Deep Album Cuts Vol. 105: The Police

Every time Sting releases a new project, like last week's odd album-length collaboration with Shaggy, 44/876, I think about the classic The Onion op-ed where Sting mused "you know, I used to be kind of cool once." Some of my earliest memories of music were hearing The Police albums around the house, and Stewart Copeland was one of the first drummers I looked up to as a guy who didn't just do amazing things with his kit but also seemed to really be the engine that drove the band's sound and sensibility. My dad often recalled how much he loved "Roxanne" the first time he heard it, and remained a fan of Sting throughout his life. Lately I've been driving around with a folder full of Dad's CDs that includes the first few Sting solo albums but not any Police. And some of the Sting stuff is good, but hearing it really made me crave going back to the Police records.

The Police deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Truth Hits Everybody
2. When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around
3. Synchronicity I
4. Bring On The Night
5. Next To You
6. Canary In A Coalmine
7. Secret Journey
8. The Bed's Too Big Without You
9. Walking In Your Footsteps
10. Man In A Suitcase
11. Too Much Information
12. Reggatta de Blanc
13. Murder By Numbers
14. Born In The 50's
15. Driven To Tears
16. O My God
17. Does Everyone Stare
18. One World (Not Three)
19. Peanuts
20. Tea In The Sahara
21. Behind My Camel
22. Omegaman

Tracks 1, 5, 14 and 19 from Outlandos d'Amour (1978)
Tracks 4, 8, 12 and 17 from Reggatta de Blanc (1979)
Tracks 2, 6, 10, 15 and 21 from Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)
Tracks 7, 11, 18 and 22 from Ghost in the Machine (1981)
Tracks 3, 9, 13, 16 and 20 from Synchronicity (1983)

I'm a big fan of bands with multiple singer/songwriters or moments when one of the sidemen steps out with an occasional great song. But The Police never quite had that dynamic -- they're a classic power trio where each member is brilliant and indispensable, but Sting is the clear frontman, and it often feels like Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers were writing songs mainly to get their own cut of royalty money, keep things from getting too pop, or simply to fill out LPs when Sting came up short. They were, after all, cranking out an album a year while touring all over the world.

I like Copeland's vocals and lyrics fine in the context of his own stuff, like his Klark Kent solo project (which actually debuted on the UK singles charts a couple months before the first Police hit). But Copeland singing, or Sting singing Copeland's songs, invariably pales in comparison to Sting's fairly effortless ear for melody. And Summers' vocal turn on Synchronicity's "Mother" is probably one of the most infamous and widely disliked deep cuts to ever appear on a blockbuster album. One side effect of The Police being one of the biggest bands in the world is that even some of their least memorable tracks won major awards -- both "Behind My Camel" and Reggatta de Blanc's title track won the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

The Police are a tricky band because they only made 5 albums and went out on top with their biggest record, so there's no period of decline and every album featured a couple of great classic singles, but their discography is by no means flawless. There's not even a perfect album in the bunch, whether you want to blame Copeland/Summers songs, filler instrumentals, or Sting's occasional embarrassing couplets like "hey Mr. Dinosaur, you really couldn't ask for more." This playlist was fun to make mostly because I could skip past both the overly familiar hits and the outright stinkers like "Be My Girl - Sally."

And while Synchronicity is often crowned as the band's classic, there's not really a strong consensus about the band's best and worst albums. It says a lot about Synchonicity that the B-side tacked onto later CD and cassette editions, "Murder By Numbers," kind of surpasses a lot of the proper album. I find myself in the minority when I vouch for Zenyatta Mondatta, which I think has the smallest gap in quality between the best and worst songs, and perhaps the most sustained mood of any Police album, with a focus on the trebly, jittery side of the band. Maybe it just gets lost in the shuffle among the people who like the punky energy of the first two albums or the growing pop sophistication of the last two albums. I always want Reggatta de Blanc to be better than it is but it's arguably derailed by filler more than any of their records. And Sting's brief infatuation with playing saxophone kind of makes Ghost In The Machine my least favorite in their catalog.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep
Vol. 95: Linkin Park
Vol. 96: Shania Twain
Vol. 97: Squeeze
Vol. 98: Taylor Swift
Vol. 99: INXS
Vol. 100: Stevie Wonder
Vol. 101: The Cranberries
Vol. 102: Def Leppard
Vol. 103: Bon Jovi
Vol. 104: Dire Straits
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