 35,000-strong crowd, previewing much of the new album long before its release date to a highly enthusiastic reception. It was a foregone conclusion that 'Message In A Bottle' would turn out to be a killer and its meteoric conquering of the single's chart surprised no one!
Now this hit single opens 'Reggatta De Blanc', eagerly awaited 2nd album from this fast rising trio and already the queues are forming. With their debut LP still high in the charts & already in possession of a Gold Record, there's every chance that The Police will do a repeat job with this follow-up. In pop music the winners are always those who recognise a need and supply the goods to satisfy that demand. Having almost reached saturation point with disco, rock & the various permutations of same, it was extremely perceptive of The Police to come up with their unique fusion of exciting rock'n'roll liberally spiced with reggae at a time when fans were ready to seize upon something new & interesting.
All the numbers on this set were composed within the group with Sting, their handsome lead singer, the main contributor. But in no way must we diminish the work of Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers, for The Police work together like a well-knit team. Together they arranged all the material on this album AND together they produced it - with help from Nigel Gray, who also engineered the session. In case there are still a few people around who regard The Police as just another new wave group, 'Reggatta De Blanc' will both amaze & delight with its wealth of creativity & quality of musicianship. No way this trio are going to fade in a hurry - that's for sure1
Through September following the Reading rock festival, the police were touring the UK, and to their credit they insisted on pegging prices much lower than is usual at rock concerts, so it's especially nice to know that the police appreciate their fans support enough o consider their pockets in return.
Currently, The Police are on an 8-week tour of the US, where they are hero-worshipped from coast to coast. Meantime, you can see Sting playing the role of 'Ace' in "Quadrophenia" - watch out for a super photo of him in next month's "Words-Record Song Book" as well as our review of the Soundtrack of the film.
Review from Dolly magazine
Since the release of 'Outlandos d'Amour' early last year, The Police have come from virtual obscurily to being one of the world's most in demand new wave groups. Focal point of the band is of course, bassist Sting's unique vocal style. Although there aren't any similar tracks to 'Roxanne' on this album, he still displays that peculiar sound (have a close listen to 'The Bed's Too Big Without You'). The Police's music is best described as "white reggae"; that's to say they have a very exciting bopping rhythmic feel to their music, like The Wailers. 'Regatta De Blanc' has become one of my all time favourite elpees. All the tracks on 'Regatta' are excellent, especially the first two singles 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Walking On The Moon', the title cut, 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' and my particular favourite, 'Bring On The Night'. A return visit to Oz is inevitable, so let's hope it's soon.
Review from Creem by J Kordesh
Well, well, a second three-week masterpiece from the Police. Good of them to take the time, wot Not only that, A&M's released 'Reggatta' in a limited edition 10" set (2 discs), just in case you want to hear a 'little' music.
Despite some obvious filler, this is a generally good album, though, dotted with peaks and valleys. Here's a handy scorecard, starting at the summit and working our way down:
(1) Sting, whose voice just might've kept the Titanic floating. It's not completely fair to say this is his album. Actually, it's mine - I bought it and I'm gonna keep it. He's probably got a copy too.
(2) 'Message In A Bottle'. Odd, perhaps, that de Best of de Blanc happens exactly 33 seconds into the LP (going by my pulse probably a mite slow.) This is where they go into the bridge of the year, "I'll send an SOS to the world." A clever build complete with one note piano for listeners who wax sentimental over the Stooges. Plus a guitar riff lifted from 'Don't Fear The Reaper', for listeners who wax sentimental over endangered wheat fields.
(3) Andy Summers. The Handy One keeps his profile low, occasionally losing a song in the sun (Bring On The Night) but redeeming himself on the jazzbo 'The Bed's Too Big Without You'.
(4) 'Walking On The Moon'. Easily the #2 number, this stilted and sparse toon is just sick enough (in a happy-go-lucky way, of course) to make it. Summers gets a truly rare chance to play like the Kinks on Quaaludes, something no musician should retire without. Sting wrote it when he was drunk. I guessed.
(5) Stewart Copeland. Stu does some good drumming here, most of it at the ends of songs, particularly the fake endings of 'No Time This Time'. Unfortunately, he's a godawful songwriter, proving it on It's Alright For You (co-written with Sting), a song that's been penned 3,821 times since 1956 and sounds almost exactly like Burton Cummings singing 'Pump It Up' this time round. Hey, I guess it has some redeeming value at that. No excuse for 'Contact', though which is strictly from The Joanie & Chachi School of Dribble, on 'Any Other Day'.
There's a fair share of other good stuff in the phase shifted ticky-tack of 'Reggatta', most of it contributed by Sting. His knack of writing straightforward lyrics (e.g. "Seems I'm not alone in being' alone") is not to be taken lightly because it's a lot tougher than it seems. At least, I think it is.
Otherwise the reggae element I've avoided mentioning so far is not that big of a much on 'Reggatta' (a.k.a Speedy Gonzales Does London). This isn't reggae; what do you think, a bunch of white popsters are gonna start playing a patently derivative Jamaican form (that's reggae, too) Copeland just changes half of each song (as Regarda de Beat) and Sting adds the word "Oh" at the end of every sentence enough times to put up a good front.
Reggae fans will, of course, buy reggae; pop fans will buy the Police. What about the title, you ask Hey, a regatta's a boat race, for Christ's sake. The White Boat Race. Kinda has a ring, huh
Review from Chart Songwords
Whatever that title means, as Sting remarked when I asked him for a quick rundown on this new LP some time before it was released. He said he thought it would probably please all the people who'd enjoyed 'Outlandos d'Amour', and recruit a few more fans besides, and now I've heard the album, there's nothing to but agree, especially as it's lodged at the top of the chart already, while 'Outlandos' is also a top ten resident. Trouble is, I find it very difficult to get past the opening track, which is 'Message In A Bottle' of course, although nearly all the others have very nagging qualities which make you sing the choruses without thinking. Nothing else to day but this is a brilliant LP, with little touches like an increase, but only a slight one, in the reggae influence - I'd day it was going to be a monster, but it already is. Rating: an inevitable *****
Review from Melody Maker by Jon Pidgeon
Only a year ago I had to talk the editor of this paper into taking a feature on the Police. I don't recall who got the cover the week the piece was in, but it wasn't them. Only a tear ago 'Can't Stand Losing You', the Police's second single for A&M was selling like Mr Softy at the South Pole, stiffing just like the first one had four months before: the single of '78, Roxanne.
As far as the public's concerned the story only started with the success, second time around, of 'Roxanne', so the Police are now in the enviably happy position of being able to follow two recent smash singles, with a brand new album, instead of having to milk more from the old one, as they would have undoubtedly been obliged to and they hit the front from the off.
That their music took so long to appeal to the public must initially have been discouraging for the group especially as they knew they'd put out a couple of classics but must ultimately have proved a more solid source of satisfaction than selling records on the strength of a massive sales campaign. Because once the punters took their fingers out of their ears and listened to the music they made up their own minds about the Police.
If the record company kept it low key, the Press - until , lately - hardly helped either. Stewart Copeland has been sneered at for his affair with Curved Air, Andy Summers for being old, Sting for his dilettantism, and all three of them for bleaching their barnets and jumping on punk's bandwagon.
Punk was indeed Stewart's inspiration, and Sting did at first play his own role reluctantly finding the mile-a-minute material composed by Copeland at odds with his jazzer's sensibilities. All the same, he enjoyed the energy and once Andy had joined in place of Henri Padovani he found the three-piece more a spring-board than a straitjacket and began to introduce other influences and ideas.
'Outlandos d'Amour' was, in fact, well on its way to being a predictably punkish set due for release, like their very first single, 'Fall Out', on Stewart's independent Illegal Records (funded by brother and manager Miles Copeland), when Sting turned up at the studio with a love song whose classiness was only less obvious than its inappropriateness for the Police. They had a go at it though, buttressing the verses with a reggae beat and the chorus with the hardness of honed heavy metal, and created Roxanne. And when manager Miles returned from the New King's Road with dotted lines to sign after playing to A&M the album underwent what must be one of the most momentous remodelling jobs since the Who put down an album's worth of R&B before discovering Pete Townshend could write better songs than the ones they'd already recorded.
Which might explain the slight, yet far from disconcerting air of unfinishedness about that first album though the cause is just as likely to have been the explosion of ideas that clearly occurred in the studio after the inspirational Roxanne had been recorded. So the Police's true musical identity only emerged with the issue of 'Outlandos', whereas 'Reggatta De Blanc' now stands or falls according to its effectiveness in consolidating the sound and the style that has become, in the minds of the record buying public, the Police.
Anticipating the opening grooves of the second album from a band of which you're a fan and whose first was a winner is as unnerving as it's exciting because you badly want it be good, if not better. And 'Message In A Bottle' is an excellent start, familiar as it is via radio en route for the charts.
It's all there: the spare, layered sound that makes complete separation between bass and kit - the influence of Surrey Sounds' engineer, Nigel Gray, in this and other matters is acknowledged this time by a co-production credit - while voice and guitar highfly above them; and a song with a hook in the chorus that would land a whale
and enough subtler ones besides to make you want to put it on again as soon as it stops.
But before the first side finishes the single is reduced in retrospect to the stylish opening round well won on points; of a fight that ends with a devastating knockout at the end of the fourth. The second which gives the album its title, is the softener. It starts on its toes, throws the first punch as the son-of-Masoko vocals begin, and winds. up landing enough body-blows to have the ref step in. 'It's Alright For You' gets off where 'Reggatta De Blanc' finished with and builds from there. But the killer is 'Bring On The Night' which comes out (if I can keep this punch-drunk metaphor on its feet for another three minutes) with all the sweetness of Ali's double-shuffle and floats until it stings with a ferocity that would stand a second's hair on end... KO.
Those first four tracks ought to be enough to convince even cloth-eared sceptics that the Police are about to be the biggest trio since Cream. Whatever the current competition, it's impossible to imagine anyone combining the strength of those songs with the power of their performance. The second side is a shade less coherent, its hint of schizophrenia brought on by an apparent change in Police policy. The songs on the first album were all Sting's, apart from one composition with Stewart, 'On Any Other Day' and Sally, Andy's monologue which was bracketed with 'Be My Girl'. The group's earlier material, mostly Stewart's got rowed out because it stuck in Sting's throat, but a solution was found in the creation of Stewart's cultish alter-ego, Klark Kent, whose 'Don't Care', gave the drummer a solo hit after it had been discarded by the band.
Now here on side two of 'Reggatta De Blanc' are three Copeland compositions, of which at least one, 'On Any Other Day', would have served Klark Kent better than the Police. Which doesn't mean it's not a strong enough song, merely that it's quirkiness perhaps is wrong. The others fit better: maybe because Sting was persuaded to Sing. And the piano on 'Does Everyone Stare' is as sympathetic intruder in the established instrumental sound.
Among Sting's songs, 'The Beds Too Big Without You' is his most infectious flirtation with reggae's rhythms, as irresistible for Andy's hauntingly insistent guitar figures as anything else. The point is that there's only so much to be said about what they do and the way that they do it, because critical analysis sells them inevitably short, So don't read - listen.
Review from Record Mirror by Mike Nicholls
If there is to be a face of '79, it has to be Sting's: not only has he starred in the most talked about film of the year, the trend - enhancing 'Quadrophenia', but he also fronts the band which has become the most successful new outfit on either side of the Atlantic.
Now, after a series of three hit singles, the latest of which has hit the Top 10 with a bullet, comes the follow-up to the highly-acclaimed 'Outlandos d'Amour' debut. Here we have a powerhouse rock trio which increasingly summons the American market and, inevitably, makes itself anonymous in the process.
Following on after the single 'Message In A Bottle', there's the mis-spelt title track, a semi enjoyable Santana - style instrumental romp, adequately guitar-fired and complete with shouting and pointing.
The next couple of numbers maintain the pace, 'Bring On The Night' dove-tailing into a reggaematic cruise with atmospheric bass drum from Copeland, feedback and more of Sting's trade-marked high-pitched plaintive whine. But unbelievably, there's no track of real substance on the side, with 'Deathwish' again showing a dearth of instrumental talent thinly spread over a well-worn series of tried and trusted riffs. Thus far, a profound lack of imagination and, whatever happened to that noble art of songwriting
Overleaf there's a continuation of the tactic of trying to make a little go a long way. 'Walking On The Moon' and 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' are both based on good ideas which go no further than their titles.
Although the dub-style mix of Bed makes it a good deal more interesting than most of its predecessors, it is Copeland's 'On Any Other Day' which really bounces along with life and zest, its faster, flippant feel doing much to defuse the superficial tension aroused by the undernourished Sting compositions.
The drummer's Contact is another warm, congenial number, boasting the first half-way decent lyrics of the album, though finishing too soon before the record's two unprepossessing swan-songs. 'Does Everyone Stare' sounds like an Alan Price 'Jarrow Song' type novelty, while 'No Time This Time' is no more than a book-end.
So, an altogether disappointing successor to the almighty 'Outlandos' - no soulful 'Roxanne', no inspired 'So Lonely'; plenty to take down in evidence against them. Next time they're gonna have to do better.
Review from Voice by John Milward
Call the Police exploitative if you must, but Regatta de Blanc's title at least shows that they can be funny as well - chilly players who are nevertheless capable of a warm, pleasurable outburst like 'Roxanne'. It's the old story - black music played by white faces for maximum profit - but there's a twist. Lots of Jamaicans live in Britain (another old story, colonialism), so the reggae these new-waveish enforcers have grafted onto their pop is nothing more than the exploitation of a natural resource. (Make what you will of the fact that work papers for Steel Pulse, the black British reggae band originally set to open for the Police, got lost in a bureaucratic shuffle which the blond-haired musicians avoided.) The British charts have breezed tropical since Millie Small in 1964, so it's not inappropriate that the new wave has assumed some of the Rasta's beat and posture (if not tropical resolve). But it's misleading to talk about the Police just in terms of reggae; as a tightly wound, sporadically inspired power trio that frequently skips to a one-three beat, they woe as much to Robin Trower as to the Wailers.
Reggae is sweaty dance music that mixes tropical ghetto nightmares with the countryside tranquility of hills running straight into the ocean. The Police don't sweat, which is impressive, since Thursday night, bass playing/singing icon Sting drinks from four cups scattered about his feet. (A true roots-mon would certainly kick over at least one drink, but Sting is a power-pop professional, and not a drop is lost.) The Police are more razor cut than dreadlocks, a cool mixture of influences - icily modern (and generally thin) lyrics, a winning sense of hard-rock dynamics (guitarist Andy Summers's atmospheric, art-rock style is closer to Genesis than Roxy Music for the art, and more Trower than Hendrix on the rock), and Sting's voice, which floats in the arrangements like bubbles in Perrier. Their detached approach to pop riffers like 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'So Lonely' (from the generally rockier 'Outlandos d'Amour') and 'Message In A Bottle' (from the overtly reggaeish new album) also mixes stylistic commitments: though driven by a new-wavish drums-guitar propulsion, the sound is rendered commercially clean by Sting's simple bass lines and arch, syncopated voice. The result is both too frenetic for mainstream rock and too clean for hard core new wave. By being nothing to nobody, the Police can be everything to everybody.
The lyrics don't blow their cover. Instead of burnin' and lootin', their reggae complains that 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', but that's only proper. And while the one dimensional sexual attitudes that inform the lyrics can be hard to swallow, a Rastafarian it's-a-man's-world rap would hardly be an improvement. 'Roxanne', which Peter Tosh reportedly adores, has the singer out to make a prostitute of his girlfriend: "You don't have to put on the red light," Sting gulps and stutters, though his blasÃƒÂ© attitude toward her profession leads one to believe that like a fickle john, he'd likely turn sour if it stopped burning incandescent for him. But that's beside the point - 'Roxanne' is a song about the loose-lipped laugh that starts the tune, the choppy guitar that frames the verse, and the upbeat chorus that creates the climax.
'Reggatta de Blanc's' best reggae shows how the Police have fit into the reggae aesthetic. Poor recording and reproduction equipment made early reggae unavoidably bass-heavy, and finer studio techniques only encouraged the impulse toward distortion. The Police came to reggae with the studio acumen of hard-rockers, their echoes and effects already shuffled and ready to deal. Songs like 'Walking On The Moon' and 'Bring On The Night' present reggae refined and reproduced for clarity, more for the ear than the body - like Peter Tosh et al. without the cloud of cultural ganja. A hot reggae show is a sticky communal dance; a good Police show is a cool piece of Caribbean hard rock that, at the Palladium at least, bored me even before they got to 'Roxanne'. Where the skinhead ska-revivalists Madness cooked at Hurrah, throwing caution to the wind with their Bowery-Boys-in-Trenchtown stage show, the Police played their music with a stiff professionalism that made their mixture of styles seem more academic than inspired - cool as Kojak, kings of the natty-blond beat.
While the heavyweights of British New Wave (the Clash, Buzzcocks) are still stumbling in the gutter, the lightweights are performing with pomp and circumstance in the grandiose manner of arena rock. Although their music originally may have been motivated by a punky desire to fist-fight in dives, two of these English lightweights, the Police and Joe Jackson, share more than a common record label.
Both these rock acts have infiltrated America's AM mainstream, and each released two albums in 1979. The explanation for their success is a simple one: Unlike the breakneck kamikazes of English punk, their music was neither hyperactive nor overly kinetic. In fact, the debut albums by the Police and Joe Jackson are sparse and rather vacant affairs.
Earlier this year, the Police hit with 'Roxanne', which at its best contained an emotional tug at the heart. Infatuated with 'Roxanne', a prostitute, the singer begs his beloved to put away her make-up ("you don't have to sell your body to the night"). Hardly a silly exercise like the Police's 'Sally' (a song about a rubber love-doll), 'Roxanne' is a moving expression of a heartbroken lover.
What made 'Roxanne' especially significant, though, was its semi-reggae beat, which gave the Police a chunkier, thicker edge over the newer pop bands like the Cars and Cheap Tricks. On the Police's latest album, 'Reggatta De Blanc', 'Roxanne' can be heard in every groove - but only its sound, not its substance.
'Message in a Bottle', the current hit, seems more influenced by calypso rhythms than reggae. It's like a soft Jamaican breeze whispering an instant metaphor ("sending out an SOS") for quick-and-easy identification by teenagers. Furthermore, the album's title cut sounds like Belafonte at a pep rally singing 'The Banana Boat Song'.
Yet the Police's stye isn't really a usurption of reggae as much as it is an attempt to establish a sense of authenticity about their sound, as if it had actually sprouted from the soil of a tribal community.
As with most bands experiencing growing pains, the Police's second effort is not quite as raw as their first - a Top-40 hit practically forces a rock group to reach for the platinum trophy with some spit and polish. There are certainly several future hit singles on 'Reggatta' - 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' (if only because it's the next logical step after 'Roxanne'), 'Does Everyone Stare' (mock-operatic mush a la Queen), and 'No Time This Time' (the 'Batman' theme song with gargling noises). Unfortunately, there's nothing on it as crazed as 'Masoko Tanga', an experimental showcase for the Police's form of pop reggae that concluded their debut, 'Outlandos d'Amour'.
Review from Creem by Robert Christgau
The idea to fuse Sting's ringing rock voice and the trio's aggressive, hard edged rock attack with a less eccentric version of reggae's groove and a saner version of reggae's mix. To me this sounds half-assed. And though I suppose I might find the "synthesis" innovative if I heard as much reggae as they do in England, it's more likely I'd find it infuriating.