If the multi-platinum success of The Police is assessed by a public guided only by the singles the trio released- ones that routinely charted in the UK and the U.S. in the Top 20- it’s easy to overlook the fact that the band also made really great albums. The five studio records they did make were loaded with tracks that showed a remarkable depth of musical, lyrical, and sonic personality and character. Boxed together, and included with a bonus sixth CD of compiled outtakes and singles, Every Move You Make is an essential collection not only for any fan, but for all to assess properly the true impact of this legendary group.
The presentation of the collection is clean, conscientious, and compact; the albums are housed in individual gatefold CD sleeves re-creating the original layout and art of the vinyl LPs. They have all been remastered as well, at Abbey Road Studios, and done so with great attention to illuminating the recordings without any conspicuous rise in overall volume that has plagued reissues from other artists. For a purist that remains devotional to and defensive of vinyl as king, these CDs are easily on par.
The five albums cover the five years of the band as a major label artist- 1978-1983- with the bonus disc gathering other recordings made during that same span. As a result, the bonus slab, titled here as Flexible Strategies, plays like a timeline of the group’s development from post-punk, reggae-inflected new wavers to the sophisticated rock engineers dabbling in world music and looping synth tech. As for the five albums, they resonate as energetically and sonically as they did when it all began over 40 years ago.
One thing that becomes obvious, in addition to how the band evolved and how masterful they became at combining respected musicianship with pop sensibility, is how The Police always left space on their albums for something different or, to some, strange. Start with Synchronicity, inarguably the band’s pop rock zenith, and hear the fourth track, “Mother.” In context, it’s dark and bizarre and, even if tongue-in-cheek, risky. Isolated, it’s hard to imagine it’s from the same pot as “Every Breath You Take,” that mega-single about stalking, forever misinterpreted and subsequently on most wedding couple’s lists. It’s the same with something as haunting as “Darkness,” the last song on the group’s most varied album- Ghost in the Machine– that rivals anything from the emo-pop or grunge movements that would emerge a decade later.
This is the ultimate attraction of having all the albums of The Police here in one place: the ability for a listener to hear them as they were intended to be heard as a whole; to dive down into the contrasting moods, the innovative arrangements, and the scope of the records as complete thoughts beyond the Top 20. With the release of this terrific set, these albums, in spite of the massive commercial success of those singles, are what The Police can and should be recognized for as their ultimate legacy.