The Police: Synchronicity
Universal (Japan) UIGY-15031
Stereo Single Layer
Review by Rick Kosmick - May 12, 2015
The release of "Synchronicity" in 1983 represented the final album of new material from The Police. They went out in style as this album was their best that ended up with massive sales (8 million copies alone just in the USA) and Grammy Award nominations (justly deserved). This Universal Japan SHM SACD is the second pressing UIGY-9605 release from November 26, 2014. There is also a previous 2003 SACD release from A&M Records that I will address a little later in this review.
I begin by stating "Synchronicity" is a superior album based on a number of reasons: it brims with superb material written mostly by Sting; three band members who are extraordinary musicians playing with vitality and style; and, ranking right up there, the outstanding production (and engineering) work from the renown Hugh Pudgham. Quite a recipe that should be handled properly by the right transfer to SACD..... and this SHM SACD is certainly worthy as a high fidelity release.
In listening to the first track entitled "Synchronicity l", it sounded a little closed-in that I attributed to the way it was recorded (for whatever reason). However, after this initial song, all subsequent tracks quite noticeably opened up into a much wider soundstage. The stereo imaging is exceptional and the vocals of Sting are well centred with very clear tones. These Police recordings are uncluttered with instrumentation that allows for wonderful detail in a warm analogue-type sound.
I particularly enjoyed the bass mix with a firm but refined touch from Sting. Just as important to the bottom end was the drums of Stewart Copeland that sound punchy but played with precision fitting perfectly with the bass. As musicians, The Police played very tight as a highly skilled unit but always with tact. And the guitar playing of Andy Summers is always first-rate yet tasteful with no better example than "Every Breathe You Take". This song is one of the all-time great singles and would go on to win the Grammy Award for Song of the Year (1983). It has a gorgeous sound and, on this SACD, it is an absolutely thrilling experience as Summer's guitar playing is impeccable as the driving force, in my estimation, behind this song.
As noted above, the SHM SACD of "Synchronicity" is the second such release on SACD. The Police recordings have undergone two major remasterings. In 1993, the entire Police catalogue was remastered by Dave Collins for the 4 CD Box Set of 'Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings'. The second remastered set (2002) was supervised by the acclaimed Bob Ludwig for the release of six Police albums in 2003 that included SACD versions. I have a copy of the 2003 SACD of Synchronicity that I compared to the SHM SACD for sound quality.
First, I emphasize both the 2003 SACD and the SHM SACD state in the liner notes mastered by Bob Ludwig 2002. I anticipated both SACD's should sound approximately the same but there were subtle differences. The SHM SACD exhibited slightly more brightness with a broader soundstage. Also, the SHM SACD was more open and transparent in the upper range that seemed to have this lilting quality. What do I ascribe to these positive listening differences in the SHM SACD? Well, perhaps the answer lies within a DSD edit and/or DSD transfer of SHM SACD that is not referenced in the liner notes or perhaps it is the SHM manufacturing process itself..... it would be only a guess on my part. Still, to be clear, the 2003 SACD has excellent audio quality but my preference is the Universal Japan SHM SACD release.
Of the ten tracks on "Synchronicity", three single releases ("Every Breathe You Take", "King of Pain", "Wrapped Around You Finger") hit the Top 10 in the charts and the single "Synchronicity ll" entered the Top 20. Quite an accomplished set of recordings. All in all, a great album with great sonics.
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