Monday, March 11, 2013

Mark Knopfler 3: Sailing To Philadelphia

After scoring a few more movies, Mark Knopfler got around to completing another solo album (of songs, that is) by the century’s end. Despite sporting a central set of players, each of the tracks on Sailing To Philadelphia included “guest” performances—and it’s worth mentioning that one track was substituted for non-American audiences.
There’s a nice galloping intro in the way of “What It Is”, complete with trademark coloring. A violin adds a Western feel, which tries to pervade from here. The title track is designed as a dialogue between the creators of the Mason-Dixon line, one of whom is portrayed by James Taylor (direct from his pointless appearance on a recent Sting album). “Who’s Your Baby Now” is the first track that doesn’t sound like something else, and therefore offers something of a fresh kick. The memorable title “Baloney Again” is given to a dull monologue seemingly given by a musician facing racial discrimination—a noble sentiment, but not convincing coming from Knopfler’s pen and mouth. “The Last Laugh” sports a nice Memphis Horns arrangement, as well as a vocal appearance by Van Morrison. That’s fine, but forcing it into makes it more of a novelty, detracting from the quality of the composition itself. “Do America” is built around that trademark snotty tone that drove so many Dire Straits hits, while “El Macho” is based around a canned mariachi tone and doesn’t answer the question as to quién es más.
“Prairie Wedding” is based in another century, without really gelling. “Wanderlust” is an improvement, a simple strum that would be even better without the atmospherics dressing it up. An all-too-familiar rhythm pins down the lengthy “Speedway At Nazareth”, which seems to exist solely to rhyme a bunch of race courses.
To prove that there really is a decent album in here, the last three tracks are pretty good. “Junkie Doll” has some nice changes, and then the main guys from Squeeze show up on “Silvertown Blues”. “Sands Of Nevada” has quite an impressive, near-cinematic sound, thanks to Guy Fletcher’s piano (he being the guy who’d played keyboards on all those Knopfler soundtracks over the years).
While there are those who will welcome any Knopfler vocal like a comfortable sweater on a snowy day, the fact of the matter is that his knack for storytelling seems to have been left behind on Love Over Gold. We’ve already referred to his albums as wallpaper, and while albums like this certainly aren’t offensive, they also aren’t very exciting. With a little editing, Sailing To Philadelphia could have been great, but at this length, it becomes dull, without purpose.

Mark Knopfler Sailing To Philadelphia (2000)—

1 comment:

  1. A 2.5 rating is a bit harsh for this album...the groove of El Macho is worth a 3 by itself.