In an interview with Modern Drummer, Stewart Copeland named Reggatta de Blanc his favorite Police album and I definitely agree with him.
Most artists resist labels, but the Police were one of the few bands that were truly able to distance themselves from them by making music that, no matter how hard fans and critics tried, were hard to classify.
The band inception was in the midst of the second wave of punk rock, and the highly trained musicians were over-skilled for the revolution that was happening. Sting was an aspiring jazz bassist and vocalist, Summers came from prog-rock background (Traffic's ‘Coloured Rain’ includes a 4 minute and 15 second Andy Summers’ guitar solo). Copeland’s approach to drumming was unique, at least in pop/rock, particularly to the use of the backbeat, as he explains in Produce Like a Pro ‘Songs that Changed Music’ video about ‘Message in a Bottle.
While their 1978 debut album, Outlandos d’Amour, had a raw, low-budget production, and punk energy, they already juggled a mix of pop, jazz, rock, New Wave, and (mostly) reggae in their infusion. That made them an anomaly in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when punks and traditional rockers were carving out dividing lines. Were they a pop group? A rock band? A Punk, Post-Punk or New Wave act? Could they be something else?
The fact is that they were great from the start. In their debut album, 'Outlandos d'Amour' songs like ‘So Lonely’, ‘Can't Stand Losing You’ and their breakout hit ‘Roxanne’ barely hint at things to come in the short five years of their existence.
The band's second album, released less than a year after the debut, sounds a lot like its predecessor, but highlights and expends the Police's distinctive appropriation of reggae. The album also benefits from a more confident and polished production, that gives each band member its space in the mix and brings the songs to their full potential.
The Police opted, just like in the sessions for 'Outlandos d'Amour', to record at Surrey Sound with Nigel Gray. A decision that was against the wishes of their label, A&M Records, who had wanted to put the promising band with a more famous producer in a bigger studio, but the smaller budget (between £6,000 and £9,000) could be easily covered by the profits of their previous album, ensuring that the record label would have little control over creation process of the band.
‘Reggatta’ is often accused of being an album infested of ‘fillers’ (songs that were recorded just to “fill” or complete the album intended length), which is technically true. Whereas ‘Outlandos’ had benefited from one of the most prolific songwriting periods of Sting's life, the recording sessions for Reggatta de Blanc were so short on new material that the band even considered re-recording "Fall Out" at one point.
To fill in the gaps, both Sting and Copeland dug up old songs they had written and used elements of them to create new songs. Much ‘Bring On the Night’ and ‘The Bed's Too Big Without You’ were recycled from Sting's Last Exit songs. ‘Does Everyone Stare’ originates from a piano piece Copeland wrote in college. The album also has the only song (as far as I know) written by the Police as a group, ‘Deathwish’. An extended instrumental part for the live versions for the previous record hit, ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’, was recorded for the album (and became ‘Reggatta de Blanc’ the other “song” credited as being composed by the band). Finally, ‘No Time This Time’, a B-side to ‘So Lonely’, was added to pad out the album's running time.
The album was not only a commercial success as a result of ‘Message in a Bottle’ and ‘Walking on the Moon’, but it also further showcased the band’s ambitious experimentation with reggae music creating a unique sound. In my opinion, a fantastic album is one where even the “bad” tracks are great, and although many of the album’s songs can be labeled as “fillers”, they are fantastic tracks. Copeland’s “goofy” songs work remarkably well within the album and may be a sign of one of the few happy times in the band. ‘Reggatta de Blanc’, the instrumental midsection of ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ ended up winning the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
Reggatta de Blanc continued to build on the success of Outlandos d'Amour, hitting number one on the British, Australian, and Dutch album charts upon its release in October 1979, and paved the band's way to success. ‘Message in a Bottle’ and ‘Walking on the Moon’ were released as singles and both reached number one in the UK.
Reggatta de Blanc has appeared frequently on professional listings of the greatest albums. Rolling Stone lists it on their 500 greatest albums of all time. It was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The aggregate website Acclaimed Music lists Reggatta de Blanc as the 109th most acclaimed album from the 1970s and the 365th most acclaimed album in history. According to rock journalist Tim Peacock, with its success, the album transformed the Police "into one of the post-punk era's defining bands".
In an interview with Modern Drummer, Stewart Copeland named it his favorite Police album and I definitely agree with him!
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