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Reggatta de Blanc
The Police

A&M 4792
Released: October 1979
Chart Peak: #25
Weeks Charted: 100
Certified Gold: 6/10/81

StingThose 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-handed, crafty superciliousness that marred Outlandos d'Amour. "The other ones are complete bullshit," announces drummer Stewart Copeland, introducing the 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 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 played by Sting in the movie, Quadrophenia -- is just another pose. Nothing on this LP is as 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 à 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.

The Police - Reggatta de Blanc
Original album advertising art.
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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-mâché plaintive though they may bee -- work like the siren of an emergency vehicle, guiding and warning of m omentum. It's a perfect example of why I've always found the Police less offensive than arresting.

- Debra Rae Cohen, Rolling Stone, 12-13-79.

Bonus Reviews!

To a certain extent, the Police could be (and have been) accused of cashing in on the New Wave. They're not kids, after all, and although they do nothing to conceal their jazz and r-&-b grounding or their considerable instrumental expertise. But the fact is that, reverse snobbery notwithstanding, they're a superb band whose imaginative fusion of New Wave energy, Sixties hooks, and mutated reggae continues to be one of the most interesting sounds around.

The format of this new album is basically the same as on their debut, though this one seems to have a trifle more polish in the production. No new ground is broken, but it shows a considerable refinement of approach. There are some new wrinkles, to be sure: consider in particular the really gorgeous layered guitar-work on "Message in a Bottle" or the wonderful deadpan way in which they enumerate the middle-class catastrophes of "On Any Other Day." The Police aren't the first band in almost a decade to make the power-trio format really work, and for that alone they deserve respect. But when you get down to it what really sets them apart is a fascination with the sensual potential of sound; I can't think of any other rockers now working, New Wave or otherwise, who make music so simultaneously lush and lean. Remarkable stuff, highly recommended.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 2/80.

The idea is 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 the result 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. B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The Police's second album -- "more and better" -- came with as obscure a title as the first, probably translating as "White Face" (rhyming slang: Regatta -- boat race -- face) -- the tie up being with Police's brand of "white reggae."

Comparison with the LP shows the sound to have opened up dramatically losing a lot of thump and the somewhat dead "fizz" from hi-hat in particular.

The track "Bring on the Night" now moves along in a far larger acoustic space from CD, hi-hat and speedy cymbal work ringing cleanly; Stewart Copeland's rim shots which open "Deathwish" crack and excite the studio acoustic while Sting's bass punches its way from the speakers.

The purity of the CD mastering produces a sound that is tighter and more dynamic, which makes the music "faster" and even more exciting. The mix and recording again from Surrey Sound does little to exploit stereo separation with the trio centrally bunched. This concentration of sound does however give Reggatta de Blanc a focused energy and drive enhanced by the clean mastering for Compact Disc. * * *

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

The very title, Regatta de Blanc (rough French for "White reggae"), describes the style of The Police's second album. This speedy mix of reggae and mainstream rock spawned two number one U.K. hits with "Message in a Bottle" and "Walking on the Moon." The reggae influence is most noticeable in the rhythms, especially on the tracks "Bring on the Night," "Walking on the Moon," and "The Bed's Too Big Without You." * * *

- Iotis Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

On Reggatta de Blanc you can hear Sting's songwriting take a leap forward the moment his self-pity turns to empathy in "Message in a Bottle." The album also contains the equally fine "Bring on the Night" and "Walking on the Moon." * * * *

- Daniel Durchholz, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

The first Police album, Outlandos D'Amour, appeared in late 1978 and included three hit singles. But when this second album with a pidgin English title -- meaning "white reggae" -- appeared in the autumn, it quickly topped the UK chart, also becoming The Police's second U.S. Top Thirty album of 1979.

The transformation of The Police from ersatz punks in 1977 into perhaps the biggest mainstream rock band in the world by 1983 was remarkable. Reggatta... supplied their first two UK chart-toppers -- "Walking On The Moon" and "Message In A Bottle." ("The Bed's Too Big" was the lead track on the so-called "Six Pack," a specially released collection that also contained the group's previous five A&M hit singles). Both singles were prime examples of the band's off-kilter brand of new wave, highlighted by Andy Summers' economic but ear-catching riffs and Stewart Copeland's deft drumming. The trio's key member, however, was former Newcastle schoolteacher Gordon Sumner, aka Sting -- a world-class lead vocalist and bass player, and commercial songwriter.

Copeland had previously been in the successful Curved Air, and had invited the unknown Sting into The Police, who were managed by Copeland's brother, Miles. Playing on a single by a new group, Strontium 90, Stewart and Sting encountered guitarist Summers, who had played with Zoot Money, Eric Burdon, Kevin Coyne, and Kevin Ayers, among many others.

Despite worldwide success, however, the balance of power in the band always remained delicate. The Police broke up in 1985, and Sting has retained a high profile as a solo artist ever since.

- John Tobler, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

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