September 09, 1985 12:00 PM

Stewart Copeland

Sting’s recent album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, had to be good. Because he is the lead vocalist of one of rock’s most acclaimed groups, the Police, expectations ran high for his solo effort. We tend not to ask as much of drummers, which is why this rewarding record from Copeland, who fills that sweaty role for the Police, is a surprise. It probably shouldn’t be. In 1977 Copeland recorded an interesting collection under the assumed name of Klark Kent. More recently he acquitted himself well in scoring the Francis Coppola film Rumble Fish. But his most accomplished achievement to date is The Rhythmatist, a musical safari through Africa expressed in rock idioms. Punctuation is provided by ceremonial tribal chants and the screeching of jungle birds. Many cuts bear authentic native melodies and rhythms, with such nuances as the singing of Ray Lema from Zaire. There is nothing primitive about these songs. Brazzaville, for instance, is enriched by synthesizer and kettledrum flourishes. Copeland’s style, with its martial use of snare drums, staggered hammering on the tom-toms and dense rolls, is as readily identifiable as Sting’s voice. Copeland also indulges in some inappropriate voice-over ruminations that mar the last two tracks. But most of The Rhythmatist creates a singular atmosphere. The journey through African music has been good for Copeland; he certainly brought it back alive. (A&M)

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