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4.6 out of 5 stars124
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on 16 January 2003
Have you ever wondered how many variations of a song, or of a song's theme a band can perform live without ever getting boring? Ever listened to somebody play and wished he'd never stop because he is just that great? "Alchemy" is exactly that kind of experience. Recorded two years before what was probably their most successful studio album ("Brothers in Arms"), this more than 90 minute-long live release easily explains why Dire Straits took off with rocket speed in a time otherwise dominated by disco music on the one hand and punk on the other, and why to this day they are considered one of the greatest rock bands ever to have existed. Listen to the first chords of "Once Upon a Time in the West," and you'll know why Mark Knopfler is, in addition to all his other accomplishments, a much sought-after film score composer. Listen to "Romeo and Juliet," and you'll understand why the greatest love story ever told truly is more than a story of two rich kids born to feuding families a couple of centuries ago in Italy, and holds as much truth for us streetwise teenagers of the late 20th century as it did 400 years ago. Listen to "Telegraph Road," and you'll find a dark, brooding novel of epic proportions condensed into one song, culminating with as haunting and intense a guitar solo as you'll ever hear - by Mark Knopfler or anybody else.
From their first studio album on, Dire Straits defied the three-minute limits imposed by the conventions of radio airplay. But it has always been in a live venue that Mark Knopfler's talent shines most, and that he is able to fully explore all that his Fender will give him ... and more. Each song on this double CD is extended as compared to its respective studio version; no less than four of them ("Once Upon a Time in the West," "Sultans of Swing," "Tunnel of Love" and "Telegraph Road") are over ten minutes long, three even over 13 minutes - only a Dire Straits live album would make it necessary for "just" 11 songs to be spread out over two discs. But these recordings are not about length. They are about one man's dialogue with his guitar, the poetry of his lyrics, his awareness of society; in short, all that great music stands for and can express.
Gifted as he is, Mark Knopfler has always found musicians who are exceptionally talented in their own right to provide a foundation he can build on, and this early (although not the earliest) incarnation of Dire Straits is no exception. Yet this band, in all of its formations over the course of the years, was as dominated by Knopfler's musical genius as few other bands have ever been, and nothing could have made this clearer than their live recordings; an experience only surpassed by actually witnessing Knopfler live on stage, particularly as he just seems to get better and better over the course of the years. "Telegraph Road" alone, the dramatic finale of his unforgettable live appearances during his tour in support of his 2000 album "Sailing to Philadelphia," left me completely stunned and wishing the show would go on and on for hours more.
"Anybody who finds nothing to love here has either got a problem with the essential fabric of rock and roll or cloth ears," writes music journalist Robert Sandall in the introduction to Dire Straits' greatest hits album, "Sultans of Swing." And while this is true for anything they have ever released over the course of their career, and likewise for each and every one of Knopfler's solo albums and movie scores, you have to have more than cloth ears and a problem with the things that rock music is all about not to be inspired by this incredible piece of live recording.
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on 18 May 2004
The best album Dire Straits have done.'Sultans of Swing','Tunnel of Love' and 'Telegraph Road' have outstanding endings,while 'Romeo and Juliet','Private Investigations' and 'Going Home' are extremely moving.A must for those who appreciate real musicians and guitar/sax solos.The video is worth seeing as well.
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on 14 January 2003
This double CD is worth buying for just one song, the 11 minute extended version of Sultans of Swing. The guitar work of Knopfler is simply outstanding. Everything else on the CD can be considered a bonus. Other highlights are Tunnel of Love, a superb version of Telegraph Road (although it sounds almost identical to the live version included on the Money For Nothing album) and Private Investigations.
The quality of the recording, which can be a problem with live albums, is perfect. It is much better than the "On the Night" CD that had too much crowd noise in places.
My only criticism of this album is that the vocals are very weak in places and at times you wish that Knopfler would stop singing and just get on with playing the guitar. This is all part of the Dire Straits style but at times it sounds like he really can't be bothered.
On balance, a superb live album with some of the best guitar playing I have ever heard.
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on 28 September 2004
I bought the two tape version of Alchemy back in '84 and only threw the tapes away - reluctantly - when they wouldn't play any more about 12 years later. At the time I did not expect to to get another copy. However with the re-release I can once again listen to one of the best live albums I have ever heard. For anyone who loves live music this is an essential addition to your collection. Live music simply has more to it than the clinical studio stuff, with the good artists ad-libbing. Mark Knopfler is one of the best, and so is this album.
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on 7 September 2003
This is a supurb live recording of Dire Straits before guitarist, Mark Knopfler, started using the warm overdriven fuzz effects for "Money for Nothing", "Calling Elvis", etc in the studio & live performances. I tend to think of this album signalling the end of the "classic" Dire Straits guitar sound - a clean channel Fender stratocaster.
All the classics are here: "Sultans Of Swing","Tunnel Of Love","Telegraph Road","Romeo & Juliet". Opening to a melody from the then-recently completed Local Hero soundtrack, the band kicks into "Once Upon a time In the West" a brilliant reworking from the studio version.
Now the reason my rating dropped a star is due to the fact that the whole concert could not be included on two CDs instead of the early pre-CD edited verison we have here. You can plainly hear the intro & outro to "Industrial Disease" between the first couple of songs !!

This is one of my favourite live CDs ever !!! "On The Night" is also a favourite (edited as well, although missed tracks were put as extras on the only CD single from the CD). It was nice to hear the sound had evolved towards a more polished mix, but Alchemy shows the band in a more stripped-back live sound.
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VINE VOICEon 18 March 2000
Alchemy's meant to be turning lead into gold, right? But the tracks on here were already brilliant studio recordings. What we have here is gold being turned into platinum! I used to have this on crackly old vinyl (remember that?) and I was surprised at how the remastered CD really lets the detail come through.
The sixteen minute version of "Once Upon A Time In The West" sounds like a complete re-write of the reggae-tinged track off 'Communique'. It just takes on a life of its own. Similarly 'Solid Rock' really does sound like a big rock song and indicates where Dire Straits were to subsequently go. "Romeo and Juliet" doesn't really work that well, in my opinion (I've heard beter live versions) and "Expresso Love" just kind of comes and goes. "Two Young Lovers" recalls early Dire Straits boogie tracks and provides a good break to the brooding, serious tracks elsewhere on this set. "Going Home" is an obvious closer, but the best tracks here are the lengthy "Sultans of Swing", "Tunnel of Love" and "Telegraph Road". Thankfully, even though the tracks are over ten minutes long each, they avoid the unnecessary noodling splattered all over their second live album.
The album is apparently excerpts from a Dire Straits performance without any overdubs, which was pretty revolutionary at the time, because EVERYONE fixed live albums. It's a testament to the band that they could play that tight. Live albums are strange beasts, but along with Thin Lizzy's and Led Zeppelin's, this is a "must buy".
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on 14 May 2010
I remember listening to this album as a child and wanted to re-live those special times. It's certainly the track introductions which I remember vividly. You really sense what it must have been like to attend the live performance. A great addition to my music library.
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on 24 December 2009
Quite simply an album I have had from new and never stops pleasing. Every track is excellent with Telegraph Road, Private Investigations and Sultans of Swing absolute stand out items. Just sit back and enjoy this great album.
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on 4 December 2003
A true great Dire Straits concert for your listening pleasure. Knofler in true style throws out some great guitar magic, especially in Sultans of Swing, which is just inspiring for all true guitarists and air guitarists alike!
For added bonus I suggest getting your hands on the video version...it's becoming more a more rare to get hold of....hopefully a remastered DVD version will be on it's way soon!
Top stuff!
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on 8 August 2010
Quite simply, the best of the best.
Every track (except perhaps "Solid Rock") is a classic.
Turn up the volume and listen to the guitars and keyboards, which are simply magnificent,
and Mark Knopfler's distinctive vocals make you wish you were there at the live concert.
......what's more its a value-for-money DOUBLE CD!
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