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Not gold through and through, perhaps, but lovable
on September 23, 2006
After a rather long wait, Dire Straits' 1982 release Love Over Gold arrived in the mail this afternoon. It's not quite as well-known or best-selling an album as 1985's Brothers in Arms or 1980's Making Movies. However, Love Over Gold offers subtle nuances in its progressive leanings. Mark Knopfler continues to establish himself as one of the greatest emotive guitarists in rock history. That's a good thing.
The opening cut, "Telegraph Road", is an epic song about the industrialization of the world. Piano lines and the finger-plucked guitar soloing of Knopfler dominate musically, if they can be called "dominating" at all. This is not hard rock; this is rock music as art. It builds as the song goes on; it may be too long or too subtle for some listeners' tastes, but as a progressive rock fan and a Knopfler acolyte, I like it quite a lot.
"Private Investigations" follows, mellow as it begins, entering into a strummed, almost flamenco-flavored guitar solo over which Knopfler, in the character of a private detective, begins to speak. The song is basically instrumental, since there is no actual singing in it. After Knopfler's last spoken section, the character of the song changes somewhat, adding a steady rhythm section below the increasingly exploratory guitar. Soon enough, an electric guitar shreds in to add another layer, then the piano. As soon as they appear, almost, they are gone; and then back; the song continues in this way to finish. Definitely prog rock.
The third track, "Industrial Disease", takes up the familiar Love Over Gold theme of disaffect with the corrosion of the modern times in satirical fashion. The song is upbeat and rollicking, in contrast with its satirical but charged lyrics. Not my favorite on the album; not unlistenable, though.
"Love Over Gold", track number four and title track for the album, comes in with the piano again and adds the acoustic guitar in shortly. Knopfler's voice reinforces the quiet, hushed beauty of the Dire Straits ballad. It's about a spontaneous woman who acts boldly on flickers of passion and spurs of the moment; the last verse asserts that "It takes love over gold / And mind over matter / To do what you do that you must" and gives tacit approval to the fearless, unplanned actions of the character in the song. It's really a beautiful piece (there's even a marimba solo woven in there) and a new favorite of mine from the band...
The album ends with "It Never Rains", about a woman who lives life on the edge in a different way (or, perhaps, not in a different way but simply seen from a more critical perspective?) and does irresponsible and naive things that end up hurting the people around her and alienating the world. I think that Dire Straits does better when they try to be affective and evocative; as with the similarly up-tempo "Industrial Disease", "It Never Rains" is not quite as good or moving of a song as "Telegraph Road" or "Love Over Gold". It's not bad, though, as 'Straits rockers go.
Overall, I would recommend Love Over Gold to fans of Dire Straits or such other bands as Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, and Camel. It's only five tracks long (though all are long, one very much so), but the passages tying together all of them - save, perhaps, for "Industrial Disease" - are classic 'Straits, music as art and art as music. I guess that's what makes groups like this better for me than most of the heavy metal stuff that feels so much less passionate.