RELEASE DATE: 01 October 1997
RELEASE COUNTRY: UNITED KINGDOM
This is a fairly generous collection of 17 classic Sting and Police videos. On the downside however, there is nothing new on this release. Bafflingly, even the Puff Daddy remix of 'Roxanne '97' hasn't found it's way onto this collection, despite their being a fairly stylish New York shot promo video for the song. So basically, we have a collection of videos that have all been released before - 1996's 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot' apart , indeed some of them are being officially released for the third time. The argument for this particular collection can only be that this is the first time the Police and Sting have had a joint collection released and that the success of Puff Daddy's remake of 'Every Breath You Take' as 'I'll Be Missing You' has opened up the back catalogue to a new generation of listeners and A&M need some available product on the shelves to whet their tastebuds. A couple of things to note: the video for 'Russians' has Russian subtitles which is new, and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' is actually the 1986 remix video.
Review from Q magazine by Andrew Collins
In June 1979, Sting assured the cultural Gestapo, "We never called ourselves punks." The Police's calculated rock-reggae alloy was, after months of Transit van torment, hit material. Indeed, despite the trademark banana hair - bleached for an American gum commercial - Sting, lanky drummer Stewart Copeland and wizened Curved Air guitarist (sic) Andy Summers (already 35) could never have been called punks.
When Sting went solo, six years and 40 million album sales later, he stopped being not punk, and not reggae, and went not jazz and not soul. Not a South American Kayapo Indian, sterner critics say he's not an actor. He's been a lot of things, yet Sting occupies a unique chair at music's top table: eminently likeable among today's over-40 rock aristocracy (surely the fittest), with £97 million, with enough Ivor Novellos to start a rifle range, and yet willing to cameo in 'The Smell Of Reeves & Mortimer'. This career compilation, a fine rich sauce stands testament to Gordon Matthew Sumner's victory over inauthenticity.
Nine solo singles to eight Police tracks seems, at first, unjust - whither 'So Lonely', 'Invisible Sun' - but Sting was in the band for eight years and has been Himself for fifteen. What separates the distinct halves (they come ready-shuffled, non-chronology fans), is the predominantly mellow nature of the Sting work: one could imagine the Police going on to record 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' or the sublime 'Englishman In New York', but Copeland would've legged it before mid-life mooners like 'When We Dance' or 'Fragile' (covered, tellingly, by Julio Iglesias in 1995). The Police were more than the sum of their prog-jazz-pub roots, and their new wave (especially 'Can't Stand Losing You') material is hot through with enough finesse to forever distinguish it from The Jags and 1983's 'Every Breath You Take' still remains Sting's most beautiful (and creepy) composition.
There's only one real minus to this songwriting masterclass-cum-Newcastle City Council self-help seminar: the uninvited yet obligatory 'Roxanne '97', which despite Puff Daddy's remixing efforts, merely proves that Sting is not rap either.
Review from Vox magazine by Jerry Thackray
The recent partial critical rehabilitation of Sting via Puff Daddy's inspired reworking of 'Every Breath You Take' should come as no surprise to those of us who still remember The Police as one of the classic singles bands of the late '70s. Turn-of-the-decade songs like 'Message In A Bottle', 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' dwelt on the perennial punk themes of alienation and despair - oh, all right then: alienation, suicide and teacher-pupil sex - with suitable amounts of punk vigour and attitude. It was only when Sting split The Police and returned to his roots as a jazz musician, releasing such cod-reggae "nouveau jazz" monstrosities as 1988's Englishman In New York, only when he let his infatuation with "real" music and a desire to make political statements stand in the way of his pop sensibilities, that his critical stock really tumbled.
At the time, 1979's 'Walking On The Moon' was a cool chart-topper to rank alongside Blondie's 'Atomic' and The Specials 'Ghost Town', while early single 'Roxanne' predated the '80s hip-hop predilection for writing about "bee-yatchs" and "ho's" by several years. Phenomenally successful, bouncy, upbeat pop with a space-age edge - The Police had all the bases covered. "Why not sell great music to the masses" Sting asked in a 1980 NME interview. No wonder artists as diverse as Nirvana and Rush went on to hail them as an influence.
If Sting had a fault, it was that he was too arrogant. Still, what do you expect from an ex-PE teacher who wakes up one morning to find the world at his feet At the age of 25 It was this arrogance which in later years forced him to go public with his increasingly weird obsessions - tantric sex, saving the rainforest, world peace - and to foist such appalling drivel upon his adoring fans as '85's sax-led 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'. Contrary to popular belief, however, not all of his solo material is a write-off: the laid-back, wistful 'Fields Of Gold' is strangely affecting, Iikewise last year's Beatles-esque 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot' - a sweet, masterfully underplayed lament. The 1986 Number 12 hit 'Russians', meanwhile, deserves a category all of its own. Full marks for bravery for including it here. It's Sting's very own 'Ebony And Ivory' - "I hope the Russians love their children too..."
Oddly, this compilation chooses to omit most of the material from the final days of The Police: no 'Synchronicity II', no 'King Of Pain', no 'Spirits In The Material World', no 'Invisible Sun'. Likewise, the first solo album is notable by its absence. Instead, what we get are all the early mega-hits and a smattering of the solo work, ending with the astonishing remix of 'Roxanne' by Puff Daddy with sundry Fugees, all slowed down and f***ed-around with. This one could run and run...