Sunday, 16 December 2018

Mark Knopfler - Shangri-La (2004)

Whoop de doo....

  

Released September 2004

Mark Knopfler has a skill of producing Americana-influenced folky laid-back rock that often deals with uniquely British characters - North Eastern colliers, Northumbrian farmers, North Sea fishermen, dodgy cockneys and the like, as well as a few American characters in there too. This is very much the blueprint for Knopfler solo albums - socially aware, sensitive lyrics largely about British working characters and backed by American folk-influenced music. This is more of an American-styled album, though, with slightly less of the British folk and Celtic influences as one previous (and subsequent) albums.

TRACK LISTING

1. 5.15 a.m.
2. Boom, Like That
3. Sucker Row
4. The Trawlerman's Song
5. Back To Tupelo
6. Our Shangri-La
7. Everybody Pays
8. Song For Sonny Liston
9. Whoop De Doo
10. Postcards From Paraguay
11. All That Matters
12. Stand Up Guy
13. Donegan's Gone
14. Don't Crash The Ambulance                  

5.15 a.m. is one of Knopfler's socially aware songs, full of imagery of the industrial North-East UK, quite what the song is about though, I'm not quite sure. It seems to be about a cockney coming up to the North East, "Get Carter"-style and getting killed, and some stuff about one-armed bandits too. a bit confusing, but very atmospheric all the same. Musically, it is folky but rockily upbeat, as, too, is the next track, the bluesy rock of Boom, Like That, which deals with a Ray Kroc, who apparently launched the MacDonalds franchise. Knopfler appears inspired by Kroc's entrepreneurial spirit. Some excellent guitar features throughout. There are still hints of Dire Straits here and there, but this is very much a Knopfler solo album. This is exemplified by the laid-back folky blues of Sucker Row - Knopfler's semi-whispered, quite vocals and that trademark understated bluesy guitar. The Trawlerman's Song also fits the bill, exhibiting the same characteristics. Most of the material on this album are country-folk ballads and bluesy, slow tempo quiet, reflective, lyrically thoughtful numbers. The album is quite melancholic and doesn't have the "history" narrative songs that featured on his first two solo albums. The songs here are more character-driven ones.


Back To Tupelo features some Brothers In Arms-style guitar over its nostalgic, sensitive lyrics about Elvis and his films. Our Shangri-La is similarly quiet and low-key, but all the same is quite beautiful, melodic and moving. Everybody Pays has a sumptuous organ intro and bass line, some impressive guitar too. Song For Sonny Liston, about the legendary boxer, is bluesily evocative, with an Eric Clapton feel about it. It is one of my favourites on the album. Whoop De Doo is pretty mournful, however. Postcards From Paraguay's shuffling, infectious beat lifts the mood back up slightly.

All That Matters and the incredibly Springsteenesque Stand Up Guy are both very low-key, unthreatening and quiet. It is now that the album becomes a bit same-y. The tempo changes a bit with the skiffle beat of the otherwise pretty inessential Donegan's Gone. The final track is a good one, though, the tango-ish slow rhythms and accordion of Don't Crash The Ambulance.

The album, like Sailing To Philadelphia is way too long, though, running out of steam before it's over an hour of running time is up. You can just put it on and let it wash over you, however.

B-

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