John Holt, both as a member of the Paragons and as a solo artist, had established himself as the master of pop with a multitude of love, love lost, and other typically pop-themed hit singles. However, with Police in Helicopter, the singer reinvented himself as a more contemporary, cultural artist.
The title track, a Jamaican smash, set the defiant tone, threatening, "If you continue to burn up the herbs, we're going to burn down the cane fields." "Last Train From the Ghetto" and "Reality" are cultural/Rastafarian statements of intent, while "I Got Caught" is a warning about the consequences of misdeeds.
The Roots Radics provide the rootsy accompaniment, with producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes adding his signature deep roots/dubby production, with that sublime tinge of dancehall which gave the record a totally contemporary sound. Of course, Holt didn't totally break with his past, and the rest of the record contains lighter-themed material. Hit bound "Fat She Fat" and "Private Doctor" were equal to any of the singer's previous classics, only the musical style has changed. In fact, the deepest roots track of all is "Beach Party," the perfect thematic follow-up to the Paragons classic "On the Beach." "I Got Caught," which one expects to be rootsy, is virtually rocksteady, abetted by the Tamlins' sweet backing vocals and accompanied by a flock of chirping birds. Lawes also had a field day with the saccharine "Sugar & Spice," drawing in elements of rocksteady while littering the track with contemporary electro effects. The album is a masterpiece of aural illusion, as the band slide out the fat rhythms and reggae riffs, and Lawes transforms them before our eyes. Deep roots with a twist, wave a wand and, abracadabra, Holt's songs are no longer considered MOR pop, but now appeal to a more serious audience. Police is a true classic album on which a great vocalist and songwriter comes of age. ~ Jo-Ann Greene