Monday, September 5, 2016

30 Years of Andy Summers' Solo Recording Career

Although Andy Summers' eponymous recording career outside The Police goes back another four years to include his highly acclaimed collaborations with fellow guitarist Robert Fripp – I Advance Masked (1982) and Bewitched (1984) – it was three decades ago during the summer of 1986 that Summers recorded his first solo album, XYZ, named after the middle initials of his three children.

Originally called Quark and engineered and recorded by Devo member Bob Casale at Devo Studios, XYZ is the only album on which Summers sings lead vocals throughout. It also marks the beginning of Summers' collaboration with Genesis engineer and producer David Hentschel, who coproduced and played keyboards on XYZ as well as Summers' next three albums and coproduced another Summers album a few years later.

While XYZ pales in comparison to Summers' virtuosic instrumental albums, the drone-like songs are hypnotically entrancing, the monotonous singing style is uniquely eclectic and serves the songs well, and the guitar work is excellent as always. The exceptionally upbeat, gospel-tinged song “Nowhere” features Summers' most rocking and soulful guitar solo ever, the best of his entire recording career thus far.

I say that as someone who has been a fan of Summers since The Police's final studio album, Synchronicity, in 1983 – when Summers was 40 and I was 10 – and who has some of Summers' key recordings from the 1960s with Zoot Money's Big Roll Band, Dantalion's Chariot, and Eric Burdon and the New Animals.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of my favorite Andy Summers album, World Gone Strange, his only release to be recorded entirely in New York City, and the 20th anniversary of Synaesthesia, Summers' last album to be coproduced by David Hentschel – thus far.

Incidentally, it is also the 10th anniversary of Summers' autobiography, One Train Later. I had the pleasure of meeting Summers in person and getting his autograph during his book tour stop at my alma mater, New York University, for which I received a special invite as an alumnus.

Six years before that, I was fortunate and privileged enough to be able to interview Summers by telephone for a sidebar accompanying my main interview with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns in DirecTV: The Guide. Summers even listed our interview on his Web site's news section for a while.

And of course, I have seen Summers perform live several times over the years, first in an acoustic guitar duet with John Etheridge (in 1994 at The Bottom Line in the heart of NYU), then solo with his own various backing bands, and finally with The Police twice during their 2007-2008 reunion tour.

--Raj Manoharan

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