Stewart Copeland is an ass, and he can't sing or write songs, which is sort of the tragedy of Reggatta de Blanc. Yet, he is a really powerful drummer. Good enough to warrant Rolling Stone's #3 rock drummer of all time? Maybe. I love the way he uses the hat and the snare.
As proof, I give you "Wrapped Around Your Finger." Listen to what they're doing. Sting's stilted, affected lyrics in his bizarre Cockney drawl; Summers noodling like a 13 year old with a flanger, an Octavia, and an echo; Lord alone knows what sort of New Wave synths being desultorily keyed; and through it all, Copeland is the rack on which all these ill matched clothes just naturally hang together. You could listen to this entire song - get the meaning, the feeling - just from his drum track. Now listen at 3:09, as they mix Sting's pedestrian, plodding bass up and the entire song changes. Copeland tightens up for the "devil and the deep blue sea" lyric - and then, at 3:23, he hits the snare, the single, most iconic drum strike in all of rock history. I've just listened to it 50 times writing this paragraph - it is truly incredible. Go check it out, maybe under the influence of your favorite entheogen.
Sting cannot play the bass. He's terrible. He's whacking around with no sense of where the beat is. Sting playing the bass, plus a rhythm section, would be a rhythm section with one dude way off on the bass. Listen to the opening bars of "Walking On The Moon." No sense of rhythm at all. In fact, early Sting sounds like a white guy imitating a white guy doing reggae - badly. You wonder what the fuck he was thinking. Then you look at the rest of his career - white guy imitating a white folk singer - white guy imitating a white country music singer - and whatever the fuck he's doing now - and it starts to make more sense. He's the meta-vocalist, possibly the meta-musician. He does have a great voice, though, and I like the Jung-infused lyrics.
I think I am less slavishly devoted to Andy Summers than nearly anyone else reading this. He's not bad, but I swear, every time I hear him on these tracks, I keep wishing Johnny Marr had stepped in and done it right.
There is some wonderful music on this set. If you feel like taking a trip, going back to the 80's some day, you could do worse than just plug this one in and let it run.
Message in a Box on Amazon.com. Knock yourself out, kids.