Boasting to have every note The Police ever played, the four disc set contains not just what appears on albums, but also unreleased tracks, B-sides, live recordings and all-around tasty musical treats. With 78 tracks, you get more than just every recording, you get all that is the experience of The Police.
This is an experience not to be missed. While you may be able to get a semi-fulfilling experience from The Police's singles collection Every Breath You Take, even the singles collection is incomplete as a singles collection, missing the early police hit "So Lonely." Message in a Box does not commit the horrendous act of leaving out that song, or any other song for that matter.
Will all the Police recordings here, you're blessed with an accurate study in the group's musical history. The box set moves chronologically, with disc one containing the more early albums of the Police, ending with the last recording, "Don't Stand So Close To Me '86." Its an invaluable journey through the musical growth and exploration of The Police's career.
Looking at the four discs more closely, some tracks stand out especially. On disc one, the especially rare single "So Lonely" is in heavy rotation on my CD player. Disc Two is filled with equally great tracks, such as "On any other day," which does not have Sting picking up lead vocals, and its just great to hear something so different vocally from this band. Opening with the mocking "Sermon," Disc Three will take "no excuse for the people you abuse" referring to the fickle music industry and the hit-making process. This track was very interesting to open up Disc Three, because at this point in the Police's musical career, they themselves were a commercial success. Putting "Sermon" as the opening track on disc three definitely makes it stand out, and there's a reason for that--apparently it's one of the messages in the box.
With Disc four, the listener is treated to several live recordings, available only here, as well as some of the Police's biggest hits: "Every Breath You Take" and "King Of Pain." Thus, Disc Four has some of the most widely heard Police song right next to those never heard of, an interesting juxtaposition if you ask me. Disc Four showcases the more keyboard-heavy sound that surfaced at that time in the Police's musical career. Comparing Disc One to Disc Four, the musical quality is similar, but the sound of the Police is definitely not. So, you get the Police from not just several different angles, but all the angles of its musical library.
Message in a Box does not just limit itself to a musical history of the band. Instead this in-depth box set has a written history and a pictorial history as well, with many photos spread across the 65 page booklet. The written history, just like the musical one, is not some quick summary, or Cliff Notes version, of the Police. Quite the opposite: the wealth of information could supply a college course on the Police and their music.
Each member--Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers--has a 'chapter' in the box set's booklet. The information contained is impressive and will satisfy more than just the casual reader who knows little of the Police, the Police's number one fans will read things they too have never known.
This box set deserves a 5.0 out of 5.0 rating because it goes further in being complete than by just having every track imaginable here. It is complete in every way imaginable, with an overabundance of written, musical and photographic material. It is rich in all things Police, and truly is complete. The Police's Message in a Box: the Complete Recordings claims early on that it "This is it ... simply that it's all here, every note." The box set succeeds in bringing all of the Police for you to enjoy.
And enjoy it you will. The Police write songs that to me are indescribably good. The band captures more than just emotions, they capture a certain heartbreak on "So Lonely," obsessive love on "Every Breath You Take," or loneliness in "Message in a Bottle." They capture very specific emotions, but emotions that everyone feels, despite the specific nature of them. Thus, M essage in a Box speaks to you in a message addressed to you personally. Its a message I revisit often.
Catherine Galioto is a contributing writer. Contact her at msmatildarockzone.com.