German keyboardist/composer Eberhard Schoener already had
two decade’s worth of recordings and work in classical music behind him when he
released Flashback in 1978. What made
this record stand out, however, is its high-profile collaborators: then-rising
new wave superstars-in-training the Police. Based briefly in Munich in order to collect a paycheck for
participation in a multi-media extravaganza, the band hit it off with Schoener
and made this record. Fronting songs that are a perfectly pleasant blend of
Schoener’s classically-influenced melodies, analog electronics and German
romanticism, Sting pushes his voice into its highest register, sounding as comfortable
here as he does riding his band’s hyperactive reggae rock waves. That said, his
voice is still, you know, his voice – Sting’s pipes have always been a
love-it-or-hate-it proposition, and if the idea of the former Gordon Sumner
crooning a traditionalist orchestral ballad like “Rhine-Bow” curdles your
blood, then you should probably stay away.
The more overtly pop-oriented tunes like “Only the Wind” and
“Why Don’t You Answer” (which benefits from the contemporary remix tacked on as
a bonus cut) will likely be the most accessible, though they border on mawkish.
Schoener seems happier with the symphonic swells of the second half, including
the lovely, majestic “Lorely” (featuring no new wavers on a busman’s holiday)
and the atmospheric, ECMesque “Magma” as standouts. Ultimately, Flashback is a curio, more for German
electronic music or Police completists than casual fans of either.
“Magma” MICHAEL TOLAND