on 6 November 2012
This really is a great example of a musician at the peak of their powers.
Mark Knopfler, like a good whiskey, matures beautifully with age.
I was never a massive Dire Straits fan (though I did like them), and Marks music now is just so much more together and inspiring. I think the step away from Stadium mega-stardom has allowed him to flourish.
For me, the folksier numbers are better than the bluesy ones, but that's just personal preference. All the songs are excellent in truth, and the guitar work, whilst very understated is exceptional as always.
Tough to pick a favourite track, but you'd have to go a long way to hear a better tune than the title track. Exceptional
Mark Knopfler is one of the finest and most consistent artists Britain has ever produced, from the early Dire Straits albums, listen again to those releases they bare still as great today as when they first appeared. Then The Notting Hillbillies, sadly only one album but still superb, onto the solo years.This is the latest in the solo years, a double album and twenty tracks including folk,blues,rock,and a tinge of country.The title track is as good a piece of MK writing as you'll ever get.The playing throughout is as one would expect superb, the addition of Kin Wilson on harmonica is a masterstroke by one of the best bluesmen on the scene. Having just taken this album away with me and listened to much of it several times now,for me it gets better all the time. There are songs that are immediately enjoyable,others that the melodies and others that take a few plays to realize the full quality of them.Naming songs when they are all new, and where all of them are so good would be a shame.Do please listen to one of 2012's best albums by an absolute master of his craft at the peak of his form, An album of truly lasting pleasure.
on 2 December 2012
There is now a timeless, familiar feel to all his work, a continuity of sound and enjoyment over the years. One is never short-changed; a seasoning of rhythmic, percussive pepper and salt brings this album alive.
Quite a few reviewers here and elsewhere sounding pleasantly surprised to discover the unassuming Dylanesque low-key country/blues 'sound' on this, Knopfler's 7th solo record proper (excluding his many soundtracks)... but that's been the case for pretty much everything he's done post-Dire Straits, and definitely all the records since The Ragpicker's Dream have been roughly in this mould, that is, a mix of trad. British/Celtic folk and Americana, country roots, soft ballads and swinging blues. Ok, there's fewer folkie numbers in 3/4 time here than previously, and the leaning on blues structures is a fair bit heavier here... but the same Celtic stylings on this LP (e.g. on the melancholic 'Haul Away' and 'Kingdom of Gold') have been unmistakable since his debut, Golden Heart, and particularly on his last album Get Lucky. As for the Americana... well, Shari-La (my favourite of his albums) was a very easygoing, rootsy American sounding record (in the best possible sense). Anyway, the important thing is that there's been a near-total non-appearance of extended soloing and Dire Straits-style showtunes ever since he wound that band up (maybe even before if you think about On Every Street's lower-key songs) and for that reason Privateering should be considered a logical continuation for Knopfler; bluesier than before but really still just the latest in a mounting body of low-key gems from one the few truly masterly songwriters currently active, still unfairly critiqued ... but mostly by people who've not heard anything he's done except Brothers In Arms. Half a dozen listens in and Privateering already looks set to be my record of the year (depending on Dylan's latest next week). Better still, it's a double! They normally contain as much chaff as wheat but that's not the case here - clearly he's on a really prolific run and just had too many good songs for one album. Typing this listening to one example, 'Yon Two Crows', the kind of thoughtful story-song he does so well ("The dog lifts his gaze to plead/Believes the wizard has a magic stick/Leans his weight into my tweed/I give an unholy hand to lick"). Absolutely beautiful. Or how about that signature guitar line running through the middle of album opener 'Redbud Tree': sinewy, lilting and effortless strat. Unmistakably Knopfler. And that's just two of twenty songs - I could (but won't) go on. Any could be singled out for special praise. What with the whole being more than the sum of its parts... that makes for quite an album.
on 1 October 2012
It is very refreshing to find that even in today's digital world major artists are still releasing their work on the vinyl format. This latest offering from Mark Knopfler comes as a double ca 200g vinyl edition with a very solid heavy-weight cover to support the vinyl. The inner sleeves are thick cardboard which I changed for antistatic, plastic lined paper to minimise accidental damage to the vinyl records.
Both records are near perfectly flat and background noise on my pressings is very low. The sound quality is brilliant. As with previous MK albums you get a very wide range of musical styles ranging from local tradition ballads to more rocking style from his past Dire Straits days. No matter what the style you cannot help but wonder at the excellent quality of analogue sound coming from the speakers. The voice is clear, balanced and every note audible. Guitars (electric & acoustic) sharp, intense and well spaced across the sound-stage. Drums/bass, clean and intense driving the music along. The quiet and loud parts of the record are very well defined and there appears not to be any significant detectable compression in the sonic quality. The high frequency notes throughout the album really test the speaker tweeters.
In conclusion, two glorious slabs of vinyl heaven. Highly recommended.
on 21 September 2012
There are a few songs that are not worthy of making it onto a single album here, but its a double anyway! I have to say after a few listens I am totally in awe of the title track "Privateering" it is a marvelous piece of work by a great guitarist and superb songwriter that creates fabulous images with his lyrics. There's a few nods to old blues standards but even the Beatles and The Stones (and Zeppelin! and every other rock/pop outfit of any worth for that matter!) plundered the history of music regularly in their time. A couple of dodgy "b" tunes sounding right out of his Dire Straits cutting room floor notebook but its still great to hear Mark coming up with music most of his peers can't get near (at the moment). "Miss you Blues" and "Go, Love" are fab. Recommended even if you are not already a fan!
on 1 October 2012
Reading through some of the other reviews, I agree that Mark has his own sound and style and obviously works within
that framework. He has the most instantly recognisable guitar style of any guitar player I can think of apart from
maybe Nic Jones and I just love his sound. Think of any artist that you like and they all have their own sound and style.
Examples are across the board from the Beatles through Steely Dan through Mary Chapin Carpenter through Beth Nielsen Chapman.
It all depends on whether you like the sound.
Anyway, a great ccuple of CDs from Mark with lots of blues which ain't a bad thing. My personal favourite is Hot or What which
has a cheeky arrogance about it; some great guitar; and some wonderful harmonica from the great Kim Wilson. Of the non-blues
stuff, Privateering itself is a great song and also Haul Away and Go Love but to me they're all good.
on 13 September 2012
Bought the album on the Wednesday after it came out and already thoroughly in love with so many tracks - some of which are right up there with the best he's ever written/performed.
Mark has gone in a new direction since Ragpickers Dream, focussing on the lyrics and meaning of songs more than ever before and doing more and more songs about characters and scenes rather than your typical pop song subject matter. We've had songs about pawnbrokers, Ray Kroc, a boxer blaming his footwork on learning to waltz at school, a songwriter fond of gin and now a captain of a privateer, a downandout in Radio city, a sailor who has just made it through a bad case of the doldrums and more.
At times you really do have to listen to this album and pay attention if you really want to 'hear' it but at other times it is about the groove and the atmosphere. The title track is awesome as is Miss You Blues and Radio City Serenade.
If you can, look up the Privateering 'press kit' on youtube and you will get a brilliant video explaining this CD and many of its songs.
Not so much guitar playing on some tracks as MK is using his soundtrack knowledge to create a scene rather than just to write a track with a cool guitar riff or with plenty of spaces for solos. Those days are largely gone and he is more of a 'musician' than ever (as opposed to just being a guitarist).
Dire Straits fans who fondly recall stadium filling rock songs with endless guitar solos may not like the album but real fans of MK and good song writing will adore it.
on 22 October 2012
As a fan of Mark Knopfler for many years, I've always bought his solo albums. Each album has had stand out tracks, but sometimes they have had ones less engaging too. However, Privateering is different. After listening through, I've yet to find a track that makes me ponder about reaching for the skip button.
Mr Knopfler givesus on what can be described as a musical time capsule. He has long advocated hat he plays the kinds of music he likes and what he grew up with, Privateering is the epitome of this. Varied musical styles from ballads and reflective songs, through blues and rock and roll. So may times I feel I am listening to styles of music from the 50s and 60s, the era of Mark's youth...
Throughout the album there are the occasional chord change or riff that sends my mind back to earlier solo albums, its as if Mr Knopfler has drawn on his earlier experiences to make a more rounded, complete album this time. I recall an interview in the build up to his first solo album Golden Heart, that after Dire Straits he took a break and then began re-acquainting himself with his guitar skills, and to broaden his chordal knowledge. I feel this album provides a fascinating insight to how a musician never stops learning, with some sublime guitar skill and thoughtful songwriting.
If you are one of the people who cannot look beyond the Dire Straits era, think again, Mark Knopfler is going to re-educate you. If you haven't listened to this album yet, what's wrong with you?
on 20 October 2012
Two bits of good news -1) Knopfler is on top song writing form here hence the double album. 2) He really seems to be enjoying himself and that confidence comes through in the music.
How close he was to releasing a pure blues rock album (called Sultans of Swing of course!) we may never know but his guitar and keyboards are sublime on tracks like, Baby am I "Hot Or what", "I Used to Could", "Miss You Blues" and "Don't Forget Your Hat" etc and he is clearly having a lot of "Wag The Dog" style fun - could be saving it up for Friday Night! On reflection a blues rock track every one in three seems about right often following a slower number.
For us Straits fans who continue to follow his solo career the main delight here will be if you enjoyed tracks like "Walking In The Wild West End", Why Worry or Romeo & Juliet etc. His story telling remains as strong as ever with some nice gentle guitar on real quality tracks like "Redbud Tree", "Go, Love", "Seattle", "Miss You Blues", "Haul away", "Kingdom Of Gold", "Radio City Serenade" and the atmospheric "Dream Of The Drowned Submariner" He is even in danger of giving Paul McCartney some competition with two nice tunes about birds in "Yon Two Crows" and "Bluebird" although they are more real life hardship songs than Lovey Dovey!
The excellent title track Privateering is in the mold of "The Mans Too Strong" from BIA and there is Celtic influences as ever on "Haul Away" and "Radio City Serenade" which watchers of Sky Arts program "Guitar Stories" will now know is about a guitar sellers shop called Radio City where Knopfler bought one of his prized top 6 guitars. "Corned Beef City and "Gator Blood" are more Straits style rockers.
Unusually for Knopfler the Big Finale does not happen and the album ends on a disappointing note with "After The Beanstalk" but I suppose it is track 20 before the quality finally runs out so we can't complain.
The bonus live CD is just OK - not up to Alchemy / On the Night standards but nice to hear some more live songs after all these years.
So all in all a songwriter on top form showing how it should be done. Nothing left to prove now Mark other then whether you are still up to doing a new Straits album? Go on - give it a go - all the other old guys are and you must be dying to let rip a few solos / rifs you have stored up!