Dire Straits (1978)
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Down to the Waterline A-
It seems like this song starts out out of the mists! Some ambient noises and then Knopfer piddles around with his electric guitar as if he's trying to give the universe a soundtrack (there... so much more my descriptions...). Then, his exciting bar-rock groove pipes up, and I wanna dance! It's remarkably upbeat, and Knopfer delivers some wonderful guitar licks throughout. ...Otherwise, the harmonies and rhythms are interesting, which plays a part in keeping this experience from growing dull. The lyrics are very poetic. I took a look at them! (Yeah, I read song lyrics ... whattaya know?)
Water of Love B+
They slow things down for the second track, and give it a more droning and mellow sound. The involved rhythm is addictive and the melody is nice, especially the chorus. This does seem rather tame even for a bar-rock ballad, but at least it isn't obnoxious or boring! More of those famous minimal guitar licks can be found here.
Setting Me Up A
Some upbeat guitars keep an interesting texture going for this enjoyable tune. I almost wanted to classify this as a funk song, but I guess that wouldn't be accurate. It's just more bar-rock with involved guitars! The melody is nice, and the melody is very catchy!
Six Blade Knife A-
Geez, it took me awhile to get this one. This track features a cool, subdued and rather hypnotic groove. Knopfer takes the opportunity to deliver some particularly spaced out and minimal noodling that's likely to captivate you once you're already in the spell of the groove. Knopfer's growling voice is effective!
Southbound Again A
Delivering a crisp, bouncy groove in the same vein as "Setting Me Up," except this one actually seems rather tighter. This one is rather catchy and extremely well constructed, and (most importantly) I enjoy listening to it. (Geez, I wish I could write more about it... I guess these aren't going to be great track reviews...) Somehow, these guys have a knack for constructing these interesting textures!
Sultans of Swing A+
The big ole hit. In my early days, I heard this song on classic rock radio and thought it was Bob Dylan. (Similarly I heard Billy Joel's "My Life" and thought it was The Beatles. That's hard to even believe now.) Well, everyone knows this song by heart I'm sure. The melody here is especially memorable, and Knopfer's brand of guitar playing comes off especially well here. He's delivering a narrative, lyrically, about a dusty old bar-rock band, and the guitar seems to be taking the forms of the characters. The groove is addictive (as you probably know!) and this is a song that I'll never get tired of hearing!
In the Gallery A-
Nicely done! It's less interesting than some of the previous ones, but it's done solidly enough to warrant my attention. The groove continues to be tight and well constructed. This is mid-tempo so it's less exciting by nature, but that doesn't mean it's not enormously well constructed!
Wild West End B+
Now, I do like this song when it just starts, but it sort of runs out of steam for me. It might have been nicer if it were a tad more diverse and interesting, but it's just fine the way it is... I like the melody and, naturally, the guitar noodling.
At this point, I'm not exactly *bored* but maybe a little tired. My mind wanders away from this one, but then I realize that I probably shouldn't let it wander... I force myself to pay attention to it and then I realize that this is a pretty good song! Knopfer seemed to take special care in delivering some extra-spacey guitar noodling, which provides endless hours of fun!!! ... Well just five minutes, but I think you catch my drift.
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Once Upon a Time in the West A-
I guess they're copying their first album to the point that the album starts almost exactly the same --- that spaced-out guitar piddling! What ensues isn't nearly as quick and danceable as "Down the Waterline," but it's a largely palatable mid-tempo rocker that perfect to sit back and soak up. As always Knopfer's tasteful, minimal guitar noodling is always great to hear. This is palatable.
I will say that Dire Straits is officially losing me here, which didn't quite happen already in their debut! A little closer to soft-rock than I'm sure anyone would have liked. The sound is looser, and the guitar piddling (while great) doesn't seem especially wonderful. So... my senses are slowly growing dulled.
Where Do You Think You're Going? B+
This one starts rather slowly and boring with Knopfer just singing along to an acoustic guitar. But as the song goes on, it grows on me. This is another very nice laid back song that I can sit back and soak up... and that's some of the finest kinds of music as far as I'm concerned! The rhythm change toward the end was an especially nice idea, and the song sort of ended on a fresh note.
What a nice bar-rock song! The riff is a tad stiff, but it's catchy enough. The melody is perfectly catchy though perhaps not as memorable as the pieces from the previous album. The overall structure is rather loose and laid-back, which means it fits the mood of the rest of the album. I like sitting back and listening to it!
Lady Writer A
This could be seen as this album's "Sultans of Swing." It has the same sort of feel, except it's not quite as tight or catchy. I still think it's memorable, and nobody ever said that rock couldn't be enjoyable if it was looser... In fact, rock that's too tight and perfected isn't always my opinion of a great song. And anyway, this is catchy, and Knopfer's guitar is great.
Angel of Mercy B+
Less impressive this time, "Angel of Mercy" is still likable though not exactly catchy in any sense. You can concentrate on Knopfer's guitar licks for the entertainment especially toward the end! It doesn't quite do enough to elevate this to an A-level song, but it's close!
Portobello Belle A
This one starts out as an acoustic song, but more electric instruments slowly pop up. What results is a rather catchy and sweet song with a good melody (important point) and some nice, pleasant instrumental-work. Wonderful!!
Single-Handed Sailor A
Now, this song is especially good, and it would've been at home in the debut. A tight and catchy riff is at its core along with some catchy vocals provided by Knopfer. The real showcase of this comes at the end when Knopfer delivers a lengthy guitar solo, which comes off as more effective than his vocals.
Follow Me Home C+
Some ocean sound effects and a simple percussion beat slowly fades in. Geez, that was boring; they didn't do much to make that interesting. Unfortunately, the monotony doesn't change much for the rest of the song. They find a rather uninteresting groove and ... zzzzzzz ...
Making Movies (1980)
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Tunnel of Love A-
Eight minutes long! Lengthy songs like this are normally pretty horrible and fairly indicative that the songwriter doesn’t feel like writing a whole other song! But this is pretty dang entertaining. It starts with some old sobby soap-opera-esque music for the first thirty seconds and then it transforms gracefully into a guitar-heavy, poppy track that this band has been known for from the get-go. This is much like “Sultans of Swing” and surprisingly nearly as good! The sound is definitely fresh, and Knopfer’s minimal guitar is as beautiful as always. This one has inertia and enjoy ideas to keep it fresh for the entire duration. It never lets up! It could have been twice the length, and I wouldn’t have complained (much).
Romeo and Juliet B+
It’s very similar to the previous track… the fact that it’s supposed to be a little more dramatic and a ballad seems easily overlookable! The instrumentals are rather simple, but the inclusion of the piano and a more plucky sounding guitar lent to the atmosphere marvelously! The melody is actually rather catchy… and the whole thing is very likable. Its only flaw is this one does seem a tad overlong.
This is an alluring song! The chord progression is interesting and helps the song keep flowing and sounding fresh. Again, it’s a tad long (past six minutes), but this one doesn’t seem like it particularly overstays its welcome. Stylistically, it’s exactly the same as the previous two… but consider that a positive attribute.
Expresso Love B
Not bad! It starts out with some rumbly guitars, which makes me think the proceedings might sound a little bit different than the other songs… Well, it’s OK that it sounds the same as the rest of the album!! This one’s a tad less distinct even though I like the fact this one’s on the dancey side.
Hand in Hand C+
Alright, this one’s a little bit tiresome… It doesn’t start off too well. Rather quiet and “ballad-like” and then it, predictably, picks up pace, but it seems very clunky and never catches fire. It’s not a bad song; I don’t want to press the skip button whenever this comes up! Well, they must’ve known that this wasn’t quite up to par considering that, at less than five minutes, it’s one of the shortest track of the album!
Solid Rock A
This is even shorter than “Hand in Hand,” but this is more of a danceable pop rock tune that probably could have been a radio hit! (Well, on second thought, it’s a tad too indistinct for that.) It’s a very fast placed pub-rock tune with a catchy melody and a great beat! Much fun.
Les Boys B
…cabaret?? I certainly wasn’t expecting that! Kudos for finally deciding to put a bit of diversity! Now get back to your old style!!!! … Eh, this song is alright. The melody isn’t that hooky and, somehow, Knopfer doesn’t seem so much in his element. This sort of thing is best left up to Lou Reed!
Love Over Gold (1982)
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Telegraph Road A+
A very space age beginning with some outer space synthesizers and sound effects. It surely could have been used for a Star Trek movie, or something! But then it very gracefully turns into an utterly gorgeous tune with Knopfer’s restrained, twinkly guitar and a pretty piano playing. Such a nice introduction! But as expected, a drum beat pipes up and a very Dire Straits-ian ballad starts playing. In general, though, the beautiful spaciness never ceases. Despite the fact that the song length extends past 14 minutes, it’s an enormously well-developed song that never grows tiring. I’ll go so far as to say that it greatly lifts my spirits!
Private Investigations B+
Just like the previous track, this one begins with some space-age sounds. A generator of sorts and then Knopfer comes in with his spacey, minimal guitar licks. Instead of turning into one of their typical songs, they keep the same low-key, spacey thing its entire length! I absolutely love the atmosphere… These sorts of songs rarely work well at all, but I feel like this one’s transported me somewhere. Very professionally done! It’s still a bit boring, though, hence the non-A rating.
Industrial Disease B-
It’s easy to see this song as a sort of transition to their biggest commercial success, Brothers in Arms. And why the heck not? The synthesizers are there! … The intro is utterly splendid. As usual, it starts out rather space-age with just the right blend of piano, synthesizers, guitar and sound effects. After that an uncharacteristically clunky pop-rock tune commences. It’s a fun song to hear, but nowhere near as tight and wonderful that I know this band is capable of!
Love Over Gold B+
This is a sweet little ballad! (Little meaning that it’s six minutes long.) Continuing with the atmospheric vibe, Knopfer’s minimal guitar licks dazzle my left ear as a mellow piano and twinkly xylophone plays out my right. The melancholic melody is effective. It seems alarmingly close to being elevator music! It’s surely in the same style, except it’s very rich. This is very fetching music.
It Never Rains A-
You don’t live in Seattle! … Well I will never claim in a million years that these guys didn’t have CONSISTENCY down to an art. This is another fantastic, atmospheric song that ends up being a great conclusion to the album. It seems Knopfer finally got a chance to deliver a more bombastic electric guitar solo and it is quite fantastic. The monster groove trudges along nicely, and the atmosphere is so well-developed and polished that it’s nearly unbeatable in these respects! Very good work!
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Once Upon a Time in the West A
Such a dramatic entrance! It sounds like the opening credits to a 1940s movie set in the middle ages! This slows down and a whistle synth begins playing familiar notes for awhile, and then a synthesizer comes in and gives it some body. Knopfer’s familiar minimal guitar work comes in and piddles around a bit. It really isn’t until the three-minute mark of this 13-minute track when the actual song starts up, but it’s a lot of fun hearing them piddle around that long. Luckily, Dire Straits writes the sort of songs that are fun to hear for 10-minutes… It helps that the melody is catchy, the bass-line is “groovy” and they have a guitarist who knows a thing or two about soloing. Knopfer’s reputation of being able to make his guitar talk is in full bloom here, too, making this a must-hear for fans of the instrument.
Expresso Love B+
Just a little bit better than the studio version… All I can really say to justify that is the dancey quality of it seems livelier in the live setting. These guys are such impeccable instrument players that they really do manage to capture everything live that they were able to do in the studio… and possibly more.
Romeo & Juliet B+
This ballad one of the group’s sweeter melodies, and it’s played similarly to the album track but drawn out just a bit. It is rather nice, though, and a perfect thing to just sit back and soak up. Knopfer adds in his minimal guitar licks, which are fantastic as always! Honestly, it’s hard for me to believe that this was actually recorded live… always a bit surprised to hear the audience cheering.
Love Over Gold B
Surprisingly a bit more boring than I remember the original to be… I’m not sure if that’s just because of where it’s positioned on the album or what. It’s only three minutes long, and it seems like I hadn’t had a chance to get into it yet! (It’s nice to finally be reviewing a band whose lengthy tunes are very welcome to my ears.)
Private Investigations B+
This one starts out in piddly-mode! An organ plays a long sustained chord and some minimal guitar licks come through. He starts playing a very beautiful melody, and he starts talking some lyrics… This isn’t quite as well-produced as the album version was (obviously), but it seems more genuine and possibly even more dramatic! (Of course, it depends on the listener.) Knopfer’s guitar is the center of attention, as usual, and it’s always fantastic. The beginning of the song is more quiet and contemplative, and they start doing their dramatic power chord routine by the end…
Sultans of Swing A
Ah, the big hit that everyone in the audience was undoubtedly yearning to hear all the while they were sitting through “Private Investigations.” They drag the song onto nearly 11 minutes long, and I don’t regret spending one second listening to it. The original was probably more driving, but this one has more interesting guitar licks. Just like the original, this is one that you should listen to the highest volume possible!!!
Two Young Lovers A-
A very fun and danceable throwback to old ‘50s party music. This doesn’t appear on any of their full-length albums, so I suppose this is another compelling reason to purchase this album! This track predominantly features a swinging saxophone!
Tunnel of Love A
I just noticed these guys like writing songs about love. (I don’t emerge myself into Dire Straits as much as I’m recognizing, right now, that I should.) The saxophone player is brought over to play the introduction, and it perfect proof that nobody has to listen to Kenny G. He produces a very good sound! … The familiar organ solo of the “Tunnel of Love” tune doesn’t happen until the four minute mark, and the rest of the 14-minute running length is spent with this remarkably energetic pub-rock tune. A bit in the middle when they slow it down to deliver a more contemplative bit, it’s funny to hear the audience… but then you just want them to shut up!! All in all, great melody, and a lot of fun to listen to! (The crowd sure gave quite a roar at the end!)
Telegraph Road A
With its spacey beginning and that hopelessly gorgeous piano… Wow these guys do it as well on the studio albums! That one had more production, but … you wanna hear how they played it live, doncha??? It’s becoming a bit of a cliché now, but Knopfer’s guitar is fantastic!! (The audience sure likes this song… listen carefully and you can hear them singing along with it.) The 13-minute running length was similar to the album version… and again, it’s nice.
Solid Rock B+
This was one of the most fun tracks on Making Movies, and it was a great choice for them to play live! I’m bouncing out of my seat!!! The studio version was better, though. It was even more bouncy. I like the crescendo at the end… very classy. It’s what Beethoven would do if he was a rock star.
Going Home (Theme From “Local Hero”) B+
That’s a good movie that I haven’t seen in a long while! I’m not sure how the original sounded like, but this is a very pleasant and contemplative song that seems like very good soundtrack music. (Also, Knopfer wrote the Princess Bride soundtrack later on, and we all know how good that one is.) It has a nice swell of energy at the end with the snare drums, and features a bit of a duet with the guitar and saxophone. Quite good!
Brothers in Arms (1985)
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So Far Away A
I have to admit that every time I hear this song start up, I think it’s going to turn into The Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed.” The tempo is quite a bit slower, but the rhythm guitar riff sounds very similar. Anyway, after only a few seconds, it turns into an above average new wave track. The walking pace is pleasant to hear… you can sit back in your easy chair and hear this without being asked to get up and start dancing. It’s a nice feeling when it’s done right. Also helping matters is the easy-going melody, which has plenty of vocal hooks. Despite the new wave direction Dire Straits was going, they have abandoned their instrumental prowess. Excellent guitar licks pepper up this track and there isn’t an abundance of keyboard sounds or any drum machines. Very good!!
Money For Nothing A+
Surely, everyone knows this by heart. As you know, it starts as an atmospheric synthscape with Sting ominously singing “I want my MTV.” Then that danceable, pub-rock groove pipes up (except with more keyboard sounds) with just about the catchiest riff ever. The lyrics bash MTV and mainstream rock stars, but the song and its music video was more popular than anything at the time… And, along with everyone else, I love that fact! The lyrics also contains a derogatory word that Knopfer famously didn’t think would be perceived so negatively (it’s also a cigarette in his country, you know). The guitars are crunchier than ever, and the melody is the catchiest thing on the planet… Eight minutes are rarely this well spent!
Walk of Life A
I used to attend a lot of college baseball games in my middle school / high school years, so I knew this song well before I heard the name “Dire Straits.” (If the other team had a bad pitcher, I would have heard a snippet of this at least a half a dozen times over the nine innings.) That well-known keyboard riff starts things up, but other than that 1980s mainstream addition, it surprisingly doesn’t betray Dire Straits’ pub-rock roots. The guitars are chugging along nicely and this is easily among the strongest melodies of their career. This sure beats the pants offa Bruce Springsteen!
Your Latest Trick C+
Now that the three hits were over, we’re betrayed! Immediately, from that horn solo and cheesy electric piano chords, I can tell that I’m going to be bored. The saxophone solo is comfortably a few notches above Kenny G, but anything as corny as that is hardly much to be proud about. Not helping matters is a bland melody… Interestingly, Knopfer’s guitar is much fuzzier than it seemed like it should be, but it did little to make this song much better.
Why Worry B-
Zzzzz… Eh, this song isn’t worthy of an immediate dismissal, but it’s pretty dull to sit through especially since I’m always fighting the urge to press the ‘back’ button and re-play the first three songs. If Knopfer really had to write a lullaby song, this is good as any of them. I’m fairly certain that if you’d like it more if you weren’t so eager to compare it to the earlier tracks. It’s a pleasant thing and well played with nicely contemplative instrumentals, and the melodic ideas are nice. The major drawback is ultimately the running length. It’s actually slightly longer and more repetitive than “Money For Nothing,” but in the bad way. This is almost a C+… Almost. This B- means that it’s a minor thumbs up, though… a very minor one…
Ride Across the River C
To appreciate this it’ll certainly help to be a Peter Gabriel fan. Knopfer takes a world music vibe with this one … bongo drums and pipe-flutes abound. It’s probably more like Peter Gabriel-lite though. I hate that pipe-flute sound like pestilence, but Knopfer’s electric guitar noodling is especially good here. The percussion groove is fine, but it has a tendency to grow boring, which is exactly why the song didn’t score so high. It’s seven minutes long, too. Like the cricket sounds, though. (Not just because that’s the typical cartoon response to boring stuff…)
The Man’s Too Strong A-
This is a pretty fantastic song. Knopfer’s bringing out what I’m supposing is a steel guitar (I don’t know much about instruments), but it sounds fantastic! GREAT GUITAR STRUMMING. He delivers more of a folksy song with a good melody and a wonderful, subtle synthscape to keep a compelling atmosphere. Wonderful chord progressions, too, also do wonders for the atmosphere… tends to keep it on its toes. The most characteristic features of this, however, is those orchestral bangs that keep popping up… you’ll know what I’m talking about when you hear it. That was a very bold arrangement idea that produced the best possible results.
One World B
A bit of pub-rock like the days of old except with a few keyboard sounds and louder drums than usual. This reminds me quite a bit of “Money For Nothing,” but it’s not nearly as infectious obviously. I’m not such a fan of that bit in the middle where they strip away the heavy drum beat and put in some sort of harpsichord sound. Overall, this is a likable song though still pretty bland concerning their reputation.
Brothers in Arms B-
Another one of those snoozefests, but at least this one centers on the guitar sound instead of the world-music groove from “Ride Across the River.” The synthscape is a tad to heavy, though, and sort of adds more to the sleepiness of it. The guitar noodling is as good as usual, but I have a pretty overwhelming tendency to just space out through this whole seven-minute track.
On Every Street (1991)
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Calling Elvis B+
Not too shabby! Of course, a band as reputable as Dire Straits, you'd expect them to be as non-shabby always. You'd expect these particular reputable guys to spend approximately six-and-a-half minutes working on the same general hook. Well, it's a decent hook at least. It's a quick-tempo piece with thick atmosphere, tons of minimalist guitar licks and a hypnotic feel. I get the feeling that this length of time wasn't greatly spent, but I don't have a life, so whatever.
On Every Street B-
Yeah, they're already boring me quite a bit, which isn't a good sign. This is a slow ballad with its fair share of light, atmospheric synthesizers and the muzaky guitar solos. Of course, it's a great soothing listen for everyone who loves this sort of thing! Midway though, they up the tempo and bring in a backing drum. Not a bad idea at all, I say.
When it Comes to You B+
Generally, they're going to keep this same tone going throughout the album. I can almost copy and paste all my track reviews, which I'd might as well do since I know nobody reads these!! This one's another mid-tempo thing that sounds like “Calling on Elvis” except a tad more pub-rock sounding. Knopfer's guitar is a great thing to sit back and hear, though, so this song isn't actually boring.
Fade to Black B
One of those slow, bluesy songs that are supposed to be intimate and thick with juicy soul. This was never my sort of music, and Dire Straits certainly aren't doing anything original or riveting to the genre. It sounds like what you'd expect it to... the chord progression is unchanged and the guitar continues to sound like elevator muzak. The high-ish points are coming from successfully being soothing without ever sounding cheesy. That's a feat worth celebrating.
The Bug B
A few patterns have obviously emerged. One: the term “typical” can be applied to all these songs. Two: the album alternates between fast songs and slow songs. Neither of these would make a poor album (especially the latter quality, which makes it easier to sit through than the last half of Brothers in Arms). So, this is a typical, fast-paced pub rocker. It's pleasant to sit through but not catchy enough to be memorable nor does it inspire me to get up off by buttocks and boogie with it!
You and Your Friends B-
Too close to a C+ for comfort. It's a six-minute long monstrosity that's nearly tedious, but the merits of the chord progression alone manages to mesmerize me. There's a very minor crescendo in here, which makes me wonder why they didn't just go into a full blown mood change. Would that have killed them? Still, nice guitar playing and all that.
Heavy Fuel C
Bleh. This C comes partly from growing very bored with the album by now and also this wasn't a great song anyway. There's too much repetition, and it doesn't produce the same hypnotic effect that many of these other songs do. I don't even think this would make particularly great elevator music. (Yes, this is one of the “fast songs” but it sounds too positively muted to be playing in a pub.)
Iron Hand B
A (thankfully!) brief folk number not too different from a classic Bob Dylan song except a few hooks that sound typical exclusively of Knopfer. The atmospherics are done right. Certainly this wasn't supposed to have the same effect as a real, mind-bending folk number!
Ticket to Heaven C+
There's something starkly different at the beginning of this: cinematic sounding strings with a Latin flavor. Then a shuffley drum beat starts playing and they start to play an echoey ballad with slight Latin undertones. It's not a bad song, but the overly repetitive nature of it gets to me.
My Parties B-
Another tasteful lounge-rock song. This one has a mid-tempo and a marginally catchy horn section. Knopfer's singing breezily along with the breezy music... It's entirely pleasant to sit through, but I'm not too inclined to pay much attention to it. It's bound to give me a great elevator ride, and who knows? Perhaps it'd even make the experience memorable.
Planet of New Orleans B
New Orleans is not a planet, you silly man! And... this is eight minutes long!! It's already firmly established that this album is extremely consistent, so if you haven't turned off the album by now, chances are you're swaying in your seat entranced by its vibe. A tenor saxophone is doing its thing... and manages to convince me that Dire Straits is a billion times better than Kenny G. Hey, that's gotta mean something.
How Long B+
A pleasant way to close the album, indeed! I mild chugga-chug in the rhythm section, and a melody that sounds vaguely close to country-western music. The guitar is rather beautiful throughout and the guitar playing is as phenomenal as you would expect. Cool!
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