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It seems he has left the stadium behind, the massive crowds and light shows, the need for showing how great a guitarplayer he is. What remains now is the necessity to write good songs, built on straightforward but layered lyrics and a brilliantly understated guitarstyle that suits the songs.
"Sailing to Philadelphia" is a beautiful collection of Knopfleresque more-than-meets-the-ear songs. Its music tells you the story of American music in Europe and vice-versa: Knopfler effortlessly blends country, blues, rock and soul - his trademark works better than ever - without sounding forced at all. The voices of Van Morrisson ("The last laugh") and Gillian Welch ("Speedway at Nazareth") fit the album perfectly in this way.
My personal favourite, however, is the album's title song, featuring James Taylor: this softly adventurous song sounds like a small boat has just come ashore on a clear morning. It sums up what makes this album so wonderful. Knopfler's and Taylor's voices contrast and blend at the same time, telling the story of Mason and Dixon, starting on an adventure in the big unknown America. The guitars tell a story too, though: a tremelo guitar reminds us of country, a soft acoustic one brings in folk. Still, Mark's Stratocaster determines the sound, and his simple but heartfelt notes respond lyrically to the song's themes.
STP is a big improvement over "Golden Heart" in terms of sound.Read more ›
"Sailing to Philadelphia" is a wonderful piece of storytelling, not only in Mark Knopfler's lyrics and vocals but, even more so, in the album's amazingly beautiful instrumentation. This is no record for those who are only into fast, harsh tunes; although in songs like "Baloney Again," "Junkie Doll," and "Silvertown Blues" Knopfler does take issue with modern society and its problems. More than anything, however, this album is a voyage - through time and space, from ancient Scottish citadels to 19th and 20th century America, and through musical styles ranging from blues to rock to folk to country; shining in its understated style as only Mark Knopfler's music can.
While "What It Is," the first track on the CD, is obviously reminiscent of the early Dire Straits, Knopfler said during his 2001 tour in support of the album that the song's intro and theme were actually (at least partly subconsciously) inspired by one of the Scottish folk songs he used to hear as a little boy in Glasgow. And indeed, it is hard not to picture Blue Bonnets (Over the Border) when you hear him sing about that Scottish piper standing alone high up on the parapet and the highland drums that are beginning to roll, all the while the garrison sleeps in the citadel "and something from the past just comes and stares into my soul.Read more ›
What makes this album so great is that it sounds great with the volume turned up high, or down low.
This is definitely Knopfler at his best.
The intro to El-macho still brings me back to Six blade knife, and its use in Desperado. There are a lot of nods to earlier straits songs, but these songs have evolved too.
In fact the whole album is like a journey through time of old songs evolving into what must be the best album Mark has made.
If you like Dire Straits you will enjoy this album. It isn't quite the same, but there are certainly enough similarities to satisfy the hard core 'Straits' fan. Buy it, you won't be disappointed. Roll on the next one Mark!