Sunday, 13 June 2021

Bite-sized ELO

These are most of ELO’s studio albums, together with snippets from my more detailed reviews (to read those, click here) :-

The Electric Light Orchestra (1971)

For me, The Electric Light Orchestra were one hell of a singles band, but a most patchy one, album-wise, particularly in the early days, often allowing indulgent experimentation to overshadow anything else. This adventurous, unique debut album was basically Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne and drummer Bev Bevan putting their combined talents into merging rock/pop music with classical instrumentation - "Baroque'n'roll", they called it. Wood was a multi-instrumentalist and he plays all sorts of parts on the album's tracks. The album really has to be viewed as a complete one-off in the group's long career.

ELO 2 (1973)

After their totally unique, quirky, adventurous classical/rock/throw in the kitchen sink debut album, The Electric Light Orchestra returned with more of the same. Roy Wood left to form Wizzard during the recording, and only appears on two tracks, playing cello, so the sound changes a little from the first album, in that it starts to display the Jeff Lynne sound that would be honed and fine-tuned over the next ten years or so as ELO became one of the biggest bands in the world. They were not that, yet, however, and this is another brave but slightly indulgent album that was never going to be hugely successful, commercially. It is only five lengthy tracks of classical/rock crossover experimentation and, to be perfectly honest is, shall we say, a "challenging" listen. It is worth giving a few chances to, though, like its predecessor. It does hide hidden pleasures deep down there, somewhere.

On The Third Day (1973)

After two experimental albums merging classical music with rock, The Electric Light Orchestra, by now, were trying to to build a bit more of a polished, commercial, pop identity. Only to an extent, though, as this, their third album, still contains a considerable amount of decidedly uncommercial material. Despite the excellent hit singles of Roll Over Beethoven and Showdown the band were struggling somewhat to form their own identity on their patchy albums. (Neither singles were included on the UK albums). It would not be until the next one (or even the one after that) that any real change in direction would be felt. Admittedly, this offering was far more streamlined than the madcap, Roy Wood-inspired adventures of their debut album, but this was still a bit "off the wall", and so Beatles-influenced as to be too close for comfort. A lot of it has little or no commercial appeal.

Eldorado (1974)

After the semi-rock, semi-prog indulgence of the group's first three albums, Jeff Lynne decided to write a dreaded "concept album" with distinct classical influences in a desperate attempt, apparently, to please his Father, who had criticised his son's work for having "no melody". Quite what the "concept" is I don't really know, something about a Walter Mitty-style character, it would seem, trying to escape his mundane, humdrum life through dreams. Yes, ok. I never get these supposed concepts. It's just rock music to me. Does it sound any good? Yes and no. I still find it somewhat indulgent, but there are definite good points. For all that some say it is a prog rock album, I feel it is far more heading towards the ELO sound of the subsequent five or six years than its three predecessors.

Face The Music (1975)

Although The Electric Light Orchestra's trademark orchestrated sound is still present on this album, it is not nearly as dominant as on their previous album Eldorado, or indeed on their first three proggy offerings. Composer Jeff Lynne was definitely finding his pop ears and this album laid down the foundations that the following year's New World Record would really develop. ELO's status as a chart band and one looking for mass appeal truly began here. It was their first album to go platinum.

A New World Record (1976)

After their decidedly weird, experimental first three albums, The Electric Light Orchestra had gradually become more poppy in their music, despite the fact that a couple more subsequent albums, although containing a few hit singles, were still a bit odd and patchy. This one, however, was the one where they went full-on pop in many ways, and they began a serious assault on the singles charts. The album was a huge success too, despite punk bursting on the scene. It sold millions. For some reason the mainstream now had a serious taste for the band, and would continue to do so for the rest of the seventies, when ELO briefly became "the biggest band in the world". ELO were now huge. A year ago they had seemed to be yesterday's men. Musically, as well as going more catchy, Jeff Lynne's Beatles/Lennon obsession remains, though, and crops up in a fair few places on the album. The previous five albums had all contained great singles but the rest of the material was often indulgent and directionless. Here, at last, Lynne got it dead right and produced a wonderful orchestrally-influenced pop album. The band's sound has always been a little tinny for my liking, but Lynne had such an ear for a hook and a melody that I forgave him many times.

Out Of The Blue (1977)

After successfully giving his Electric Light Orchestra a poppy, more chart-friendly makeover on the previous year’s extremely successful A New World Record, Jeff Lynne went the whole hog with this (possibly) bloated but undoubtedly impressive meisterwerk. Seemingly oblivious to contemporary musical trends like punk and only paying a few brief nods to disco, Lynne continued his musical fixation with The Beatles’ 67-70 output and put out this incredibly successful double album that became as much the sound of 1977 as any punk or disco sounds. Lynne’s highly orchestrated rock was popular with all sorts of fans - rock, pop, disco, why even the punks didn’t seem to mind it. It duly sold over 10 million copies. ELO were now huge, being described as “the biggest band in the world”, briefly. Personally, despite having bought some of their music since 1972, I was never convinced by the hype and found a double album of ELO a bit difficult to stomach. I still do, to be honest. Around ten tracks would have been fine, as it was on the previous album. Then again, I have always liked my ELO in small doses. It seemed the public wanted more, however, as they lapped this up. You can’t really argue with the album’s potency, though, and it stands as Lynne’s finest achievement with the group, none of the songs are duffers. Dare I say it was his White Album? No, it was more like his Abbey Road. The whole thing is full of grandiosity seemingly at odds with the contemporary punk desire to strip things back. There was still an appetite for prog rock-style indulgence and camp pomposity, unbelievably. Queen were also hugely popular at the time for similar reasons. Mike Oldfield too. That should not be overlooked when assessing the success of material like this. For every clenched fist pogoing punk there were three or four Yes, Queen, Mike Oldfield or Emerson, Lake And Palmer fans.

Discovery (1979)

Once more oblivious to the punk/new wave maelstrom, ELO followed up their multi million-selling double album behemoth Out Of The Blue with this pleasing but decidedly un-rock offering. It is stylistically a very different album from either of its predecessors, Out Of The Blue and A New World Record. It is also seemingly incongruous compared to much contemporary music of the time, but there again, probably not. Most people in 1979 were not punks or new wavers. Far from it. The album explores funk and disco sounds far more than ELO had previously done, and those sounds were as much part of the zeitgeist as punk or new wave. The album went straight to number one.

Time (1981)

After two years' hiatus, Jeff Lynne and ELO were back in 1981, sticking largely to their tried and tested formula while easing out some of the heavier strings and replacing them with synth-op keyboards. I read that it was more like Wings or The Alan Parsons Project than The Beatles or John Lennon and I have to agree with that. I still quite like it, though, although in 1981 I wouldn't have had any time for it, despite my earlier fandom. The album has a vague-ish concept about a man from the 1980s being transported to the year 2095. Most of the references to the concept that crop up are about the man trying to return to the "good old nineteen-eighties", having seen how crap the future is. As it is now April 2020 as I write, maybe he was was right. It is often forgotten that it reached number one on the albums chart, so it must have still struck a chord with many in 1981.

Secret Messages (1983)

Released in 1983, this was originally intended to be a double album, but the record company, Jet, insisted that it had to be a single one in order to cut down on costs. It was a bit more low-key than its predecessor, either in its single album format or in its double album capacity. It is still a pretty good album though and has been considerably overlooked.

Balance Of Power (1986)

After three years with no album, this was ELO's last album before 2001's Zoom. It was the last to feature Bev Bevan on drums and Richard Tandy (until 2019's From Out Of Nowhere). It is a short album at 34 minutes, and is typically poppy in a mid-eighties style. The tracks are notably shorter than on previous ELO albums, mainly two/three minutes long as opposed to four/five. Overall, though, despite some synth-dominated trebly sound, it is a pleasant, enjoyable sign-off from this well-loved, creative group.

Zoom (2001)

Released in 2001, this was ELO's first album since 1986's Balance Of Power and is basically a Jeff Lynne solo album. He plays most of it, with help from George Harrison and Ringo Starr. It is excellent, in impact, punch, catchiness and also, maybe surprisingly, sound quality. It is not as tinny as some of Lynne's earlier ELO work and that, for me, is a good thing. I really like the album. Jeff Lynne could always nail a great hook and he does it here, on every song. They are all shortish numbers and the album has a pleasing vibrancy, vitality and vigour that keeps your attention from beginning to end. It was a shame that it didn't sell well and has remained largely ignored because it is a really impressive album.

From Out Of Nowhere (2019)

Poor old Jeff Lynne. Despite his new album (surely it should be credited to him as opposed to the now virtually non-existent ELO?) being received as the second coming on Radio Two, quite a lot of the public would appear to have given it a negative reception. Lynne has suffered in the same way as Van Morrison, Sting, Rod Stewart, Mark Knopfler, Elton John and the like in that he has faced the usual calls for him to retire and people saying that they have been fans for forty years but his new album is rubbish and they want a refund. As far as I am concerned, if he wants to keep putting out albums then fair play to him. He played nearly all the instruments himself, by the way, Stevie Wonder-style. Many of the more credible criticism has concerned the sound quality and production of the album and also the fact that it is only thirty-two minutes in length (ten songs). I will attempt to counter those gripes by saying that, for me (never an absolute huge ELO fan, although I first bought their music in 1972), their sound has always been tinny and treble-heavy. Despite the best efforts of Bev Bevan’s powerhouse drumming in the past, the drum sound has often been somewhat muffled, particularly as time has gone by. Lynne’s voice has, again for me, always been reedy and slightly too weak for much of the material. All these characteristics date right back to the Roy Wood era of their 1971 debut album. Nothing much has changed there, then. Regarding the length of the album, personally I find it refreshing to get seventies-style thirty minute albums again (Simply Red have just released one too). A thirty minute album is more concise, less rambling and far easier to get into. Seventy minute albums are often too long, in my opinion. Nobody minded Sgt Pepper, Let It Bleed or Ziggy Stardust being short, did they? Similarly, many criticised The White Album for being too long. Furthermore, many who don’t like it have moaned about its short length. Well, if it’s rubbish, why would you want over an hour of it? Anyway, there you are - what do I think of this particular album? Well, it is pleasant enough and a part time Jeff Lynne person such as myself has enjoyed listening to it a few times. It is certainly not the work of genius as virtually every Radio Two presenter has claimed it to be, though.

Bite-sized Purple

These are some of Deep Purple’s studio albums, together with snippets from my more detailed reviews (to read those, click here) :-

Shades Of Deep Purple (1968)

This was a really vibrant debut from later to be monster rockers Deep Purple. Yes, it is very much a product of its psychedelic age, but it gives a real portent of things to come. I like it a lot. It is full of energy and power - psychedelic, rock and blues merging wonderfully. Yes’s Rick Wakeman has said that it is his favourite album of all time. Purple’s deafeningly-loud live shows from the period were roundly slagged off by critics at the time, but they stuck with it, rightly so. Just as listeners should do with this album.

The Book Of Taliesyn (1968)

Only a few months after their first album came Deep Purple's second offering, which again mixed original compositions with covers of other artists' songs. Incidentally, it was the first release on Harvest Records, which would go on to showcase many UK prog rock bands. Some of the lyrics are in keeping with the album's somewhat pretentious title, but no matter really, as it the rock that matters.

Deep Purple (1969)

For their third album, Deep Purple largely dispensed with the covering of songs - only one is a cover - and it was their most proggy album, merging their natural heavy rock instincts with prog’s complexity and intellectualism (some would say pretension). It tends to get categorised as a prog rock record, something that subsequent albums from the band certainly would never be. Soon after the album’s release, Blackmore and Lord, eventually joined by Paice, carried out a characteristically heavy rock band coup and ousted Evans and bassist Nick Simper from the band. As it happened, it would prove to be the best thing they did. The next album would be worlds apart from this.

Deep Purple In Rock (1970)

Deep Purple were a heavy rock band influenced by blues, rock n roll and, at times classical music. They were not as bluesy as Led Zeppelin, but they were rockier in places and their music was based a lot around keyboardist Jon Lord’s swirling organ riffs. As a teenager in the early 1970s, I despised Deep Purple and the boys who carried their albums around under their arms at school all day long, for no other reason than to show what great musical taste they had (or didn’t have in my opinion). Preferring Mott The Hoople and David Bowie, I found Deep Purple’s long-haired heavy rock posturing tiresome, even at such a tender age. However, time has proved to be a great healer, and by my thirties, I re-assessed them, favourably. 

Fireball (1971)

Despite some critics, particularly at the time, condemning this album for not being as full on rock as In Rock (probably because of the incongruous presence of Anyone's Daughter), there is still bucketloads of classic Deep Purple rock on here. This was actually a really good album, in my view anyway. In many ways, I find it more polished than In Rock and it definitely has a better sound quality. 

Machine Head (1972)

There were four truly classic Deep Purple albums - In Rock (1970); Fireball (1971); this one from 1972 and Burn from 1974. This is possibly the most popular and, in many ways, is the band at their absolute peak. The band were all about huge drums, mighty guitar riffs, wailing vocals and frenetic, church organist gone crazy keyboards. They were the best at what they did - big heavy, clunky, bluesy, powerful rock in its most essential form.  

Who Do We Think We Are? (1973)

This was the final album from Deep Purple’s largely accepted purple period, so to speak. The group were bickering and on the point of going their separate ways. While it has good points, you can pick up on the discord. There is a bit of a laziness to the whole thing. Singer Gillan and bassist Roger Glover would leave soon after this album’s release and the band’s halcyon days were over.

Burn (1974)

This was when it all changed for Deep Purple - singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover left the band, acrimoniously and were replaced by previously unknown David Coverdale on lead vocals and Glenn Hughes on bass. I remember at the time what a huge fuss the music media made of Coverdale's appointment. Anyway, Coverdale had a deeper, grittier voice than Gillan and the band's sound started to change, leaving behind their slight prog hints and going full on heavy, bluesy rock boogie, with a few hints of rock funk in there too. Notably, Hughes shared lead vocals with Coverdale at times too, impressively. The album was a different kind of Deep Purple album and they had sort of become a different group from the splintered one that had released the half-baked Who Do We Think We Are a few months earlier. This variant of the group should be assessed separately from the one that all but finished with Machine Head. I have always quite liked the album though it has an energy, an enthusiasm and a nice, bluesy solidity to the sound that I really appreciate. 

Bite-sized Aretha

These are some of Aretha Franklin’s many albums, together with snippets from my more detailed reviews (to read those, click here) :-

I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You (1967)

This is a truly great soul album. There were not too many at this time, in many ways, because so many of the groups were singles oriented. Otis Redding put out some good ones and the early Gladys Knight albums on Motown are well worth checking out. Many however, featured the hit singles and then some cabaret-style easy listening cover versions. None of that here. No Sir. Just listen to Baby, Baby, Baby - gospelly, strong-voiced soul of the highest order. 

Aretha Arrives (1967)

This came after the highly successful I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You and was not quite as popular as that album, and was seen in some quarters as an underwhelming follow up to a big smash album. That is somewhat unfair as there is certainly some fine material on here. The sound isn't quite as top notch, though, just a little less clarity. You have to turn the volume up a bit. 

Lady Soul (1968)

This album matches the soul brilliance of I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You, and the material was just as strong, an inspired blend of covers and originals that proved Aretha Franklin was here to stay. Although I love Aretha's The Atlantic Singles Collection I have to say the stereo sound on this album is outstandingly good. As all sixties albums are, it is very short, but none the less brilliant for it. Quality soul.

Aretha Now (1968)

You can pick any one of the songs from this album to be honest, they are all good. Horn-driven soul of the highest quality. This is one of my favourite albums of these 1967-1969 releases, with for the fine quality of its sound and the irresistible nature of the songs. It is simply a great listen. Next up for Aretha was an album of eclectic cover versions in Soul '69.

Soul ‘69 (1969)

Despite its slightly misleading, uninventive title, this was an album that saw Aretha concentrate on her bluesier, jazzy side, employing some respected jazz musicians such as Kenny Burrell on the backing. The album was one of her most overlooked late sixties offerings, containing no big hits and being a bit leftfield. It is an understated, enjoyable album, however, and one that showed Aretha's versatility and also her impeccable taste. 

This Girl’s In Love With You (1970)

Soul returned on the next one, although it is also still pretty heavy on the cover versions. The soul ballad Dark End Of The Street is heading into Aretha classic territory as she lifts us higher on an absolute soul classic, no question. Material like this is up there with some of the finest soul music you will ever hear. Let Aretha take you to Heaven. It is simply peerless.

Spirit In The Dark (1970)

This was quite a robust, bluesy offering with less cover versions. There is a fair amount of muscular drum sounds and rollicking blues piano to be heard. It is more "rock" and "blues", whereas the previous one had been a bit more "gospel" and "soul". They difference is in the drum and piano sound. 

Young, Gifted & Black (1972)

This album, from 1972, saw a considerable change in Aretha’s music. Gone are the horns, organ and piano of the sixties. It is all syncopated rhythms, subtle, melodic bass and strings these days. Sweet late night soul and funk were de rigeur. It was either relevant social comment or dim the lights seduction in this era, with a bit of dance rhythm thrown in. This album sort of led the way. Artists like Diana Ross would do several like this, without Aretha’s voice, of course.

Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky) (1973)

This album, from 1973, is a cookin’ mix of Stax-y brassy soul, classic gospelly fare, lively jazz and some occasional smoky, late-night jazz vibes. As usual, Aretha delivers the songs, whatever style they may be, impeccably. I have long been a fan of Aretha’s sixties work, but this is a really impressive seventies offering. I really rate it. It has a nice, warm sound quality to it too. An odd thing about the album is its cover, which has Aretha looking white in a ghostly sort of way, like an old photo negative. Very odd. 

Bite-sized Police

These are The Police’s studio albums, together with snippets from my more detailed reviews (to read those, click here) :-

Outlandos D’Amour (1978)

In 1978, the punk/reggae crossover was at its height - The Clash, The Slits, The Ruts, Stiff Little Fingers all played their own brand of white reggae and reggae was respected by the punks (who respected few other genres, apart from maybe rockabilly) and the rude boys tended to have time for the punks. It was a fine marriage. White reggae was what The Police specialised in at the outset of their career although their "rude"credibility was pretty low. They were not West London squat veterans like The Clash, oiks like The Ruts, tough girls like The Slits or from the mean streets of Belfast like Stiff Little Fingers. Instead they were an ex-teacher, a (comparatively) old guitar veteran in Andy Summers and an American diplomat's son, Stewart Copeland. Remarkably they "crossed over" more than any of the others and became the biggest band in the country for a short while, conquering the charts and winning over the "non punk" chart buying public, including lots of girls who fancied the charismatic front man Gordon Sumner aka "Sting". They suffered from this credibility problem and also from a notion that they were "up themselves". This is somewhat unfair, particularly at the beginning. This is a good debut album.

Regatta De Blanc (1979)

After their debut album from the previous year, that was a mix of white reggae and upbeat punky, guitar-riff based rock, The Police were back a year later with more of the same. A bit like The Jam's lead songwriter, Paul Weller, with their second album, This Is The Modern World, The Police's equivalent was supposed to have been suffering from "writer's block". The group were said to have dug up a few old tracks in desperation, and there are times it is clear too. Some good songs on this album, but some distinctly average contributions too. The Police often remind me of Blondie - superb singles but often patchy albums, unlike The Jam or The Clash.

Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)

After two impressive, reggae-influenced, vaguely punky albums, The Police had caught on with more than just new wave fans and were now on the verge of briefly becoming the biggest bands around. They released copper-bottomed classic singles that their albums could never quite match, to be honest. Compared to albums from the same period from The Clash, The Jam or Elvis Costello this is definitely coming up second. This was their most successful of their five albums though. I do feel, though, that The Police's albums were always slightly lacking in something, that certain je ne sais quoi that raised them higher, to classic status. None of their albums are classics. They were often blighted by internal band problems - Sting's "writer's block", pressure of touring, the requirement to meet commercial demand for an album, the band members falling out. For those reasons, the albums feel a bit incomplete, with some filler, often instrumentals that sound like demo backing tracks.

Ghost In The Machine (1981)

This is by far the most “rock” album of The Police’s five offerings. There is a convincing case for it being their best album too. In my opinion, it is by far the superior piece of work to its best-selling predecessor, the patchy Zenyatta Mondatta. It does not contain any “filler” instrumentals for a start. 

Synchronicity (1983)

Following on from the rock sound of Ghost In The Machine, this, The Police’s final album after five frantic years, followed in the same footsteps (to paraphrase track two on this album). It is a frantic, pulsating rock-ish album on the whole and one that I always enjoy, although I don't return to it very often. Of all their albums, it is probably the most mature.

Bite-sized Knopfler

These are most of Mark Knopfler’s studio albums, together with snippets from my more detailed reviews (to read those, click here) :-

Golden Heart (1996)

This was Mark Knopfler's first solo album after disbanding Dire Straits, and while here are some Straits-isms present here, there are also several nods towards the Celtic folk influences and historical storytelling that would be present on many of Knopfler's subsequent solo offerings. In that respect it is very much a "bridging" album between the two periods of his career. It still remains firmly one of my favourites of his.

Sailing To Philadelphia (2000)

Nine years or so after Dire Straits' last album, many people saw this, Mark Knopfler's second album, as something of a Straits-like creation. I am not so sure I agree with that. The guitar solos have gone and the lyrics are very much Knopfler solo ones, as opposed to the style he used to write for Dire Straits. We have historically-influenced songs and ones telling of the lives of the ordinary working characters Knopfler so admires. These type of songs did not really feature in the Dire Straits canon, so, for me, it is very much a Knopfler solo offering. The influences are very much Americana, Van Morrison (who appears on one track) and Bob Dylan and the album, while having its laid-back rock feel, is also quite a folky one.

The Ragpicker’s Dream (2002)

This album was where Mark Knopfler really built on the foundations of folk, blues, gentle rock and British/Americana folk traditions that he had begun on his first two solo albums. People hoping for Dire Straits-style extended guitar solos would not find them here. There is an acoustic emphasis on many of the tracks, with folky soloing and sensitive, thoughtful, socially aware lyrics, often built around working class characters from Northumberland. 

Shangri-La (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.

All The Roadrunning (2006)

Although released in 2006 and sounding like a one-off fun collaboration between Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, it actually was formed by work they had recorded together over the previous seven years. While they might seem a bit of an odd combination, their mix of the dry and the comparatively effervescent is both fetching and effective.

Kill To Get Crimson (2007)

This is another gentle, tastefully low-key "adult" album from Mark Knopfler. It is another fusion of folk, Americana, country, blues and rock which combine to create Knopfler's unique, instantly recognisable sound. Knopfler's sound is a by now trademark, distinctive easy groove that features several styles, none of which dominate. It is all about the mood, the sound, merged with the lyrics, often sensitive, observant and haunting. It is musically unthreatening, but always understated in its comfortable beauty. It all sounds so wonderfully effortless.

Get Lucky (2009)

By now, it was high time people stopped comparing Mark Knopfler's solo work with his Dire Straits output. They are completely different entities. Knopfler has now created almost his own genre of traditional-sounding folk/rock songs. They sound as if they are from a bygone age, but they are written by him, most atmospherically. Amidst the Celtic and folk airs, there is still a large debt owed to the blues and swamp rock styles, however. There are just no Dire Straits-style guitar solos, so let it go, eh, people? Every time he releases an album we get the same old gripes from people claiming to be "huge fans" bemoaning the fact that they now find his music "boring". The boring thing is not Knopfler in this instance. If Dire Straits were your thing, listen to them, do not expect the same from Knopfler. It's the Eric Clapton-Rod Stewart syndrome.

Privateering (2012)

This was Mark Knopfler's first double album and it is a good one, too. It covers all his bases - folk, Celtic folk, Americana blues, rock and even a few nods to the old Dire Straits days, only a few mind. It is full of Bruce Springsteen, Chris Rea and Van Morrison influences in places as well as going full on with Knopfler's trademark laconic voice and often wry, witty, observational lyrics. It maybe a sprawling album, but it is a good sprawling. There isn't a duff track on the album. In many respects it is his finest creation.

Tracker (2015)

A laid-back album of beautiful, thoughtful songs in a folky style by the guitar genius that is Mark Knopfler. If you are one of those still desperately searching for some hint of Dire Straits-style sound, then you will be disappointed, just give up. Time has moved on. There is a trustworthiness to Knopfler’s honest, bluesy work. Like Van Morrison, you know what you are going to get. Long may he continue.

Down The Road Wherever (2018)

This is Mark Knopfler's first album for three years or so. You know what you're going to get from him by now - immaculately played, laid-back folky, slow tempo rock. If you like Knopfler, you will like this. It is as simple as that. Nothing much changes in the material he has been putting out for many years now. Having said that, however, I have to say that, of all his solo albums, this contains the most musical diversity. Look, it's not Sgt. Pepper or A Night At The Opera in its chocolate box diversity, but, for Knopfler, it is by far the most changeable, track by track, album he has released. His voice largely remains the same, calm and melancholic, but musically, there is quite a lot in here. It isn't all just a gently strummed acoustic guitar.