Mark Knopfler


Band members                             Related acts

- Mark Knopfler -- vocals, guitar, mandolin

 

  supporting musicians: (1983)

- Mike Brecker -- sax

- Alan Clark -- keyboards, synthesizers

- Eddie Gomez -- bass

- John Illsely -- bass

- Neil Jason -- bass

- Steve Jordan -- drums

- Tony Levin -- bass

- Hal Lindes -- rhythm guitar

- Mike Mainierei -- vibes

- Gerry Rafferty (RIP 2012) -- vocals

- Terry Williams -- drums

 

  supporting musicians: (1984)

- Mickey Feat -- bass

- Guy Fletcher -- keyboards

- Chris White -- sax

- Terry Williams -- drums

 

  supporting musicians (1984)

- Paul Brady -- tin whistle

- Guy Fletcher -- keyboards

- John Illsley -- bass

- Liam O'Flynn -- uilleann pips

- Terry Williams -- drums, percussion

 

 

  supporting musicians (2018)

- Richard Bennett -- guitar

- Jimmy Cox -- keyboards

- Denny Cummings -- percussion

- Kris Drever -- backing vocals

- Lance Ellington -- backing vocals

- Gary Fletcher -- keyboards

- Nigel Hitchcock -- sax

- Kate Kisson -- backing vocals

- Imelda May -- backing vocals

- Trevor Miles -- trombone

- John McCusker -- fidde

- John McGoldrick -- whistle

- Robbie McIntosh -- guitar

- Beverley Skeete -- backing vocals

- Ian Thomas -- drums

- Tom Walsh -- trumpet

- Glenn Word -- bass

 

 

 

 

 

- Brewer's Droop

- Dire Straits

- The Nottingham Hillbillies

- Voices That Care

 

 

 


 

Genre:: pop

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Local Hero

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: 23827-1
Year:
 1983

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments:--

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 1254

Price: $20.00

 

Normally I wouldn't want anything to do with a film soundtrack.  They tend to be either a mix of a hit surrounded by throwaway fluff, or insipid and frequently ponderous incidental music that your five year old could have recorded on that old Casio keyboard you have stuffed in the closet.

 

Knopfler fans already know this, but on the heels of three multi-platinum albums, in 1982 Knopfler decided to try something different.  His management team contacted various film studios indicating Knopfler was interested in writing some film music.   Produced David Putnam contacted Knopfler about the Local Hero project and the two decided on a collaboration.  Produced and largely co-written by Knopfler (Dire Straits keyboardist Alan Clark served as his writing partner on much of the album), 1983's "Local Hero" is simply one of the most effective and effecting film soundtracks ever written.  If you've ever wondered about life in a small, isolated Scottish town ...  well, if you had, this would be a great accompanying sounds cape for those daydreams.

 

So what makes Mark Knopfler's "Local Hero" so different?  Well in some ways it isn't.  A word of warning - while parts of this may remind you of a Dire Straits jam session (Knopfler's guitar style is simply instantly recognizable), unless you're a hardcore Knopfler fanatic, of you happen to love this little known cult film, this collection probably isn't going to scratch your itch.  The mostly instrumental collection is kind of episodic, complete with sound effects and a myriad of styles that probably won't make much sense, or bring much enjoyment to people who haven't seen the film.  That said, I'm a big Knopfler fan (on the heels of his successes with Dire Straits, this was his first solo effort), and I love the small Bill Forsyth film it was written for.  One of my personal desert island picks, Local Hero is all but forgotten among movie viewers, but the flick about the effect a small Scottish village (Furness) has on an American oil executive interested in getting local drilling rights is simply charming (even if it doesn't have a single murder, or car chase in the plot and has a truly sad and thought provoking ending). 

 

"Local Hero" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The Rocks and the Water (instrumental)   (Mark Knopfler - Alan Clark) - 3:30    rating: *** stars

Opening up with the ominous instrumental 'The Rocks and the Water', Clark's repetitive synthesizer beeps (meant to evoke a lighthouse and seagulls), you could be forgiven for wondering if you'd accidentally put on one of those ambient Brian Eno albums.   As for the song, its actually oddly hypnotic and calming ...

2.) Wild Theme (instrumental)   (Mark Knopfler - Alan Clark) - 3:38    rating: **** stars

The track folks are mostly likely to recognize, 'Wild Theme' also stands as one of the prettiest melodies Knopfler ever wrote (along with Clark).  There isn't a great deal to this one - just some beautiful Knopfler acoustic guitar, with understated touches of piano and synthesizers from Clark.  Mournful, yet beautiful.   

3.) Freeway Flyer (instrumental)   (Mark Knopfler - Alan Clark - Hal Lindes - John Illsley - Terry Williams) - 1:47      rating: *** stars

The bouncy countrified 'Freeway Flyer' sounded like a Dire Straits outtake (in fact Dire Straits cohorts Clark, John Illsley and Terry Williams helped write the track).   Knopfler's brief fuzz guitar solo provides the highlights.    

4.) Boomtown (instrumental)   (Alan Clark - Mike Brecker - Mike Mainieri - Neil Jason - Steve Jordan) - 4:06     rating: *** stars

And from country hoedown, 'Boomtown' sees the album abruptly lurch to Steely Dan-styled L.A. cocktail jazz  Showcasing Mike Brecker's sax and Mike Mainieri's vibes, the track is smooth and relaxing, if hardly awe-inspiring ...  A nice slice of Sunday morning 'wake up' music.   

5.) The Way It Always Starts   (Gerry Rafferty - Mark Knopfler - Alan Clark - Neil Jason - Steve Jordan) -  4:00   rating: **** stars

The lone vocal performance, 'The Way It Always Starts' featured the late Gerry Ryan on a pretty, slightly Latin-tinged ballad.  Rafferty had such a unique voice.  Interesting that this one was tapped as the single since it was the album's most blatantly commercial number. 

6.) The Rocks and the Thunder (instrumental) (Alan Clark) - 0:45 rating: ** stars

'The Rocks and the Thunder' was another brief dollop of Clark atmospheric synthesizers.  Pretty, but simply too short to make much of an impression. 

7.) The Ceilidh and the Northern Lights (instrumental)   (Alan Clark) - 3:57   rating: *** stars

'The Ceilidh and the Northern Lights' basically took the 'Wild Theme' and arranged it for a Celtic setting complete with tin whistles and what sounded like synthesized bagpipes.  The results were pretty enough  (the waves sound great on a good pair of headphones), but 'Wild Theme' was better.   

(side 2)
1.) The Mist Covered Mountains (instrumental)    (Alan Clark - Eddie Gomez) -     rating: *** stars

While credited as an Alan Clark - Eddie Gomez composition, 'The Mist Covered Mountains' sure sounded like some traditional Scottish folk sound.  Guess that's what they were aiming for and they succeeded.  Yeah, Clark's synthesizers sound a bit dated on this one, but the album's now thirty plus years old.   

2.) The Cilideh: Louis' Favorite:  Billy's Tune (instrumental)   - The Acetones    rating: *** stars

So if you can't get down to your local Irish bar (yeah, I know this is set in Scotland), slap 'The Cilideh: Louis' Favorite' on and have a beer or two. You'll get the same effect.  

3.) Whistle Theme (instrumental)  (Mark Knopfler - Alan Clark) - 0:51     rating: *** stars

'Whistle Theme' simply repackage the Local Hero theme for a tin whistle and acoustic guitar.  pretty, but not essential. 

4.) Smooching (instrumental)  (Mark Knopfler - Alan Clark - Mike Brecker - Mike Mainieri - Tony Levin) - 4:58   rating: **** stars

Showcasing Knopfler's wonderful finger picking guitar style, 'Smooching' was easily one of the prettiest things he's ever written.  It's even more stunning if you've seen the song's placement in the film.   

5.) Stargazer (instrumental)   (Alan Clark) - 1:31  rating: **** stars

One of four Clark solo compositions, 'Stargazer' accompanied the film's Aurora borealis segment ..  about all I can say is that Clark provided the perfect accompaniment for that part of the film.  

6.) The Rocks and the Thunder (instrumental)   (Alan Clark) - 0:40     rating: *** stars

The brief reprise of 'The Rocks and the Thunder' was still pretty ...   

7.) Going Home: Theme from Local Hero (instrumental)   (Mark Knopfler - Alan Clark - Mike Mainierei - Tony Levin) - 4:45     rating: *** stars

The second most commercial number on the album, 'Going Home: Theme from Local Hero' packaged the underlying theme in an AOR arrangement complete with Mike Brecker sax and Knopfler's screaming lead guitar.  The track was also tapped as a single.  For anyone curious,  YouTube has a clip of Dire Straits performing the song in a 1983 concert:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3zIfO-YOzg     An obvious attempt to capitalize of Knopfler's successes, Warner Brothers even tapped the album for a single.  Gawd only knows why, but Vertigo (which released the set in the UK), elected to release the single in both 7" and 12" formats:

   7" format

- 1983's 'Going Home: Theme of The Local Hero' b/w 'Wild Theme' (Vertigo catalog number DSTR14)

   12" format

- 1983's 'Going Home: Theme of The Local Hero' b/w 'Wild Theme/Smooching' (Vertigo catalog number DSTR1412)

 

 

Again, the album isn't going to appeal to everyone and it certainly helps to have seen and enjoyed this quirky film.

 

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Music from the Film Comfort and Joy

Company: Phonogram

Catalog: DSTR 12712
Year:
 1984

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments:12" 45 rpm pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 194

Price: $20.00

 

When I was in my early 20s I was a massive fan of Bill Forsyth's films - there was just something imminently appealing about his unique combination of funny, sad, and quirky themes - plus he was English which meant many of my friends just didn't get it (kind of like Monty Python).  And part of the appeal of Forsyth's films were the great Mark Knopfler soundtracks.  

 

So if you haven't seen Comfort and Joy (few of you have), the plotline has to do with a Scottish DJ (Alan 'Dicky' Bird) who gets entangled in and mediates a war between Glasgow ice cream vendors (Mr. Bunny and Mr. McCool).  It sounds dumb, but is actually quite intriguing.   The soundtrack contained a mishmash of songs from Dire Straits "Love Over Gold" album with the addition of three new Mark Knopfler tunes - 'Comfort', 'Joy', and 'A Fistful of Ice Cream'.  Admittedly as a film "Comfort and Joy" didn't attract the same attention that "Gregory's Girl", or "Local Hero" did, but the three original  tracks on this collection were every bit as good as Knopfler's work on those earlier soundtracks.  Just a word of warning; anyone expecting to hear a Dire Straits album probably wants to refrain from making this purchase.

 

"Music from the Film Comfort and Joy" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Comfort (Theme from Comfort and Joy) (instrumental)   (Mark Knopfler) -    rating: *** stars

Opening up with some melancholy sax from Chris White, 'Comfort'  is probably going to be a bit too cocktail jazzy for many folks, but it was a perfect song for the film's darker undertones and sense of loneliness.   Very pretty ...  YouTube has a promotional clip for the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqfplEqF31k 

2.) Joy (instrumental)   (Mark Knopfler) -    rating: *** stars

 'Joy' found Knopfler and diving headlong into a jazzy vibe.  Normally I'm not a big jazz fan, but this one had a nice melody and when the full band kicked in, the song took off.    rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)
1.) A Fistful of Ice Cream (instrumental)   (Mark Knopfler) -    rating: **** stars

The goofy title tied back to the film plotline (see above) and 'A Fistful of Ice Cream' is probably the prettiest of the three compositions with an emphasis on Knopfler's guitar and mandolin.

 

Yes, it's incidental film music and won't find favor with 99.9% of folks out there, but I'm happy to be part of the 0.01%.

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Music from the Film Cal

Company: Mercury

Catalog: 422 822769-1
Year:
 1984

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments:--

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 1255

Price: $15.00

 

Mark Knopfler's initial ventures into film soundtracks did well so it wasn't a surprise to see him continuing the musical side line with the release of 1984's "Music from the Film Cal".   I actually remember seeing this film - based on a Bernard MacLaverty novel, it was a dark and depressing film with a plotline that had something to do with a doomed love affair between Cal (a Catholic IRA member) and the Protestant widow of a policeman killed by the IRA.  At least in my neighborhood the flick came and went in a week, though the soundtrack had a much longer lasting impact on me (I can remember driving to a local Kemp Mill record store (yes, I was alive during that era), to track down a copy.  

 

Anyhow,  I'll do this write-up a little differently than normally.  First the songs and then overall thoughts:

 

"Music from the Film Cal" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Irish Boy (instrumental)  (Mark Knopfler) - 3:55     rating: **** stars
Pretty Irish-influenced instrumental that would not have sounded out of place on the earlier "Local Hero" set.

2.) The Road (instrumental)   (Mark Knopfler) - 2:08      rating: **** stars

Showcasing Knopfler's always tasteful acoustic guitar and Paul Brady on tin whistle, this was about as pretty a melody as you could get without falling off the edge into adult contemporary mood music.  

3.) Waiting for her (instrumental)   (Mark Knopfler) - 0:36    rating: *** stars

Another beautiful tune, but too short to be great.   

4.) Irish Love (instrumental)    (Mark Knopfler) -2:24     rating: *** stars

More wonderful acoustic guitar from the man, though with a slight country twang courtesy of Liam O'Flynn's pipes this time out. 

5.) A Secret Place / Where Will You Go (instrumental)    (Mark Knopfler) - 1:54

6.) Father and Son (instrumental)    (Mark Knopfler) - 7:41   rating: *** stars

I like Irish music, but with the emphasis on Paul Brady's tin whistle and Liam O'Flynn's uilleanm pipes, this one just kind of faded into the background for me.   YouTube has a 1996 clip of Knopfler performing the song for a small London audience.,  Looks like it was filmed for television: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdMZinwr__Y  

 

(side 2)

1.) Meeting Under the Trees (instrumental) - 0:48     rating: *** stars

Clocking in at under a minute, 'Meeting Under the Trees' was another song fragment, as opposed to a full blown composition.  Pretty, but not much too it.   

2.) Potato Picking (instrumental) - 2:06    rating: *** stars

The breezy instrumental 'Potato Picking' was the album's most traditional Irish tune, Paul Brady and Liam O'Flynn handled most of the melody with Knopfler limited to a bit of light electric guitar on top of the results. 

3.) In a Secret Place (instrumental) - 1:08  rating: *** stars

Kind of dark and  ominous, though it had nothing on 'Fear and Hatred'. 

4.) Fear and Hatred (instrumental) - 2:18     rating: **** stars

'Fear and Hatred'  found Knopfler breaking out the Dire Straits electric guitar arsenal for the truly frightening 'Love and Guilt.'  

5.) Love and Guilt (instrumental) - 3:04

6.) The Long Road (instrumental) - 7:13     rating: **** stars

This one probably should have been billed as a Dire Straits number (it actually showed up on the band's "Private Investigations" best of collection.   One of the most haunting pieces of music Knopfler's ever written and one of the soundtrack highlights.    

 

Recorded with Dire Straits alumni Guy Fletcher (keyboards), John Illsley (bass), and Terry Williams (drums),  taken individually and collectively this was one pretty soundtrack.  The problem for me is that no matter how good these tunes were, they reminded me of his earlier soundtrack albums - yes, the set started to suffer from sounds-the-same-itis.  I love tracks like 'Irish Boy', 'The Road' and 'The Long Road' but if you were to throw the in a blender with the other soundtracks and hit the mix button, you'd be hard pressed to figure out which song belonged to which album.   Still, as a soundtrack the results are pretty, relaxing, reflective ...  the perfect foggy Sunday morning soundtrack, even for folks who don't enjoy hanging in an Irish bar.




Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Down the Road Wherever

Company: Virgin

Catalog: 02567 94044
Year:
 2018

Country/State: Czech

Grade (cover/record): NM/NM

Comments: sealed; double LP

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 31002

Price: $40.00

 

2018's "Down the Road Wherever" was an album that initially left me disappointed ...  I played it a couple of times and the double LP just didn't click with me.  Musically it was all over the place and while I've always liked Knopfler's dry, raspy voice and awesome guitar chops, this one just seemed to bounce all over the place.  Skip forward a year.  I have one of those personalities that's perfect for the COVID-19 lockdown - I'm a introvert; married to a wife who is similarly inclined and we both have the kind of jobs that are well suited to telework.  Three months of lockdown I was working on my computer late one night and slapped this one on my turntable.  I'm at a complete loss to explain what happened, but suddenly most of these songs resonated with me.  Maybe it was just taking comfort in something that was a known quantity.  Something safe and comforting?  Add Chris Friedman's open road cover art made for a nice change after seeing the walls of our home for weeks on end.  Anyhow, this album went from castoff to becoming a mainstay on my turntable.

Poking around the internet I stumbled across a press release for the collection and it seemed to capture the vibe perfectly:

"... unhurriedly elegant new Knopfler songs inspired by a wide range of subjects, including his early days in Deptford with Dire Straits, a stray football fan lost in a strange town, the compulsion of a musician hitching home through the snow, and a man out of time in his local greasy spoon.

As mentioned, musically "Down the Road Wherever" was quite diverse, bouncing between convention rockers ('Trapper Man'), reflective ballads ('Floating Away'), Dire Straits-styled material ('Good On You Son') jazz influences ('Slow Learner') and even a stab at funk ('Nobody Does That').  That variety may have struck some folks as a lack of focus.  While I didn't fall in love with each and everyone of the 14 selections, all were worth hearing a couple of times and the number of truly strong performances easily outnumbers to also-rans.  As a single Knopfler's voice was one of those instruments that you loved, or simply detested - not much middle ground here.  At 70 he didn't sound all that different from his Dire Straits prime to me.  The tones may have been a little deeper than before, but for the most part that was a good thing.  His guitar chops remained as tasteful and fluid as always.  Highlights for me included the Chet Atkins inspired, Celtic-tinged 'One Song At a Time' (should have been a single), the opening rocker 'Trapper Man', 'Good On You Son' and the stark closing ballad 'Matchstick Man'.  Simply one of my favorite purchases of 2018.

"Down the Road Wherever" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Trapper Man  (Mark Knopfler) - 6:00   rating: **** stars

And once again Knopfler catches me off guard - 'Trapper Man' started out sounding like something folky, or Amercana (not a big fan of either), and then Ian Thomas' drums kick in and you were in a totally different place ...  And that voice !!!  Instantly recognizable and a tune that I found myself humming for days.  Speculation on my part, but I think Knopfler was taking a shot at one his favorite targets - the music industry.

2.) Back On the Dance Floor  (Mark Knopfler) - 5:30   rating: **** stars

If Steely Dan (well, Donald Fagen), ever decides to revisit commercial glories, 'Back On the Dance Floor' would serve as a nice blueprint to follow.  'Back On the Dance Floor' was slinky built on a dazzling mixture of jazzy and Latin moves and Knopfler's blazing guitar given plenty of spotlight.  Awesome performance. 

3.) Nobody's Child  (Mark Knopfler) - 4:16   rating: *** stars

Pretty Western-tinged tune with some of Knopfler's typically thoughtful lyrics, but other than a beautiful guitar solo, it was the first tune that didn't fully capture my attention.  The cowboy yodels were an acquired taste

 

(side 2)

1.) Nobody Does That  (Mark Knopfler) - 5:15   rating: *** stars

The funky 'Nobody Does That' left the impression Knopfler had been listening to more than his share of The Average White Band ...  (I note that AWB's Robbie McIntosh was a guest on the album.)  YouTube has an April 2019 performance of the tune from Barcelona. The two minute intro was lame, but when the tune kicked it things improved: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdPTObzHl5E 

2.) Good On You Son  (Mark Knopfler) - 5:37   rating: **** stars

'Good On You Son' was a track that instantly recalled Dire Straits in terms of melody and interesting lyrics ('Sultans of Swing' readily comes to mind).  Englishman in the States misses English food ...  The song was tapped as a single and Knopfler even released a promotional video for the track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIBCHh-fMUE

3.) Floating Away  (Mark Knopfler) - 5:02   rating: *** stars

Pretty and reflective ballad ...  The 70 year old Knopfler musing about aging?  If so it resonated with this 60 year old ....

 

(side 3)

1.) One Song at a Time  (Mark Knopfler) - 6:17   rating: **** stars

With a wonderful, bouncy, slightly Celtic feel, ' One Song At a Time' was my choice for the album's standout performance ...   I found a Knopfler quote that talked about the tune:. "I remember my pal Chet Atkins once saying that he picked his way out of poverty one song at a time, and it just stuck in my mind. You get to an age where youve written quite a few songs. But Down the Road Wherever seems to be appropriate for me just because it's what I've always done.

2.) Heavy Up  (Mark Knopfler) - 6:00   rating: **** stars

With a breezy, cha-cha rhythm and Tom Walsh's Herb Alpert--styled trumpet solo, admittedly 'Heavy Up' eventually overcame my resistance and won be over.  Knopfler's biting lyrics also appealed to me.  From an interview in Uncut: "I think it applies to a lot of people. It's one of these modern malaises, you know. Nowadays I find that, with everybody having an opinion, there's a lot of idiots out there who think that their opinions are really important."

3.) Slow Learner  (Mark Knopfler) - 4:34   rating: **** stars

Jazz for folks who don't like jazz - I can't think of a higher compliment.

 

(side 4)

1.) Just a Boy Away from Home  (Mark Knopfler) - 5:12   rating: *** stars

An autobiographical blues number ?   Forget working in the cotton fields of Mississippi - This was a young Mark Knopfler walking though enemy soccer team territory.  Nice nod to Roger and Hammerstein's 'You'll Never Walk Alone' ...

2.) My Bacon Roll  (Mark Knopfler) - 5:35   rating: **** stars

I've listened to the haunting 'My Bacon Roll' dozens of times and the lyrics remain a mystery to my American ears.  Part of the problem is I'd never heard of a bacon roll.   Wikipedia describes it as: "A simple way of serving bacon in the form of a sandwich, using a soft or crust bread roll.  Most often served with brown sauce of tomato ketchup."  It's apparently a popular English version of a breakfast sandwich.   I read somewhere that this was Knopfler's commentary on BREXIT.  I thought it was an awesome break-up song ...  A guy trying to get over the loss of a girlfriend, or love interest.   And then I stumbled on an interview in Uncut where Knopfler talked about the song: "I was in a cafe near the BBC in Portland Place and I heard this guy hail a waitress and say in a very hangdog voice: 'Have you got my roll? My bacon roll.' To me that is poetry. Much more appealing than Wordsworth and his host of golden daffodils, but then that probably means there's something wrong with me."   Perhaps even better than the studio version, YouTube has a performance of the song from Knopfler's April 2019 performance in Barcelona:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhhuK-Yseqc

3.) When You Leave  (Mark Knopfler) - 4:12   rating: ** stars

'When You Leave' was a jazzy ballad.  Knopfler was clearly sincere in pursuing the genre, but it didn;t do a great deal for me.  I will admit the song has a great line - "When you leave there's cordite in the air" and Tom Walsh turned in some tasty muted Trumpet. 

4.) Matchstick Man  (Mark Knopfler) - 2:52   rating: **** stars

Just Knopfler and acoustic guitar, 'Matchstick Man' was seemingly a tale of a vagabond musician trying to get home for Christmas.  Knopfler apparently hitchhiked a great deal in his youth.  Nothing in my background, personality, or nature would seem to have a link to this one, yet I found the song to be one of the album's highlights.  Simply beautiful.  

 

 

 

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