Andy Summers

  • Andy Summers
  • XYZ (MCA) 1987 
  • Mysterious Barricades (Private Music) 1988 
  • The Golden Wire (Private Music) 1989 
  • Charming Snakes (Private Music) 1990 

As the Police’s mostly mute guitarist, Summers — whose long and winding career stretches back to 1963 and includes stints in both the Soft Machine and the Animals, not to mention sessions for Neil Sedaka — was recognized as one of rock’s most versatile and venerated sidemen. Additionally, he asserted his independence by cutting two artsy instrumental records with Robert Fripp. But whatever could have possessed him — hubris? jealousy? an imprudent wager? — to write lyrics and sing on a solo album? XYZ‘s laughable first line: “Some sex can be better when it’s on the phone.” Summers’ froggy, unmusical croak overshadows his extraordinary musicianship, making him sound far less talented than we know him to be.

Wisely, there’s no singing on Mysterious Barricades, an attractive wash of sonic wallpaper that continues Summers’ tastefully productive partnership with keyboardist and co-producer David Hentschel. Working with no outside assistance, the duo weaves translucent new age instrumentals that fade in and fade out without incident, a technically flawless reverie.

Besides scoring 1989’s Weekend at Bernie’s, Summers expanded his artistic horizons with The Golden Wire, another co-production with Henstschel that uses a variety of musicians (on keyboards, horns, bass, drums and woodwinds) for much-needed rhythmic muscle and textural variety. One track has a guest vocalist; Summers breaks tradition to play a bit of banjo on another.

[Ira Robbins]

See also: Fripp & Eno, Police