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Why buy those promo videos again ?
on 13 April 2003
If you're a Police fan then the chances are that you already have the promo videos on good old VHS video, so you'll know what they're like. The videos are mainly 'live' performances by the band but you know that they're having fun miming to the songs. We get to see Stewart air drumming on a chair in the dressing room and, his crowning glory, drumming on the back of a NASA rocket! Sting also gets in on the act by ignoring his 'bass miming' and concentrating on rock star posturing.
In fact the history of The Police sees the gradual ascendancy of Sting's rock star ego (plus the reduction of his nose through plastic surgery).
The sound on the promos has been remixed into 5.1 DTS which, whilst bringing out some unheard parts in the mix, distracted me from what are now classic songs. In fact the 5.1 for Can't Stand Losing You even has a dub echo on the drums which has been added to the original track. However there is the 'original' stereo track as well which has been re-mastered and provided me with the mix I've come to know and love.
So it's the extras which us Police fans are buying this DVD for and we get two early performances from The Old Grey Whistle Test. These show how great the band were live and left me hoping that a release of the Synchronicity concert is on the cards for DVD re-issue. Japan have already had 2 DVDs released of live show (one early one from Gateshead and one from the Ghost In The Machine tour). Here's hoping for a live DVD.
The 45 minute documentary 'Police In Montserrat' sees a young Jools Holland tracking the band whilst they record Ghost In The Machine. The first 10 minutes follows Jools around Montserrat and we learn all about this little South American tropical island and get a feel for what must have influenced Ghost In The Machine.
But it's the interviews with each band member which provides the gold on offer with this DVD. Andy goes through the various effects pedals which he uses on the recordings. By the time of Ghost he was a seasoned musician approaching 40 but his obvious love for a new guitar effect is obvious.
Sting takes us through how he writes songs, using Message In A Bottle as an example. He records the backing tracks using Dennis the drum machine and a massive cassette recorder (this predates compact disc let alone mini-disc or DAT). You do get the feeling, though, that he might be a little bit sarcastic but he was obviously having a great time recording the album.
Stuart explains how he used reggae beats for that Police drum sound (it's all to do with the bass drum and the third beat). Also he shows us the electronic piece of kit which he used to get the echo on the drum sounds.
Overall it shows how The Police were very much three great musicians and not just the backing band for Sting's songwriting. They obviously all had a hand in how the songs sounded.
The four songs in the documentary are not live versions but, once again, studio miming to backing tracks. In fact two of them, Spirits and Every Little Thing, are the promo videos mentioned earlier !
As an extra bonus there is the four minute Studies In Synchronicity which is, sort of, a live action version of the Synchronicity cover.
So, overall, it's not a bad purchase at a reasonable price but it could have been a lot better if it had had some retrospective input from Sting, Andy and Stewart.