87 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars quiet, reserved, and tasteful
This CD will take you time to appreciate. At first listen I thought "elevator music" -- rock so light it isn't rock. It takes a while to appreciate the subtleties and the quiet, quiet songs. (The reviewer who said this was Knopfler's most rocking effort since Dire Straits days obviously had never heard the CD. The only semi-rocking song is "Boom like That")...
Published on October 1, 2004 by Smallchief
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Slow-motion Mark Knopfler
Shangri-La is perhaps the SLOWEST Mark Knopfler album since leaving Dire Straits. Please bear in mind that I'm a HUGE MK fan. I'd pay money to see him clean chalkboards. He wouldn't even have to play guitar. Perhaps that is what he had in mind when sleeping his way through the tracks on this CD? MK has forgotten that he is an extraordinary Lead Guitarist and that is why...
Published on October 7, 2004 by Clint Potts
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87 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars quiet, reserved, and tasteful,
This review is from: Shangri-La (Audio CD)This CD will take you time to appreciate. At first listen I thought "elevator music" -- rock so light it isn't rock. It takes a while to appreciate the subtleties and the quiet, quiet songs. (The reviewer who said this was Knopfler's most rocking effort since Dire Straits days obviously had never heard the CD. The only semi-rocking song is "Boom like That")
The CD also lacks the variety of recent Knopfler efforts. Gone are the Celtic, Country, Cajun, and Folk tunes that dotted his other CDs. Instead, "Shangri-la" is just six guys -- two guitars, a bass, a piano, an organ, and drums, sitting around playing relaxed songs. The CD gets my top rating for good lyrics, interesting tunes, virtuoso instrumentation, perfectionist fussiness, and Knopfler's voice, which sounds a little smoother with age than his usual Dylanesque gruffness. It's not a CD that inspires superlatives, and none of the songs will likely go to the top of the hit parade, but they're good -- every one of them. Some of them even have a little bit of a surf sound, reflecting perhaps the fact that the CD was recorded in California
Still, I can appreciate the opinion of those who say "Shangri-la" is boring. I yearn for one of Knopfler's great guitar solos like the screamers on "Telegraph Road," the chugging "Sultans of Swing," or the smoky country blues of "You and your Friend." No such luck. Are Knopfler's rocking days over? I guess we'll have to be content with what we get.
47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mark as He's Always Been,
This review is from: Shangri-La (Audio CD)In many important ways, music reviews are as helpful as screen doors on a submarine. People who lament Mark Knopfler for not writing a 2004 version of Money for Nothing are pining for more of what they REMEMBER about Dire Straits, a band that was so thoroughly 80's without sounding dated. The fundamental shortcoming of this view is that Dire Straits was 20% Money For Nothing or Calling Elvis and 80% of what makes up the bulk of Mark's solo work.
I discovered Dire Straits through my older brother, just about when they stopped making music. I remember feeling how tragic this loss was, as I felt their last album, On Every Street, was an excellent follow up to Brothers in Arms. Clearly, the band did not sound like it was on the way out. Dire Straits became my favorite band and I have a deep love of every single album the band has released.
This is why it is baffling to me when people who review Mark Knopfler's work through the lens of Dire Straits fail to remember the huge volume of work that is stylistically very similar to his new music. For example, the Brothers in Arms album, which is widely considered the most popular album by his former band, is packed with tracks that bare this out:
So Far Away; Your Latest Trick; Why Worry; Ride Across the River; The Man's Too Strong; Brothers in Arms
None of these songs rocked. Only 3 of the 9 tracks on this album were traditional rock tunes, only 2 of those getting radio play (with So Far Away making it on the radio despite its sleep walking mood).
Go back to any album from Dire Straits and you will find that the majority of the material would feel right at home on a Mark Knopfler album. To name just a few examples: Once Upon A Time in the West; Love Over Gold; Portobello Belle; Six Blade Knife; Telegraph Road; On Every Street... the list goes on. In interviews with both Mark and his brother David, who has also released solo albums, the rock tunes were for radio and the storytelling and exploration into American folk music was for the love of the craft.
Mark Knopfler is widely considered one of the top five guitar players ever to pick up the interment, but never because his fast fingers. It is because of his ability to coax his steel guitar into guiding the emotion of his music, not just merely playing the notes on the page. As for the critiques of his voice? I can think of more than a dozen artists whose voice had character at the expense of velvety smoothness. Mark's voice is no different.
If you enjoyed all the music of Dire Straits and not just the radio hits, you will not be disappointed with Mark Knopfler's solo work, including this one. In the same spirit as James Taylor, Van Morrison and Eric Clapton, Knopfler has taken a seat amongst modern music's hall of fame elite. He has matured into an adult's musician who has a tremendous mastery of his craft; able to reach into many corners of musical style. Like watching a veteran athlete making the impossible seem effortless, Mark Knopfler's work, and Shangri-La is no exception, is an honor to experience.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Returning to what made him famous, sort of...,
This review is from: Shangri-La (Audio CD)Mark Knopfler returns to the fertile ground of Richar Thompson-esque folk in Shangri-La, his fourth solo album. There is, however, a little of the old rock and roll fire here. The guitar has returned to the fore on several of the tracks, and there are extended solos that rival anything he's done since Dire Straits disbanded. Where "Ragpicker's Dream" was mostly thirties-style blues and folk, "Shangri-La" has the feel of late Dire Straits, circa "On Every Street," or perhaps "Golden Heart." Thematically, too, this is a very different album than "Ragpicker's Dream." Where that album concentrated on the beaten-down working man, the Depression-era hero of the tracks and bars, the first few tracks of "Shangri-La" approach the men who beat them down in the first place. "Boom, Like That" is about the man who founded McDonald's, Ray Kroc, and how his original concept was turned into a sea of mediocre identical cheap eateries. "Sucker Row" is about every young wolf in the business world, emulating the heartless men above him in an effort to get ahead. I think there's a kind of veiled reference to the founding of Las Vegas in there, too. The title track is a gem of a love song, with guitars at the end that made me close my eyes until the last note went away.
The remainder of the songs range from the traditional-sounding "Donegon's Gone" to the Ragpicker-ish "Stand Up Guy." There's some uneven songwriting here, and I have to agree with the Amazon reviewer's assessment of "Song for Sonny Liston," in that it didn't reach the level of most Knopfler songs, with their eye for dialog and atmosphere. I interpreted the last track, "Don't Crash the Ambulance," as the sly advice for one leader to his successor, as he leaves the office (perhaps the Oval one?) for the last time.
Overall, Knopfler delivers his usual grace and musical skill to this effort. Well worth the price for his fans, although not likely to attract new listeners not used to his particular brand.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine wine,
This review is from: Shangri-La (Audio CD)Mark Knopfler is like a fine wine: Unappreciated by children.
Mr. Knopfler writes songs that examine the deeper things of life; relationships and character of individuals that are often overlooked by self-seeking people.
The music that comes out of Mark Knopfler's heart is music that the majority of listeners overlook in their haste for a quick fix, for the instant feel-good rush. His music is characterized by calm, quiet textures that take time to sink in, but when they do, they touch your soul deeper than almost any other recording artist out there.
It takes a few listens to begin to gather what he talks about as he sings. It takes many times through to fully understand what he is saying. And no matter how many times you hear his words, you learn something new each time.
Music like this is wasted on the shallow and obtuse. For grown people, Mark Knopfler is like cool water on a hot afternoon in the sun.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich melodies and interesting subject matter,
This review is from: Shangri-La (Audio CD)One of his best collection of songs to date. As always, very understated and always respectful of the song. For those of us who love his guitar playing, it is slightly sad that the days of the "guitar hero" are gone, replaced by a much more folksy/bluesy musician. While the long solos are gone, he still has the magic to ornment songs with his playing, which is as crisp and melodic as ever.
I've always been attracted to Knopfler's choice of subject matter for his songs and this album really doesn't disappoint. There are songs about coal miners in the UK (5:15 am), Elvis (Back to Tupelo), MacDonalds (Boom, Like That), Sonny Liston, and the Bush family (Don't Crash the Ambulance). I have to say that in contrast to one of the other reviewers, I find Don't Crash the Ambulance both interesting and funny - it's not vulgar. For me, the stand out track is Boom, Like That which I can listen to endlessly.
The muscial style is as diverse as you'd expect, though the blues influence is perhaps stronger than on his previus works. On Our Shangri-La, Knopfler also sings properly perhaps for the first time on a record, with an impressive range.
In summary, I was really excited by the prospect of listening to these songs and that is usually a recipe for disappointment. Not this time. An excellent album, which Knopfler fans will really enjoy though given current trends it's unlikely to make any commercial waves.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The One and Only,
This review is from: Shangri-La (Audio CD)Where would we be without Mark Knopfler's distinctive brand of folky-rock storytelling? Don't bother worrying about it -- we have him, and now fans have another reason to give thanks: "Shangri-La."
It's important to note that Mark's guitar hand was nearly silenced, approximately a year ago, after a motorcycle accident. He's okay, though, and the music goes on. Worries remain about how his playing might have been affected -- there are few, if any, six-string pyrotechnics heard on "Shangri-La." But since Knopfler plans a full tour to support it all seems well.
Unlike Knopfler's three previous CDs, "Shangri-La" generally stays in the same laid-back groove. I'm not sure this is by design -- Knopfler seemed to make much of the fact that he recorded the CD at a studio on the California coastline -- or happenstance. No Straits-like fireworks to be found here, and no folky ones circa "Ragpicker's Dream," either.
In fact, there are moments on "Shangri-La" that made me wonder whether Knopfler was attempting to channel Chris Isaak. Nevertheless, the songs are consistently good. Here are some quick highlights:
"Boom Like That" is the only song I know of about corporate history -- in this case, Ray Kroc and the birth of McDonald's. It's the first single from the disc and the one with the most recognizable hook.
"5:15 AM" is Knopfler at his best: mellow start, interesting story, and solid climax. "Our Shangri-La" and "Everybody Pays" are the Knopfler-as-Isaak tracks and stand out as the nicest on the disc.
"Postcards From Paraguay" is an instant latin beat classic. "Don't Crash the Ambulance" is another good example of Knopfler's wry humor.
Highly recommeded -- great for long drives, cocktail parties, or sitting around with a good book.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not out to please the masses,
This review is from: Shangri-La (Audio CD)This latest project (Shangri La) exemplifies another direction in making albums. It is not a techno album by any stretch, but rather has an earthy feel to it. While it is not a rocking album and won't have any top 10 singles in the US, the songs employ a mystical feeling almost like a soundtrack. Through his music and lyrics you paint yourself a picture. I found myself immediately playing three times in a row the first song 5:15 before going to the next. With Knopfler you never know exactly what you are going to get. But that's the beauty of this album. It is understated as most his solo works, and he leaves you wanting more not the usual overkill. The music industry from a craftsman perspective is dull and fading and it is refreshing to see that a craftsman/musician makes albums not for commercialization purposes but for the love of making music and storytelling.
That being said, this album rates as the best solo work he has done as of yet at least equal to Sailing to Philadelphia. But don't get caught up in past albums. This album is unique on it's own. I have listened to this album several times over and it still sounds fresh and inviting. If you are a die hard Dire Straits fan looking for material of older days you might be disappointed. If you are looking for extended solos this album might not reach you. But to me it is the sound of the note, not the frequency in how many notes are played. Less is more and sometimes better as in this case. If you a Mark Knopfler fan you'll like this album all the while appreciating album making in it's purist form pushing again into a new direction.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleassure to the audiophile's ear,
This review is from: Shangri La (CD & DVD Audio) (Audio CD)This format (DVD-A + standard cd) is very comfortable to me.
I listen the cd at my car and DVD-A in my audiophile's room.
The record from Knopffler is just great. Delicate melodies, beautiful arrangements and his guitar's sound...like the old times but with the new tech.
Te sound of the DVD-A is just perfect, using the 5.1 ways as everybody should.
This format is too expensive yet, but don't hesitate to invest money in this great record.
104 of 130 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Relaxed CD From The Guitar Master,
This review is from: Shangri-La (Audio CD)I have been a fan of Mark Knopfler since the days of early Dire Straits. I believe that Mark is the best guitarist in the world today, and possibly the best of all time. He is a consistent triple threat: he is an amazing guitarist; a gifted songwriter; and a unique and talented singer and performer. While I like this CD (any Knopfler work is worth owning and listening to repeatedly) I have to admit that I find "Shangri-La" to be a bit less interesting and certainly less musically diverse than previous efforts.
The CD, as you would expect, is immaculately made with Mark's trademark signature perfectionism on prominent display throughout. If I can use one word to describe this CD it would be "understated." The songs are a fairly homogenous lot and are with a couple of exceptions an easy going blend of rock, folk, and funk. Unfortunately, for those desiring to hear traditional Knopfler soloing, prepare to be disappointed: there is essentially none. The songs universally are identifiable as Knopfler fingerpicking masterworks, but this time he chose to be essentially a rhythm guitarist. That's not necessarily a bad thing; it is just different than his previous efforts.
As always, individual song preferences are a matter of taste, but I actually found a couple of the songs to be overtly boring ("5.15 A.M.", "Whoop De Doo", "Our Shangri-La"), and one of them unpleasantly crude ("Don't Crash The Ambulance", the last song on the CD, which as the closing track left a bit of bad taste in my mouth.) My favorite song on the CD (and one that a lot of people have panned in their reviews) is "Song For Sonny Liston". I also enjoy "Postcards From Paraguay," which is the least homogenous of the songs with its touch of flamenco flavor (and a very out of character yodel from Mark.) I found the lyrics on "The Trawlerman's Song" to be a bit formulaic and uninspired, but found the concept of a song (Boom, Like That") dealing with Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's, to be an original subject for a Knopfler tune (although a couple of the rhymes in the song seem a bit forced to me.)
It's always great to have new material from Mark, and I am delighted that he is apparently healed from his motorcycle accident. (Let's hope for a tour in 2005...) Overall I like this CD, but honestly do have to say that I will probably not play it as much as my other Knopfler/Straits CDs: it's not bad, it's just a bit more sedated and solo-deprived than I personally prefer.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost the perfect test disc for any DVD Audio system,
This review is from: Shangri La (CD & DVD Audio) (Audio CD)I'll skip the superlative merits of the songs themselves as I've covered that already, and tell you that with Knopfler you always get a GREAT sounding album. Enhanced with the DVD Audio format, it is almost too good to be true. Assuming you have a passion for well played, tasty guitar licks, it doesn't get any more sublime or sound any more intimate than this DVDA. I'd swear I can hear the strings being plucked! The balance throughout the disc is extraodinary, the dynamics letter perfect. The intimacy acheived and the presence and separation of the music is what is so incredible about this format and in the case of Knopfler, he takes the format to its optimum. Positively, I highly recommend this disc. As good as the first release was, this is just so much better. I can hardly wait for LOCAL HERO and RAGPICKER'S DREAM, CAL and TELEGRAPH ROAD.
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