The Police – Ghost in the Machine

xxxxx

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides, this vintage UK pressing sounds rich, smooth and sweet – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the band’s most sophisticated hits: Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Invisible Sun, Spirits In The Material World, and more
  • Hugh Padgham took over engineering duties for Ghost and The Police’s next album, resulting in a dramatic improvement in the quality of their recordings
  • “This album has more variety than the menu in a Bangkok brothel. In particular, Sting’s voice has taken on a new depth and fresh maturity. The opening song, ‘Spirits In The Material World’, may have what sounds like a dumb title, but the song is a dream of close harmonies and nicely understated drums.” Record Mirror

If you’re looking for big hits, this album is for you. I mean, get three tracks in and you’ve already heard Spirits In The Material World, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic and Invisible Sun — not a bad way to get things started! 

This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What excellent sides such as these have to offer on the Police’s fourth (and some say best) album is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1981
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Most copies we played — and it was a bunch — suffered from a serious case of midrange congestion, too much grit and grain on the vocals, and not enough extension up top.

Bass plays a major role in this band’s music as you can imagine, so the copies with superior definition and more weight down there really got us fired up.

Difficult To Reproduce

Much like Synchronicity, this is a tough record to get the right sound out of — even if you do have an excellent pressing. It took a long time to get to the point where we could clean the record properly, twenty years or so, and about the same amount of time to get the stereo to the level it needed to be, which involved, you guessed it, many of the Revolutionary Changes in Audio we tout so obsessively.

It’s not easy to find a pressing with the low end whomp factor, midrange energy, and overall dynamic power that this music needs, and it takes one helluva stereo to play one too. As we’ve said before about these kinds of recordings — Ambrosia; Blood, Sweat and Tears; The Yes Album; Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin II — they are designed to bring any audio system they come in contact with to its knees. If you have the kind of big system that a record like this requires, demands even, you are going to hear some amazing sound when you drop the needle and crank the volume on this Hot Stamper pressing.

What We’re Listening For on Ghost in the Machine

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt –– Hugh Padgham in this case — would have put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Spirits In The Material World
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Invisible Sun
Hungry For You
Demolition Man

Side Two

Too Much Information
Rehumanize Yourself
One World (Not Three)
Omegaman
Secret Journey
Darkness

Record Mirror Review

Chapter Four in their continuing book of fame, finds the Police bolder and confidently going where they’ve only got their big toes wet before.

Of course they could have rerun ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’ in a different package and the little girls wouldn’t have cared a bit. ‘Ghost In The Machine’ (wot a title) proves that they’ve sat down and thought about where to go next. Sure, they’ll always have that definitive snap, crackle and pop, but on this album there’s an overall sense of dedication and quality.

In my humble opinion, this is the best thing they’ve ever done. You see, with the other epics I always used to get fed up about the end of side one, as Copeland soft show shuffled and Sting wrapped his tonsils around another abrasive song.

But this album has more variety than the menu in a Bangkok brothel. In particular, Sting’s voice has taken on a new depth and fresh maturity. The opening song, ‘Spirits In The Material World’, may have what sounds like a dumb title, but the song is a dream of close harmonies and nicely understated drums. It contains the first of several political observations and although I could argue with them over these for hours, suffice it to say that the Police sound convincing when they could have easily sounded jaded.

‘Every Little Things She Does’ is the welcome break between such headiness. A romantic song deft and tender, which starts quietly enough before breaking into mardi gras. Following smartly is the controversial ‘Invisible Sun’, wonderfully constructed and for me it has the same atmosphere as Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’.

‘Hungry For You; heads up the street with a bouncing stride and Sting sings in French so I don’t know what the hell it’s all about – but it provides an enervating insert before more tales of modern life paranoia on ‘Demolition Man’, aggressively and effectively delivered.

Side two opens with archetypal Police on ‘Too Much Information’ with chants a go go and the most heavyweight political references so far with comment on the National Front. ‘One World Not Three’ is dat old White Man’s reggae and the next choice for a safe single. Maybe there’s even the old Marley influence creeping in there from somewhere.

Meanwhile ‘Omega Man’ is heavy on cosmic strip colour and brashness. Written by Summers it has a fine slant on life reflecting the potential of individuals when best by adversity. ‘Secret Journey’ is a piece of latter day psychedelia as Sting still with the taste of India in his mouth rattles on about mystical fulfilment. “You will see the light in the darkness”. Honestly this doesn’t sound at all stupid within the context of the song.

For me through, the best track is the last cut ‘Darkness’. It’s penned by Copeland and features his working overtime on something supremely atmospheric for want of a better term. Based around a gradually developing theme that creeps up from behind, it has some stunning moments of drama and tension. A track to play after a long hard day and you just feel like lying down and snivelling all over the place.

And there you have it. An immensely satisfying album that should vex more than a few Police critics. Girls there’s still plenty to scream at, but more importantly this is thoughtful pop for now people.

by Robin Smith

Melody Maker Review

For a while there it was worrying. For a while it looked as if the Police had made themselves a jail of white reggae; barred the windows with blond hair and bleached white vocals and settled in the Outlandos de Regatta Mondatta for umpteen albums to come.

They quietly admitted they’d been tired; took people aside and reckoned ‘Zenyatta’ had sounded fine but could have been better, should have been brighter; there were tours, interruptions…

And we said, well ‘Don’t Stand So Close’ was great and ‘De Doo, da dum…’ or whatever, and thanks for the meal but maybe next time we could go to a different restaurant. In the meanwhile where was the key to this place. They didn’t bother looking. This is a break-out. Quite probably the best record they’ve made and a better advert for a holiday than a topless beach at Nice. They’ve refreshed, back on top and sprinting, not walking, on the moon.

The Police needed a rest, took it and ‘Ghost In The Machine’ is the result, a tougher record than ever before, songs frequently pared to one unrelenting riff, early reggae flavours retained, but tainted by an extra touch of funk, an additional dollop of rock’n’roll.

Sting today has greater confidence as a political and social commentator; he’s no more certain that conditions will or can change but is intent on arguing them. The culture shock of touring India and points wider of the soft west brought a snap reaction on ‘Zenyatta’. Brutalised by the insult of mass poverty they hit out anywhere as on ‘Driven To Tears’.

A year is only just long enough for those experiences to sink in, seep through, for useless rage to become focused anger and for “why does it happen” to reform as “why doesn’t it stop”.

The songs are of conditions rather than events, an approach wrongly raising conclusions that the Police are soft option snipers firing from a position of protected luxury. There’s no wispy conviction within ‘One World’s simple plea for unity. As the purest reggae track in evidence it has the simplest purpose.

‘Too Much Information’ sees the brainwaves jammed by outside broadcasts and images thrust at us daily so works against a busy, runabout funk background. Thank Andy Summers for giving the beat a stout clip round the ear.

The most obvious sound addition is saxophone, smartly tooted by Sting and invariably arranged a barking backline. Anybody around here heard the word Salsa? Well, no percussion or swirly skirts but the carnival jubilance finds its way onto ‘Every Little Things She Does Is Magic’. It’s one more musical corner into which the Police lamp flicks an unembarrassed blue glow.

Apart from Sting’s eight contributions, ‘Ghost In The Machine’ carries two of the riveting efforts Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland have penned and put to vinyl. At the back end of side two they help make up a final ten minutes which scales Himalayan heights that early stuff can be wiped off an over activated imagination.

By the end of it the Police are no closer to a solution for the global malaise. What they have done is put the strangely disturbing ‘Invisible Sun’ – incidentally the least obvious single of the 11 tracks and the gloomiest – into perspective. There is a message of hope and at least an inner answer to the equation.

It finds a partner in the music’s faster beating heart and an echo in the record’s highest moment ‘Secret Journey’… “You will see light in the darkness, you will make some sense of it, when you make that secret journey, you will find this love you miss.”

by Paul Colbert

AMG Review

For their fourth album, 1981’s Ghost in the Machine, the Police had streamlined their sound to focus more on their pop side and less on their trademark reggae-rock. Their jazz influence had become more prominent, as evidenced by the appearance of saxophones on several tracks. The production has more of a contemporary ’80s sound to it (courtesy of Hugh Padgham, who took over for Nigel Gray), and Sting proved once and for all to be a master of the pop songwriting format.

The album spawned several hits, such as the energetic “Spirits in the Material World” (notice how the central rhythms are played by synthesizer instead of guitar to mask the reggae connection) and a tribute to those living amid the turmoil and violence in Northern Ireland circa the early ’80s, “Invisible Sun.” But the best and most renowned of the bunch is undoubtedly the blissful “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” which topped the U.K. singles chart and nearly did the same in the U.S. (number three).