Where was this Andy Summers 27 years earlier? This is organic, living, breathing rock music. The Andy Summers of 1987 and the Andy Summers of 2014 sound like two completely different musicians.
On the debut album from his new rock group, the 71-year-old Summers shows the young’uns how it’s done – and how it should have been done for the last couple of decades, since the guitar master was busy doing things that most rock musicians couldn’t dream or hope of doing.
This time, Summers lays it on really thick with his guitars and wisely leaves the singing to his new songwriting partner Rob Giles, a singer and multi-instrumentalist in the indie rock band The Rescues. Not only does Giles provide dynamite, powerhouse vocals, but he also does a standout job on bass and drums, sometimes sounding like Sting and Stewart Copeland on those instruments on certain songs. Dan Epand also handles the sticks masterfully on three tracks.
The resulting sound is an exhilarating mix of musical styles (The Police, Yes, U2, ‘80s rock, modern rock, even Eric Johnson) that make up a compelling package, and Summers has the chords, licks, and riffs and Giles has the voice to really sell it, especially on numbers such as "Levitation," "Underground," "No Highway," and "Whenever You Hear the Rain." Other highlights include "Say Goodnight," "Gamma Ray," "Summer Lies," and "Light the Fuse & Run." My personal favorites aside, the whole album is flawless from beginning to end.
There’s no telling how long Summers can keep going (based on now, he can seemingly go on forever). Hopefully, he can get at least three to five records out of this deal.
As for Giles, based on this album, he deserves a long-lasting and successful high-profile career.
Although I had considered The Police to be my favorite rock band since 1983, I find that Circa Zero's debut album is tighter, more focused, more consistent, and ultimately more satisfying than any one of The Police's albums – and that's not at all a knock on The Police. In fact, this is what The Police might have sounded like if they had continued in the hard rock vein of Outlandos d'Amour, but with the elements of sophistication of their later repertoire.
In his discovery of and chemistry with Giles, Summers has managed the rare feat of capturing lightning in a bottle for the second time, with this lightning strike making a direct impact.