Sunday, August 17, 2014

LP of the Week - "Reggata de Blanc," The Police (1979)

The year "Reggatta de Blanc" came out, Charles M. Young included it in his list of favorite albums of the year in Rolling Stone's end of year issue.  In his notes he made a comment along the lines of it, even more than the band's debut album, demonstrating why the band had staying power and was destined to be around for a long, long time.  At the time, demonstrating that you're never quite as smart as you think you are when you're 19 years old, I strongly disagreed with that assessment, and out of pique (if nothing else) filed the album away, where it sat for many years, not unlistened to but certainly less so than the band's other four LPs.

Fast forward to 2007, when the Virgin Megastore (remember those?) in San Francisco was doing a dump of CD Box Sets for ridiculously low prices, and with a bunch of birthday cash burning a hole in my pocket I decided to pick up "Message in a Box," which includes every song from all five Police albums, plus a handful of alternate takes, unreleased songs, and live recordings.  Listening to it for a while, a couple of things became crystal clear - one, the band never got enough credit while they were still a band (perhaps because of the bleached blonde marketing campaign for their first two records), and two, not only was "Regatta de Blanc" their best and most consistent album, but it was their best by quite a margin.  So Charles M. Young, I apologize - I'm sure you've been agonizing for years over this petty disagreement.

On "Reggatta de Blanc,"the band refines and perfects the formula they established on the first album - "new wave rock tinged with the beats and rhythms of reggae," I guess you could call it, while avoiding completely the calculations and pretensions that would dog the later albums and keep them from achieving classic status.  From "Message in a Bottle" to "Walking on the Moon" to "The Bed's Too Big Without You" to "Bring on the Night" to "Does Everyone Stare" (and I could go on, but you get the point), "Reggata de Blanc" is classic song after classic song.  Frankly, I don't know what the hell I was thinking back in 1979.  But then again, for a while I thought The Knack was a great band, a notion that I will neither deny nor defend.

You really can't go wrong with any Police albums, although in the end "Synchronicity" (outside of "Every Breath You Take," their greatest song) is really overwhelmed by a sense of self-importance.  But even though it took me nearly 30 years to realize it, "Reggatta de Blanc" is their best album.

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