Mark Knopfler’s storytelling, as mastered on Making Movies, needed a bigger sound, so the band added a full-time keyboard player and additional rhythm guitarist to the trio. With synthesizers and digital technology at his disposal, Love Over Gold adds even more depth to the aural picture underneath the narratives.
The album begins with his most ambitious composition to date. “Telegraph Road” is heralded by a single synth note like the sun creeping over the horizon. It soon gives way, almost cinematically, to a piano and guitar duet introducing the main theme of the piece, and after about two minutes the vocals enter. A microcosm of progress and failure is shaped by aching lyrics, a neo-classical interlude and a few variations before the main theme returns, setting up another trademark galloping Knopfler solo, much like a stampede disappearing over the opposite horizon. The rest of side one is devoted to “Private Investigations”, an effective portrait of the lonesome gumshoe pondering life between the shadow of the lamppost and the bottle in his drawer.
Fans ready to rock are rewarded on side two. “Industrial Disease” sports that familiar burping Strat, with a Dylanesque rant (complete with cheesy organ) about, once again, the downside of progress. The title track brings back the ache in an absolutely gorgeous composition that’s something of the flipside of the similar “Private Dancer”, which he soon donated to Tina Turner. Here the desire and drive for integrity is suggested to be worth the inevitable disappointment.
The grand finale in “It Never Rains” is also something of a Dylanesque kiss-off. After a relatively laid-back beginning, the second appearance of the bridge ushers in a coda that repeats and builds as the lead guitar rises and stabs its way to the fade.
Love Over Gold takes a certain amount of patience, for its charms aren’t immediately apparent. It has a softer sound on the surface, with plenty of substance to keep it from being musical wallpaper. There’s an elegance to this album, which ultimately makes it very special. It was also the apex of the band’s career.
Dire Straits Love Over Gold (1982)—4½