Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Record of the Month - Classic

Another installment of a disk I have enjoyed over the years. I'm trying to keep the Record of the Month posts to be fairly new releases. Classics are going to be ones that are at least 5 years old.

Seven songs never sounded so good.

For their third effort, Dire Straits pulls off their best overall recording with Making Movies. And it only has seven songs on it. Unheard of.

Trimmed down to a trio (David Knopfler left the group after Communique), and produced by former Springsteen engineer, Jimmy Iovine, it was their most commercial effort to date - even though they had one mega hit with "Sultans of Swing" and technically, there were really no hits off Making Movies. Still, in theory, it was their most accessible recording to date (Brothers in Arms would change that).

At this point, Iovine had really only produced Patti Smith's Easter, but he would go on to commercial success with his collaborations Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks, among others.

I bought Making Movies for "Skateaway", which was the closest thing to a radio hit, but the rest of the disk is extremely solid.

Leading off with "Tunnel of Love" it would mark a trademark move for Dire Straits - opening their albums with an epic song. Epic in nature. Epic in length. It really is the highlight of the entire disk, and rightfully so. Buoyed by not only classic fair/circus music, it shows Mark Knopfler's exquisite guitar work.

The keyboard work in "Expresso Love" is seemingly to be rudimentary, but the way it weaves in and out of the guitar and rhythm section is pretty good. Ditto with "Hand in Hand" and "Solid Rock". I'm 99% sure it's Roy Bittan, from Springsteen's band is the pianist - you can really hear the style. But it really always was about Knopfler's guitar work - on all their albums.

But really - all seven songs are mini-masterpieces. Really, how great is "Romeo and Juliet"? I love the modern update ("she's singing hay-la, my boyfriend's back"). I've even come to appreciate "Les Boys", which when I was growing up (yes, this disk was released in 1980), it was the one that didn't quite resonate with a 16 year old. It's still the weakest song on the disk, but I don't mind it as much.

I never understood Warner Bros. not really releasing or pushing "Solid Rock" or "Expresso Love" as radio singles. They were perfect radio fare. So was "Skateaway".

Knopfler's singing style can be an acquired taste, but it is one that I really came to appreciate on this disk. But in reality, it was the combination of his songwriting, playing and vocals that make it. And while they had good songs over the rest of their career, they didn't have an entire album that stood out like Making Movies.

1 comment:

Birdie said...

Somehow I managed to miss this one, although I know just about all the tunes you've named. I've got a boatload of Knopfler and saw him in concert in Columbus last year. I love his style, which my son hates, but what does he know? And Knopfler's guitar work is just plain awesome. Check out his work with Chet Atkins.