Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dire Straits 5: Twisting By The Pool and Alchemy

Perhaps in response to the heavy work that went into Love Over Gold, Mark Knopfler and the band quickly tossed off a few tracks for an EP that emphasized dancing. “Twisting By The Pool” is a fun number worthy of some of Ray Davies’ similar early-‘80s singles, while “Badges, Posters, Stickers, T-Shirts” neatly evokes the trad-jazz pub era; this was a B-side left over from the Love Over Gold sessions, nicely included here in the U.S. “Two Young Lovers” and “If I Had You” are simple yet toe-tapping. Which, of course, was the point. (With the exception of the title track on a few compilations, the EP is MIA in the digital era, but was finally made available for streaming in 2021.)

Meanwhile, with former Rockpile drummer Terry Williams behind the skins, the band took their show to stadiums. Having reached the part of their career that demanded a double live album, Alchemy ably delivered the hits and album cuts, extended in some cases as befit the concert format. “Once Upon A Time In The West” is brought out for thirteen minutes, and the crowd goes wild. There’s the teaser of the final notes from a performance of “Industrial Disease” (reinstated in full on 2024’s Live 1978-1992 box set) just before an excellent “Expresso Love”, while “Romeo And Juliet” seamlessly flows into “Love Over Gold”, but only on the CD. “Private Investigations” isn’t that different from the album version, but “Sultans Of Swing” brings people back to their seats for ten full minutes. “Two Young Lovers” and the theme from the soundtrack of Local Hero provide smiles for the diehards, but perhaps the best performance is “Tunnel Of Love”, which gains a majestic four-minute intro before the Carousel quote, before the song takes over with fantastic grace. (In addition to “Industrial Disease”, the expanded edition for the box set also added “Twisting By The Pool” and “Portobello Belle”, which had been excerpted on the Money For Nothing compilation.)

These albums, plus his recent soundtrack work, kept Mark Knopfler’s name in circulation as one of the more sophisticated musicians in an era that, frankly, didn’t have a lot of them. Unfortunately, the simplicity of the EP and the big sound of the live album would soon combine in a way that would be a little surprising, and not completely welcome.

Dire Straits Twisting By The Pool (1983)—3
Current CD availability: none
Dire Straits Alchemy (1984)—
CD version: same as 1984, plus 1 extra track

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