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UNIVERSAL MUSIC

MUSIC INFO
Synopsis:
A collection of music videos by the British rock group. Videos: Roxanne, Can't Stand Losing You, Message In A Bottle, So Lonely, Don't Stand So Close To Me, De Do Do Do De Da Da Da, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Invisible Sun, Spirits In The Material World, Every Breath You Take, Wrapped Around Your Finger, Synchronicity II, Don't Stand So Close To Me '86. Live Footage: Can't Stand Losing You, Next To You (from The Old Grey Whistle Test).

Director:
Unknown
Cast:
The Police
Writing Credits:
Unknown

MPAA:
Not Rated.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby Stereo
Subtitles:
None
Not closed-captioned

Runtime: 56 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 3/18/2003

Bonus:
• Two Performances from The Old Grey Whistle Test
• “The Police In Montserrat” Documentary
• “Studies In Synchronicity” Featurette
• Discography


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Police: Every Breath You Take (1986)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 26, 2003)

While most bands soldier on past their expiration dates, every once in a while an act goes out on top. The Police eked out a moderate hit with their initial album Outlandos d’Amour in 1978, bolstered mainly by their signature song “Roxanne”. From there they built more of an audience with each successive release. 1979’s Regatta de Blanc boasted “Message in a Bottle” while 1980’s Zenyatta Mondatta took them to worldwide success via “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” and a ground-breaking world tour that sent them to locations rarely visited by rock bands.

1981’s Ghost in the Machine solidified their popularity and included tracks like “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and “Invisible Sun”, but the Police didn’t reach rock’s highest levels until 1983. That summer’s Synchronicity turned into one of the year’s top hits, and they went out on an enormously successful tour that even put them in a few stadiums.

And that was all she wrote. At the time, the band didn’t formally announce a split, but this conclusion became obvious. Bassist and main singer/songwriter Sting put out his first solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, in the summer of 1985. This moderately jazzy release didn’t sell as well as the prior Police albums, but it did nicely, and Sting formed a career on his own apart from the Police.

The trio briefly reformed in 1986, but it didn’t last. They rerecorded some of their older hits in altered versions, and they also played a few concerts as part of the six-show Amnesty International “Conspiracy of Hope” tour. As I recall, Sting did the first three outings with his solo group, but the Police worked at the last three. The June 1986 show at Giants Stadium remains their final public performance in front of a general audience. They played at Sting’s wedding in 1992, and they also knocked out a few tunes at their 2003 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Only two tracks emerged from the 1986 reunion sessions. The band released the slow-paced “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86” as a single, and it also appeared on the greatest hits album released that year. Unusually, a redone “De Do Do Do...” didn’t show up anywhere until 2000’s DTS edition of the greatest hits record. As far as I know, that album – entitled Every Breath You Take: The Classics - remains the only way to get that track. It doesn’t appear on the standard CD version of Classics, and it also doesn’t show up on the 2003 SACD release of the record.

(Minor footnote: though the alternate “De Do Do Do…” sounds like part of the 1986 sessions, I found one website that claims it’s actually just a combination of Sting’s song demo with Stewart Copeland’s original drum demo. I don’t know which is true, but this is an interesting question.)

The alternate “De Do Do Do…” also definitely doesn’t appear on the DVD version, which makes sense since the video uses the original 1980 rendition. The DVD edition of Breath starts with “Roxanne” and progresses chronologically through “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86”. Although the material spans eight years and five original albums plus a single, it seems unusually focused in regard to the videos themselves. Most collections that cover so much ground would feature a slew of directors. For example, Madonna’s Immaculate Collection spreads its 12 tracks across a similar amount of time and number of releases. It begins with 1983’s Madonna and goes through five full studio albums. The set winds up about seven years after it starts with 1990’s “Vogue”.

Immaculate features six different directors for that time span. On the other hand, Breath includes work from only two directors: Derek Burbidge as well as Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. (Okay, that’s actually three directors, but since G&C work as a unit, they only count as one.) Burbidge handled the first 10 tracks, which covered the band’s first four studio albums. G&C did the Synchronicity numbers plus the remake of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”.

Most of the Burbidge material predates MTV, and even the few clips that came out after the network’s 1981 launch are from its infancy. This means that these videos lack a lot of imagination. Basically most of the 10 offer glorified performance lip-synch clips. “Walking on the Moon” finds the Police as they play in front of a rocket, while “So Lonely” has them wander through trains, a tube station, and the streets as they sing. “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” shows the boys on the ski slopes as they mime.

Only a couple of the videos attempt anything a little more ambitious. The 1980 “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” puts the band in a classroom and intercuts the standard lip-synching with some shots of a young girl that connect to the song’s story. “Invisible Sun” intersperses the lip-synching with Irish street scenes meant as a political statement.

None of this makes the videos much more creative or original. To be sure, the first 10 clips remain fun to see, as it’s entertaining to watch the Police grow through the various stages. However, as music videos, they remain primitive and unimaginative.

Matters improve significantly with the three Synchronicity clips from Godley and Creme. Actually, “Every Breath You Take” doesn’t really alter the old lip-synch formula, as it just shows the Police plus some sidemen as they mime the tune. However, the lovely black and white video adds a level of artistry and visual elegance totally absent from Burbidge’s fairly crude offerings. It works because of – not in spite of – its simplicity, and it remains the band’s finest video moment.

The other two Synchronicity clips are solid as well. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” echoes the beautifully basic tone of “Breath”. It shows the band as they lip-synch amidst a sea of lighted candles, and it comes in slow motion as well. The video seems enchanting and mesmerizing.

A very different affair, “Synchronicity II” puts the band in a semi-post-apocalyptic landscape for the requisite lip-synching. They bash and squeal in the wreckage. The weakest of the three 1983 videos, it still possesses a manic energy that makes it work.

Of the four Godley and Creme videos, only “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86” emerges as a moderate dud. It seems stronger than the Burbidge clips, but it mostly just shows the band as they lip-synch on spinning platforms. It also intercuts record covers and band-related memorabilia, but it fails to present anything very memorable.

Despite the absence of many memorable videos, Every Breath You Take remains a nice set. It’s a good collection of music, and the visuals let us see different aspects of the band as they progressed. Don’t expect anything dazzling from the clips and you’ll likely enjoy the package.


The DVD Grades: Picture D+ / Audio A- / Bonus B-

The Police: Every Breath You Take appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As noted in the body of the review, Breath seemed much more focused than most career-spanning music video collections because it featured the work of only two different directors. That factor allowed the videos to present a significantly more consistent visual presence than one would normally expect from this kind of package. Unfortunately, the quality of the picture seemed uniformly flawed.

The clips directed by Derek Burbidge presented similar visuals. They seemed to have been shot on film so they displayed some flaws that often occur with that format. Sharpness varied quite a lot. Sometimes the images looked fairly concise and well defined, but much of the time the videos seemed soft and indistinct. In general they portrayed a lack of firmness and were moderately fuzzy. Jagged edges and moiré effects presented no concerns, but I did notice some edge enhancement for videos like “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”.

Since they came from film, print flaws became a problem. Lots of defects showed up for these videos. I saw grain, speckles, scratches, blotches, marks, nicks, and other problems. The levels of these varied and never became overwhelming, but they definitely popped up pretty frequently.

Colors also varied, but they generally remained fairly bland. The hues displayed no strong concerns, but they also failed to deliver much life or vividness. Black levels seemed about the same, as they were acceptable but unspectacular, and low-light situations appeared decent in general.

The four Godley and Creme clips were apparently shot on video, which gave them a different look. They looked a little softer than the filmed pieces, as they appeared somewhat indistinct and fuzzy. The print flaws evident during the first 10 videos didn’t show up here, though video artifacting often gave them a moderately grainy appearance.

The colors of the final three clips seemed bland. The hues were never better than mediocre, and they became rather runny and messy during “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86”. Black levels seemed decent and were pretty tight in the B&W “Breath”, but shadow definition was less the positive. Contrast looked iffy and loose, and low-light shots were somewhat murky and hazy. Ultimately, the videos on the DVD seemed watchable but the various flaws forced me to knock my grade down to a “D+”.

Happily, no such concerns affected the excellent audio of Every Breath You Take. The DVD offered both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. I found the pair to sound identical, as I discerned no substantial differences between the two.

Most of the multi-channel remixes heard here came straight from the 2000 DTS CD of Breath. However, the DVD includes some songs that didn’t appear on that disc, so they got new remixes. “So Lonely”, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”, “Synchronicity II”, and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86” all fell into that category. In addition, although “Invisible Sun” was on the DTS CD, I think the video used a different mix of the song, so this DVD’s rendition may not be the same one heard on the DTS CD.

The newly remixed tunes didn’t seem quite as full and rich as the others, but they worked well nonetheless. For the most part, they stayed more firmly entrenched in the front speakers. For example, “So Lonely” barely left the realm of standard stereo, as it didn’t make much use of the surrounds. The others expanded their horizons a little better, but they remained less broad and dynamic when compared to the tracks that also made the DTS CD.

While those DTS remixes didn’t go nuts, they definitely added a sense of space that made them effective. Appropriately, the forward speakers always dominated, but the surrounds gave the music a feeling of airiness. Instrumental delineation seemed very clean and concise, and the audio still blended together well. The surrounds occasionally tossed in some unique percussion, vocals, or effects, and they created a good atmosphere. These five-channel mixes seemed tasteful and worked nicely.

For all the tracks, audio quality seemed excellent. The music presented clean and clear highs, and vocals always sounded natural and distinct. Drums popped as they should, and guitars fills rang appropriately. Bass response appeared tight and deep, and low-end never become loose or rough. A few tracks were less impressive than others, but that related to the original production; for example, Ghost in the Machine always was a little on the thin side. Overall, I really liked the audio of Every Breath You Take.

One oddity: the DVD presents four subtitle channels, all of them English. However, none of them seem to show anything.

Unlike most music DVDs, Breath tosses in some good extras. We open with two songs performed on The Old Grey Whistle Test. We get late-Seventies live renditions of “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “Next to You”; together they run six and a half minutes. Sloppy but spirited, the band generally sounds good on these rollicking takes.

An extended look at the sessions for I>Ghost in the Machine, The Police In Montserrat lasts 47 minutes and 10 seconds. Hosted by keyboardist and TV personality Jools Holland, the program starts with an introduction to the island of Montserrat and then gets to the band in the studio. Rather than focus on the recording of the album, we find separate sessions with Andy Summers, Sting, and Stewart Copeland. Summers offers a guitar demonstration that includes glimpses of “Message in a Bottle” with or with effects. He also plays a little jam with Holland.

Sting goes over the recording process and gives us insight into his songwriting. He chats about how he came up with “Message” and we also meet “Brian”, his upright electric bass. We get another jam with Holland, and Summers eventually joins in as well.

Lastly, Holland speaks with Copeland about his drum kit and style. No jam occurs between them, though. The program fills out with studio videos for “Demolition Man”, “One World (Not Three)”, “Spirits In the Material World”, and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”. These will look very familiar to anyone who’s already watched the main collection of videos, as they show the same form of mimed studio work. I’d have liked to really see the band record Ghost, but “Montserrat” possesses some informational and entertainment value nonetheless.

One nice touch: “Montserrat” includes subtitles, a rarity for DVD extras.

Although I hoped it’d take a look at the creation of that album, Studies In Synchronicity simply promotes that release. The three-minute and 53-second ad shows photos of the band, some artifacts connected to the songs, and a few shots of the “Every Breath You Take” video while we hear a montage of Synchronicity tunes. It’s a nice addition as a historical memento but it offers no other value.

The DVD ends with a discography. This shows the covers and tracklistings for the band’s five studio albums, two hits compilations, Live! and Message In a Box, the almost-complete package of Police recordings. No information like release dates or any sound bites appear here.

I won’t count Every Breath You Take as a great collection of music videos, mostly because a lot of the clips aren’t very imaginative or interesting. Nonetheless, the set includes a great deal of excellent music, and the videos present enough basic fun to make them worth a look. Some genuine classics of the genre help enhance the package as well. The image quality seems quite poor, but that’s mostly a reflection of the original videos. The audio sounds absolutely great, and the package presents a few useful supplements. Breath is a nice release that belongs in the collection of Police diehards as well as those with a burgeoning interest in the band.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1428 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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