Friday, September 12, 2014

Mark Knopfler 5: Shangri-La

The new century was already seeing an upswing in Knopfler solo albums, but perhaps a motorcycle accident spurred him into more frequent releases. Whatever the real story, Shangri-La presented another hour’s worth of generic Knopfler noodling, most of the songs interchangeable with each other.
His penchant for storytelling is to be admired, but the music doesn’t always seem to match whatever the tale is, whether it’s an elegy for Elvis Presley’s movie career (“Back To Tupelo”) or the genius of McDonald’s entrepreneur Ray Kroc (“Boom, Like That”). “Donegan’s Gone” pays tribute to the recently departed skiffle king Lonnie Donegan, and no points for guessing the subject matter of “Song For Sonny Liston”.
Still, a few tracks stand out. “Our Shangri-La” and “Postcards From Paraguay” do successfully evoke a tropical scene, just as “The Trawlerman’s Song” sounds like a sea shanty. The late-night saloon setting of “Stand Up Guy” makes reference to a doctor, while the why “Don’t Crash The Ambulance” would seem to come from a personal place as well. The ironic country lament “Whoop De Doo” and the tender lullaby of “All That Matters” are easily the best songs here.
Sure, Shangri-La is nice, but we’re tired of using that adjective to describe a Mark Knopfler album. The near-title track does have a good extended ending, but it barely comes halfway into the program, making even the sequencing seem arbitrary. There was a time when his music truly stirred and painted pictures; this is just going through the motions.

Mark Knopfler Shangri-La (2004)—2

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