on September 13, 2012
Being a long time Mark Knopfler fan going back to 1979 when `Sultans of Swing' first hit the airwaves, I was very happy to receive this double album opus. In my opinion Knopfler reached a peak with his last album `Get Lucky' and I wasn't sure this album could hold up to that one. While it may not surpass his last album it certainly reaches the same level of excellence in artistry, creativity and pure musical genius. It is a joy to listen to his music especially when you compare it to the garbage on the radio these days. Most of which makes me gag. It is so sad that many people the world over will never experience music such as this because it just has not been made available to them.
Knopfler's music and lyrics are very complex and demands multiple listenings before you can digest it all. I just love the fusion of celtic, country & rock. The lyrics tell you a story or describe an experience and make you think. Some of his songs are from another time and place. But not so remote that you can't relate to them on a human level. His use of the guitar is very original as he allows the instrument to `talk' or evoke emotion - from happiness & joy to sadness & grief. Some songs actually might motivate you to kick up your feet and dance. He uses this instrument unlike any other guitarist - past or present. I can't praise this man enough. He seems to be getting better with age. Every time a new release comes around I don't hesitate to buy it with no regrets ever. I feel he has really hit his stride since `Kill to Get Crimson', `Get Lucky' and now `Privateering". I also loved the album `All the Road Running' with Emmylou Harris. It contains some outstanding songs. "I Dug Up A Diamond' will bring tears to your eyes. I only hope there will be many more albums from Mark Knopfler in the future!!! They are all masterpieces.
I do have one deep regret & that is that my mother is not here to enjoy his best albums. She discovered Knopfler when she was in her 70's and developed an awe for the man that I had not seen her have for any other musical artist. And she admired many. She read whatever books she could find on him or Dire Straits, watched & listened to his concert tapes & albums and even attended his concert in 2005. If that isn't a testament to the greatness of this artist I don't know what is. She was from another generation & did not have any musical training or education but she knew what she heard was great music of quality and substance. That's why listening to his newer albums is bittersweet for me as she passed away in 2008.
I will end by saying if you appreciate fine music this album will not disappoint you. There are some really beautiful songs ( Redbud Tree; Go Love; Kingdom of Gold) with clever lyrics (Corned Beef City) that will enlighten you along with catchy & innovative guitar riffs throughout. Of all the 20 songs there isn't one you could call weak or filler. The title song "Privateering" is just amazing. For me the absolute stand out track on this album is "Yon Two Crows" which has very celtic overtones. I listen to this over and over and over and it just blows my mind. The melody created by the fiddle is simply beautiful and amazing. Great stuff!
Keep in mind that this man has been making great music for almost 35 years and is very underrated IMHO. That's because he doesn't use gimmicks or court the spotlight but is a brilliant musician and gifted songwriter. Hopefully one day he will gain the recognition he truly deserves.
Mark Knopfler's seventh solo album is his first double-CD release, but the quality and diversity of its 20 original songs amply justify issuing two discs. He toured Europe with Bob Dylan last year and will tour with him in North America this fall, so it's tempting to speculate that working alongside the world's most eminent living songwriter may have sharpened Mark's game and made him more prolific. (They've been playing and recording together off and on since 1979.)
In interviews, Knopfler likens traveling with a band to sailing the world with a crew of brigands, which is what privateers once did during times of war. They were authorized by governments to attack foreign cargo ships, plundering them for booty in order to weaken the enemy. They didn't sink vessels, only commandeered them, and this is akin to what Mark and his band do when they play, capturing new fans who who join those that have followed him since the days of Dire Straits.
The songs on "Privateering" are consistently low-key, character-driven, beautifully written stories of scoundrels on the run and people on the down-and-out, including the opening track, "Redbud Tree": "I crouch in dread / Discovery my certain death / Her leaves reaching for my head / As I suspend my breath / Redbud tree shelter me, shelter me."
The song "Haul Away" introduces a nautical sound, complete with a Celtic penny whistle, fiddle, and accordion, and a theme of lost love. The album then shifts to a great blues tune, "Don't Forget Your Hat," featuring steel slide guitar and harmonica: "Look out the window / Never saw so much rain / You better get down to the station / If you wanna catch that train / So long, I guess that's that / Hey hey, don't forget your hat."
From trains, Knopfler returns to a song of the sea on the title track, which makes it clear that privateers were little better than pirates. The charmingly simple "Miss You Blues" follows (though it's not actually a blues), as does the gently rocking "Corn Beef City," a truck-driving song that reflects the hard economic times we're living through: "You don't ask questions when there's nothing in the bank / You gotta feed the kids and put the diesel in the tank."
As one might expect, "Go, Love" is a sad song of farewell, while "Hot or What" switches back to the blues for some amusing first-person braggin' and harmonica blowin' from a lucky gambler. The first CD closes with "Yon Two Crows," the tale of a muddy shepherd, and the touching, evocative "Seattle," about a pair of disillusioned dreamers in my rainy hometown: "I still believe that there's somewhere for us / But now it's something that we don't discuss / You're the best thing I ever knew / Stay with me, baby, and we'll make it to / Seattle."
Opening disc two is a second Celtic melody entitled "Kingdom of Gold." Its lyrics describe the dire fate of buccaneers who attack a powerful medieval king: "His axes and armor will conquer these devils / The turbulent raiders will falter and fall / Their leaders be taken, their camps burned and leveled / They'll hang in the wind from his citadel walls."
Next up is "Got to Have Something," a basic blues tune about whiskey and guns, succeeded by the wistful, jazz-tinged "Radio City Serenade," a nostalgic love song to New York City, and "I Used to Could," a lively honky-tonk number about a bad boy and his GMC Cannonball truck. "Gator Blood" is Southern-fried roots music with wailing pedal steel guitar, while "Bluebird" is another melancholy blues about a farmer who's run out of luck. The beautiful gloom continues with "Dream of the Drowned Submariner" and "Blood and Water," but Knopfler finally allows us a bit of happiness on the blues shuffle "Today Is OK," in which a boxer addresses his girlfriend:
"Baby, you can read my mind / I'll be home just after nine
You're the best medicine I know / Tonight we're gonna let it all go
Put on that pretty silk shirt / Put on that tight black skirt
Put on those heels so black / We can party on when I get back"
The album ends with a cute bit of Americana that looks at Jack "After the Bean Stalk." Like much of "Privateering," it's country and bluesy, warm and wry. Nothing flashy, just good, comfortable music you can relax into.
on September 17, 2012
Have had this on preorder since it was announced, and then heard the bad news that there is currently no plans for a US release due to corporate greed (not MK or amazon's fault, but wish amazon would inform their shoppers!) Was lucky enough to be in Germany when it was released and was able to find a copy easily of the "deluxe" version. In a great booklet-type package with bonus 3rd CD with some new and old stuff. I have been listening to MK and DS for about 30 years, and never get tired of any of it, but this is by far some of the best in a while...and since I consider most past releases outstanding, that is saying something. The blues on this CD are to die for!!! Lyrics and arrangements fantastic, as always - love the sense of place and storytelling in MKs songs. And guitar is amazing as always. Think MK been spending more time at the Crossroads than he has in the UK - just awesome. Glad to hear a fresh new sound from him combining the blues with celtic, rock and traditional country. Hope the contract dispute gets resolved soon so this is available in the US, but if not, do whatever you can to get a copy!!!
on September 13, 2012
I wish Amazon would delete reviews that have nothing to do with the music. This isn't the place to rant about Amazon's selling policies/mistakes.
I like most everything Mark Knopfler has done but this is one of the best albums he has released...period.
Few artists create double albums that couldn't be stripped down to make a superior single one. This is one of the rare exceptions. Repeated listening proves every song a keeper. Just beautiful...do yourself a favour and buy it.
on October 18, 2013
In an interview Mark Knopfler once said in his characteristic low-key, self-effacing style, that he had 'been lucky' with some of his songs. I had to laugh a little bit at that one. He no doubt has a musical gift, but he has been working at it for fifty + years, so it's not accidental. Sometimes when people are amazed by a fantastic musician or great athlete, they say, "I'd give my life to be able to do that." Well, that is exactly what Mark has done! He's been writing and playing at the highest level for more than thirty years. I recall the great Bonnie Raitt being nervous before a show, because Mark Knopfler was in the audience; mind you, this was just after Sultans had hit the airwaves. She could instantly tell that this was a musician with prodigious talent, and she was in awe of him. Of course, all it took was one listen to those flying fingers dancing over those strings....look ma, no pick! Who needs a pick anyway, that'd just slow him down!
I've been in awe of him for that long as well. There are many qualities that make him such a special artist. One of the most noteworthy to me is that he is first and foremost a serious musician, who has mastered his instruments. I say "instruments" with the plural because he doesn't just play the Fender Strat, but just about any kind of guitar you can imagine, most notably the classical acoustic and National Steel. Every album he's ever done features his virtuosity on all of these various 'axes'. He possesses such incredible skill that he can literally play any type of music you can think of, and this is demonstrated on each of the two "Privateering" disks. Honestly, one would find it difficult to identify another guitarist, living or dead, who could approach Mark in terms of versatility and overall excellence in so many kinds of guitar and so many different types of music: folk, Celtic, love songs, ballads, blues, rockabilly, country, rock, lush instrumentals, film scores,...you name it. These people just don't exist.
But then we have those songs. I am continually amazed by the intelligence and sophistication in Mark's lyrics. He is a storyteller of the highest calibre. His songs are transcendent in that they take us to another time and place, they open up new worlds to us, and they are able to evoke every possible human emotion. All beautifully crafted and tasteful, by turns rocking, melancholy, uplifting, insightful, bitingly cynical, ironic, hilarious, introspective, fun.
This is, to my knowledge, the first double disk studio album that Mark has released. Everything that is mentioned in the paragraph above has been accomplished here. I will be the first to admit that I lack objectivity when it comes to MK. I have always felt that he is one of the greatest guitarists and songwriters who ever lived, and I will eagerly look forward to anything he releases, and will probably rate all of it very highly....at least, that is what's always happened thus far! The fact that it's a double album makes it twice as good.
I'm not going to go into this song-by-song, others have done it well already. I'll just say that if you are a MK fan, this album will make you even more of a MK fan! I am a harmonica player, and a (would-be) guitar player, and one huge plus for me on this album is the inclusion of the great harpman, Kim Wilson, formerly of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. It was a stroke of genius to add Kim, and there is more harmonica on this record than on any of the other MK or Dire Straits releases. Kim plays acoustic on Miss You Blues, heavy Chicago-style amped harp on fully FIVE numbers (Don't Forget Your Hat, Hot or What, Got to Have Something (a scintillating fast blues), I Used to Could, and Today is Okay), and plays a beautifully tasteful chromatic harp on Bluebird.
Mark does not rely upon gimmickry or tricks or stunts or make-up or costumes in his performances and in his music. That in itself ensures that he will probably not be "making movies or be on color TV's." He follows the philosophy of the late, great slide player Duane Allman, who once said, "This ain't no fashion show." MK was put on this earth to create beautiful, timeless, mature music for adults. His playing is so enthralling to guitarists because, well, yes, he has incredible talent and facility, and yes, he is so innovative and has such a unique style, but also because he actually 'plays humbly', in that he subliminates the guitar, turns down his volume knob, and thus allows the other musicians to come forward, which strengthens the entire band. A lesser, more insecure or immature player would be more 'flash' and want to be more dominant. But MK is always thinking about the totality of the sound, and he emphasizes the white moments of silence, the sound between the notes, which does so much to make music better.
To me, just another brilliant album in a long line of brilliant albums.
on September 12, 2012
Although I've always quite liked Mark Knopfler as a guitarist I've never really been a fan of his or Dire Straits but this new solo record is really good with lots of variety - rock, folk, Celtic, blues and lots of Mark's distinctive guitar and equally distinctive voice. The song writing is also really good, the more folky songs like "Yon Two Crows" and "Haul Away" have definite British references but so do some of the more rocky songs like "Corned Beef City" and even the down home country blues "After the Bean Stalk" refers to pantomimes! Mark and co-producer Guy Fletcher do a great job in achieving amazing sounds on all the different styles of music on this record, helped by the excellent band featuring amongst others Richard Bennett on guitars, Jim Cox on keyboards and Ian Thomas on drums.
One real bonus for me is the presence of Kim Wilson's wonderful blues harmonica on so many of the tracks and this is definitely Mark's most bluesy album. He fully demonstrates his skill as a very versatile blues guitarist, both electric and acoustic and with or without slide, and like all the best blues guitarists he can show real emotion through his playing. However, his voice is just as effective and is totally individual (with just a nod to Dylan) and on many of the slower songs like "Go, Love" his vocals are heart-breakingly sad.
This is a very consistent album and with so much variety that it means it is very hard to pick one track as your favourite. On my first few listens the beautiful, gentle "Miss you blues" (with its wonderful slide guitar solos) is the track that stands out for me but I suspect that in the longer term it will be the more folky songs that linger, or perhaps my favourite track will continue to rotate...
There's no one quite like Mark Knopfler, and if you're a fan of his solo works, you will not be disappointed. This two-album collection is unmistakably Knopfler.
If fact, it's "so Knopfler" that you begin to wonder if that's a good thing or not. Has his originality become predictable? Nah - still great.
The majority of these beautifully recorded, mostly-acoustic, tracks lean towards slower ballads, which is fine by me. Of the handful of faster tempo songs, many have a funky Bourbon Alley feel to them ("I Used to Could", "Gator Blood") and merely rate an "adequate" on initial listen. In fact, if I had to name a theme to the album after a single listen, I'd say it's backwoods, southern US, honky tonk ("After the Beanstalk"), which I would not normally like, but somehow he makes it work for me. But it's the ballads, which as usual, always excel. Not many write such wonderful lyrics that paint such colorful pictures in your mind (Remember "Ragpicker's Dream"? "Madame Geneva's"?)
My very favorite Mark Knoplfer tunes almost always have the wonderful Celtic-inspired instrumentations that he and his band does so very well, and this collection includes a couple of those as well.
Often I don't like an album the first time I hear it, so it amazes me how I can listen to new Mark Knopfler album and instantly like it. I can tell whether each song will be extraordinary, or merely average in the first few measures of the track. "Radio City Serenade" captured my heart immediately, and "Redbud Tree" and "Kingdom of Gold" stand out as future classics that will get lots of play in my iTunes library. Just from the name, I knew "Dream of the Drowned Submariner" would be the kind of song that has earned Mark Knopfler the top place in my favorite artist list, and I was not wrong.
So, while there's nothing especially new or experimental here, you can rest comfortably knowing that these beautiful tunes will embrace you like an old friend.
Mark's not for everyone, but if you're already a fan, do not hesitate. You will love this album.
on October 1, 2012
This review is from: Privateering (Audio CD)
The Financial Times described Privateering as 'a fine set of songs about masculine struggle and salvation with an expert craftman's finish'. The Washington Post commented that Knopfler has created a 'subtly beautiful and diverse musical landscape', while The Daily Express found it 'lyrically sound and musically flawless'. But is it really that good?
I suppose it depends just how varied your musical tastes are. Certainly much of this is very blues-influenced with over half of the twenty tracks leaning that way; the rest of the double CD follows more familiar paths that explore Celtic folk, rock and country - many of which need to be played loud and on a decent stereo for detailed listening.
Whilst it's fair to say the extensive rock solos that punctuated the likes of 'Telegraph Road' and 'Sultans' will not be found here, nobody could accuse the guitarist here of simply going through the motions. The gritty, bluesy solos, which shape the likes of 'I Used To Could', 'Gator Blood', 'Hot or What' and 'Today is Okay', are a million miles away from the soporific Kill to Get Crimson and so much more fun as a result!
But whilst the aforementioned tracks are more 'muscular' in their delivery, complete with the usual wry lyrics, Privateering isn't without some depth. Consider 'Two Yon Crows' where Knopfler sets the scene of the shepherd and his dog musing about life working in all winds and weathers. It's clear Knopfler shows compassion for real people doing a hard day's work without pontificating. ("All you bring to this is muscle and grit - persistence, that's just about it. What made you think there would be a living in sheep? Eat, work, eat, work and sleep."). Whilst there's nothing romantic about this depiction of a rainswept heath ("Pennies from Heaven? Don't make me laugh!"), there's a wonderful irony where Knopfler sees optimism in the most unlikely of places: "I raise my flask to the clearing skies - you sweepers, you carrion spies - to scavenge and survive. If you can do it, so can I".
Meg Reid commented in Oxford American that 'Knopfler maintains a writer's heart: an urge to tell the truest story about people with the most difficult and desperate lives and to preserve human desires whether in their ideal or most weakened states'. How about the departing lovers reminiscing about their affection for the rainy city ('Seattle') or the contemplation of mortality ('Dream of the Drowned Submariner')? Both offer opportunity to reflect and to re-evaluate our own lives but from different perspectives. Perhaps they do not quite make the hairs stand on end in the way that 'So Far From the Clyde' did in Get Lucky but the storytelling is as sharp as ever.
Even after thirty-five years, this superb collection of varied songs goes to prove that Knopfler is still at the top of his game. Privateering is full of contrast, both lyrically and stylistically and is a great return to form. Little wonder that it has been so well received the world over...
on October 17, 2012
I have been a Direstraits/Mark Knopfler fan since the late 1980s', he is one of the greatest artists for me. I grew up listening to his music, and own all the releases. In the recent past, my favourites were Sailing to Philadelpia and Shangrila, which were true classics. Mark had become predictable in his last few releases, so I was not expecting a new approach when I read about his latest album, but I was wrong. Privateering is a brilliant album, bluesy, and the quality of the recording is exceptional. I own high-end speakers (MG12's, B&W) and it is a pleasure to hear this album. RedBud tree, Privateering, Kingdom of Gold, Submariner, Go Love, and Yon two crows are stand-out tracks. I just hope Mark has not peaked in his career, and he continues to produce such high quality music like this album for years to come. My vote for the Album of the year.
on February 9, 2013
Mark Knopfler's newest offering is a double CD containing twenty songs, ten of which fall into the blues genre and four that continue his journey into celtic music. As a longtime fan who is still in awe of this man's amazing ability to play guitar, I am finding that his songwriting and his vocal storytelling are starting to take center stage while he allows his accompanying musicians to add their wonderful talents to these songs, so much so that he has nearly become a backup musician to his own music. This is not a criticism, rather, a nod to a musician who realizes that others can enhance one's music to lift it to new heights that never would have been reached. Here, Knopfler lets his backup players take the lead, including amazing harmonica (harp) by Kim Wilson (formerly of Fabulous Thunderbirds), Tim O'Brien on mandolin, and Mike McGoldrick on pipes, just to name a few. Here is a rundown of the track list:
Redbud Tree--a man on the run seeks shelter from his pursuers in a tree..combines acoustic guitar with that trademark Knopfler Strat riffing
Haul Away--lovely celtic sound..this could have been on the soundtrack to one of The Lord of the Rings movies, which I believe another reviewer pointed out
Don't Forget Your Hat--the first of many electric blues songs to come..Kim Wilson lets loose on harp and toss in some tasty slide guitar..reminds me of the sound of John Mayall and John Lee Hooker
Privateering--Knopfler continues his fascination with mercenaries and nautical tales..starts out with acoustic fingerpicking and turns into a rocking sea shanty, putting you right on the deck of a pirate ship..the chanting backing vocals of the band remind me of Why Aye Man from The Ragpicker's Dream
Miss You Blues--a nice mellow country tinged song with harp and mandolin tossed in..I'm not sure why, but this song reminds me of acoustic Eric Clapton
Corned Beef City--about a truck driver trying to make ends meet...if you have been waiting for Mark to come out with a true Dire Straits tune, this is it..sounds like Heavy Fuel meets Walk of Life
Go Love--a mellow break up song with Mark turning from acoustic to electric riffing..similar to what he does on Redbud Tree
Hot or What..more blues and harp..this song reminds me of You Can't Beat the House from Get Lucky
Yon Two Crows-more celtic sounds mixed with electric guitar
Seattle--might be the prettiest song on the album next to Radio City Serenade..a love song to a woman and a city..very atmospheric sound with lots of tremolo electric guitar
Kingdom of Gold--more celtic flavor..the words paint images from Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings
Got to Have Something--more blues and harp
Radio City Serenade--Chris Botti stars on trumpet to create a nostalgic jazz sound that eventually melds with celtic
I Used to Could--electric blues with harp riffing dominating the song
Gator Blood--more electric blues
Bluebird--slow, bluesy electric guitar with harp
Dream of the Drowned Submariner--another nautical tale, mixing electric and acoustic guitar with a haunting clarinet that makes the song
Blood and Water--rootsy, electric blues soloing with some wah-wah pedal tossed in
Today is okay--a harmonica blues stomper about a boxer
After the Beanstalk--country porch blues with harp, but mandolin dominates to give it almost a bluegrass feel
While I enjoyed Get Lucky, the more I listened to this record, the more I liked the diversity of it even though it is slanted heavily towards blues. However, I still believe that the songwriting continues to be top notch and, for me, while I have never thought that Knopfler was a top vocalist, the sound of his voice definitely lends to the music..he has a storyteller's voice..and it makes for wonderful listening. Buy this record!