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The Police - Regatta de Blanc, Zenyatta Mondatta, Ghost in the Machine, and Synchronicity LP reissues (A&M)

4 February 2020

Just over a year ago, A&M released a vinyl box set called Every Move You Make: The Studio Recordings. The collection featured all five studio albums by the Police, plus a bonus platter of career-spanning B-sides that told the full story of the band’s influential blend of pop, punk and reggae. Now, fans without a need for the entire run can choose from four individual LPs. If you want to pick up Outlandos d’Amour for a remastered “Roxanne,” you’ll have to wait for another day. But you can start with “Message in a Bottle” on Regatta de Blanc and keep going.

Your humble correspondent is fan enough and sufficiently aged to have original vinyl LPs for comparison to the new heavyweight vinyl pressings. Regatta’s opening salvo including “Message in a Bottle,” the wordless title track, and the frenetic fan favorite “It’s Alright for You” are well served by the makeover. There are no drastic changes, and the sonic breadth of the master is intact with air in Stewart Copeland’s hi-hat, thump in the kick drum, presence in Sting’s vocal and rumble in his bass. Andy Summer’s guitar bites, shimmers, and glides. The album doesn’t succumb to the common pitfall of smashed dynamics from additional limiting and compression. If anything, the new master is a couple of decibels quieter than the 1979 pressing on-hand for comparison. “Walking on the Moon” remains chiming and otherworldly, but benefits from an augmented sense of spaciousness around Summers’ guitar and Copeland’s rim knocks.

1980’s Zenyatta Mondatta ushered in the decade when the Police ruled the world, and the album features three of the trio’s enduring hit singles. The tense and angular “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” reveals a tale of illicit and inappropriate desire that sent countless teenagers to their local libraries in search of books by Vladimir Nabokov. “Driven to Tears” is a plea for social responsibility that was reflected by 1985’s global appeal to support victims of African famine at the Live Aid concerts. “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” was the Police’s closest thing to a silly love song on the surface, but underneath were statements about the abuse of language and the power of simple communication. Possibly reflecting the higher-quality source material afforded by the band’s evolving status, the new master is true to the original but a bit more transparent – as if a thin veil was lifted from the old one. This album and the pair that follow include replicas of the original inner picture sleeves.

1981’s Ghost in the Machine added the philosophical reggae-pop of “Spirits in the Material World” and the self-conscious romance of the pensive-then-jubilant “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” Sting’s lyric for the downbeat “Invisible Sun” was sparked by the hunger strikes in war-torn Ireland, and also reflected tensions and turmoil in Copeland’s boyhood hometown of Beirut. Notably, the new master restores Copeland’s opening five-stroke drum fill to “Spirits in the Material World” that was missing from some early pressings (including this writer’s copy).

Finally comes the globe-conquering Synchronicity, an album that might have stood as a best-of album by itself if the other Police records weren’t already such tremendous fun. If you watched MTV when the M stood for music, you can still name the pile of singles: Billboard Hot 100 #1 single “Every Breath You Take,” with its oft-misunderstood stalker’s confession, the embattled and despairing “King of Pain,” the table-turning “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” and the star-crossed rocker “Synchronicity II.” Like the original LP release, Sting’s masterpiece of political criticism “Murder by Numbers” is not included on the remastered LP. However, classic status is also deserved for album cuts including Copeland’s world-music percussion feature during Sting’s environmental cautionary tale “Walking in Your Footsteps,” and the arid story of misplaced hope and broken promises “Tea in the Sahara.” Summers makes his peak performance of understated and atmospheric guitar soundscapes on the latter song. The fresh master reveals every shimmer, swell, and echo.