Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dire Straits 4: Love Over Gold

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)—


  1. I agree that Love Over Gold was the high-point in Dire Straits' career. But how can you say that and award it a lower mark than Making Movies?

  2. I wrestled with that, and wrestled with that. Ultimately I decided that I've tired of "Private Investigations".

    It was definitely the high point. But Making Movies, to me, is the better album.

  3. Hmm, still not following that -- how can X be the high point if Y is the better album?

    (Also: how can anyone tire of Private Investigations before Les Boys? Or indeed any of side 2 of MM? Yes, it's a great album, but you have to admit that it's heavily front-loaded.)

  4. Again, I'm still wrestling with this. As am I trying to justify why Highway 61 Revisited and Exile On Main St. are only 4 1/2. As I say in the box at right, it's all based on my whims, and can change at any time.

  5. It's true, the box on the right is a bulletproof generic disclaimer :-)

    Well, there are plenty of ratings on this site that I disagree with, but that only proves that we have different tastes. The only reason this one stood out was because of the high-point remark. Still, there are worse crimes than inconsistency.