Having conquered the world’s stadiums and arenas, Mark Knopfler put Dire Straits out to pasture for six years while he worked on soundtracks and vanity projects. Two of these appeared in close proximity in 1990—first from a country blues outfit dubbed The Notting Hillbillies, previewed by a very Dire Straits-like single in “Your Own Sweet Way”, and then by a collaboration with Chet Atkins. Neck & Neck offered some adult contemporary country music played by twenty agile fingers, mixed up with some cinematic instrumentals. These country endeavors would add new color to a bona fide Dire Straits album that finally appeared the following year.
On Every Street strives to tame the big sound of Brothers In Arms, only slightly updated for the new decade. In a few cases, his lyrical skills seem to have returned, but having had such success with the likes of “Money For Nothing”, he’s content to limit the scope to catchphrases and thin jokes. Hence “Calling Elvis”, which parrots various Presley song titles, tackling televangelism in “Ticket To Heaven”, the ode to indulgence in “Heavy Fuel” and “My Parties”, a spoof of a supposedly typical rich guy.
Sometimes the music works: the title track is fairly subdued before a wonderful guitar coda takes over for the big finish. And even some of the more overtly country numbers, like “The Bug” and “When It Comes To You”, would go on to become hits for other people. But for the most part, such as on “Fade To Black” and “The Planet Of New Orleans”, the sound is very adult contemporary, not even approaching rock. “You And Your Friend” and “Iron Hand” have lots of tasty guitar, but they’re supported by thick synth beds that date them. That was fine for those who came on board in 1985, but disappointing for fans of the first four.
Still, On Every Street was a huge hit around the globe, and was followed by a massive world tour, documented on the underwhelming On The Night. Since then, the only releases under the Dire Straits name have been numerous hits collections, and the excellent Live At The BBC. This late-century surprise combines a 1978 live recording of most of the first album (including the rarity “What’s The Matter Baby”, which sounds like a blueprint for “Lady Writer”) with a 1981 TV performance of “Tunnel Of Love”, complete with both intros, that is worth the twelve minutes even after his guitar has gone way out of tune.
Dire Straits On Every Street (1991)—3
Dire Straits On The Night (1993)—2
Dire Straits Live At The BBC (1996)—3½