on September 15, 2009
"I'm writing too many songs, and then I have to put them out --- I'm sorry," Mark Knopfler said at the start of what seems like our annual phone call.
But if Knopfler is going to make CDs like 'Get Lucky', he can call me every few months --- these eleven songs are completely original short stories and character sketches, set against music by one of the planet's greater guitarists. That the quality is uniformly high is no surprise.
What did take me aback --- and what will make fans of Dire Straits and Knopfler's previous solo releases shake their heads --- is that Knopfler seems to have assembled this CD without regard for the commercial marketplace. Nothing that says "automatic Top 10" jumps out at you like 'Punish the Monkey (Let the Organ Grinder Go)' from 'Kill to Get Crimson' or 'Boom Like That' from 'Shangri-La'.
The likely result: The guy whose band sold 120 million records has made a CD that will be appreciated mostly by hardcore fans --- and the smallest cohort of music lovers: smart, literate grownups.
An unwillingness --- or is it an inability? --- to compromise. A curiosity, at 60, about songwriting that explores new personal territory. A concern, in all things, for authenticity. You don't have to talk to Mark Knopfler long before you realize that these are bred in the bone. Listen:
Jesse Kornbluth: Three words: Dire Straits reunion.
Mark Knopfler (audible sigh): These days, it does seem to be the style. But putting the brakes on when I did [he disbanded Dire Straits in 1995] was right. I'm happy with the way things are.
JK: We're talking about the easiest $300 million you'll ever make!
MK: I'm looking to do more of what I do --- improve my recordings and playing the new music live, enjoying the variations that brings.
JK: At a conference, I heard Steve Jobs quote The Beatles: "You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead." I hear that idea running through your new CD. There's a lot of life experience --- people on the far side of young love, lost comrades, memories of a distant childhood.
MK: The road ahead --- yes, it's a different picture. I have become a bit of a veteran at this music thing, so there's some of what made me. One song, 'Cleaning My Gun', is from the vet's viewpoint, the survivor's viewpoint. I've made a couple of notes where it's possible to tell you the background of some of the songs. But I try not to interfere too much or explain. I don't want to spoil the songs for you; I'd prefer that it's going to be what you want it to be.
JK: In 'Remembrance Day', you sing the names of those --- war dead, it seems --- now under the "earthen roof". Are they men you knew?
MK: It's just a list of boys. It begins with a cricket team. In a lot of communities, cricket teams and football teams --- and in America, baseball teams --- were the kids who went to war.
JK: That's the closest you come to social criticism on this CD. There's no wry, angry song like "Punish the Monkey". Is Knopfler mellowing?
MK: The older I get, the more grouchy I become. I have some equally disagreeable friends who are walking partners with me in the morning. We get most of our bile out then. By the time I get home, I feel better.
JK: I think of a Bruce Springsteen CD that, according to his manager, had no obvious hit single. Bruce went home and dashed off 'Dancing in the Dark'. And the entire world bought 'Born in the USA'. In contrast, I fear that 'Get Lucky' will be under-appreciated because it's merely gorgeous.
MK: It does occur to me I need to have someone like that.
JK: I see you have one concert scheduled this month --- then your schedule looks blank until May of 2010. This can't be.
MK: I'm trying to work out a way to pop over to America and do Prairie Home Companion or Letterman, just by myself. And there will be a tour from April to July.
JK: Didn't Dire Straits once do 250 concerts in a year?
MK: When you're young and in a band, it's like you have a football under your arm ---- you're running. But some of that is running away.
JK: Fender has just launched the Mark Knopfler Stratocaster. Do you use it or just endorse it?
MK: I play it on stage instead of my old one. It works better. It has all the things I specified: a rosewood finger board, nice big smooth frets. Other owners seem to like it too.
JK: Michael Jordan wore a new pair of Nike shoes every night. Do you have more than one Knopfler Strat?
MK: I can make a lot of money for charity by playing one at an event and then selling it. So I'll generally be using a new one....
JK: I see your high standards as an affront to our rapidly deteriorating culture. They reassure those of us who care about these things that we're not alone, not crazy. In that sense, "Get Lucky" is a comfort. Can you relate?
MK: There's been an erosion, and not just in the United States. It becomes more important for people who regard themselves as having the ability to discern and feel to stand tall.
JK: So market-directed music....
MK: I'm sorry. Those words are meaningless to me.
'Get Lucky' is Exhibit A.
on September 19, 2009
From the days of Dire Straits to the present I have long thought that Mark Knopfler is a genius.
As for "Get Lucky": A guy I knew and worked with for many years was killed last year in Afghanistan. The first time I heard "Remembrance Day" I instantly thought of him and cried like a baby for a couple of minutes, something I hadn't done before, even at the time of his death. Enough said.
on October 21, 2009
I buy most every cd from Mark Knopfler. The last he did with Emmylou (Roadrunning - both the cd and live dvd) was fantastic, shangra la, and Crimson was excellent too. Get Lucky was highly anticipated especially seeing it packaged with a dvd. The dvd was a real extra treat. To see Mark walk thru the studio with his engineer describing the recording equipment was very interesting - a look inside the brains of legends. The CD Get Lucky is standard fare for Knopfler, but leaves you wanting to hear more. For me, I was wanting to hear more guitar solos. This cd has a celtic feel to it and is mostly mid tempo - a little too plodding for me. The cd cover with the vegas type of lights has you thinking it might be some up tempo music. But this is more a brooding slow to mid tempo celtic vibe type of music. Yes the remembrance song about the war victims was spine tingling - riviting music that may be worth the price of the cd. But several songs had me listening closely to see if there was any guitar in them at all. I just want to her more electric leads rather than acoustic. I know, this is not dire straits, but I still was longing for more electricity from Get Lucky. I refrained from reviewing this before I could give at least several complete listens. Well, after a couple weeks and listening through at 6 times, I am just not enjoying this one as much as Shangra La, Crimson, and Roadrunning. Get Lucky makes those cds seem all the more special. Mark may be going for the grammy with this one - because they usually honor the artist who has complete disregard for any popular sound - and one who strays from his past is usually looked at as a genious. Yes, this cd compared with a lot of music released by todays musicians is very good. But with Mark raising the bar with his recent releases, this one comes up a little short. Bring back Emmylou for another round - and please, plug that guitar in and turn it up!
on December 1, 2009
First only lending a ear and not paying close attention to the album, I said to myself : "well, not as inspired as prevouis ones". But how wrong I was, when I really started giving it the attention the album deserves.
MK's music is as classy, subtle, accurate as ever, and his words always inspiring and full of imagery. It can but touch your soul.
If one had to define GET LUCKY, one could say that it has quiet a strong Irish/Scottish Flavour. See for exemple the great up tempo 1st single "Border Reiver", the tasteful "Before Gas and TV" set in days of yore, the emotional and excellent piece of writing that's "So Far From The Clyde", and the closer "Piper to the End", an hommage to MK's oncle Freddie who died a piper in the British army in France, during WWI.
Then you have what I would call the great, great, great folk songs such as "Get Lucky" and its exquisite flute, or else the wondrous 2nd single "Remembrance Day", sung with a children choir made up of some of the musicians', studio techs and staff's children and wives, among which Isabella et Katya Knopfler, MK's daughters and their mother Kitty (Aldridge) Knopfler.
The rest is inspired by a kind of 60's rock, tainted with accents of blues and Honky Tonk : "You Can't Beat The House" (mu only skipper), "Cleaning My Gun" (reminding a bit of an old DIRE STRAITS' classic called HEAVY FUEL), "The Car was the One".
To finish, I'd like to comment upon 2 surprising titles which are just great too :
"Hard Shoulder", which sounds like a cruise ship song with French horns and strings.
"Monteleone", a Waltz Disney kind of waltz paying tribute to American guitar builder, John Monteleone, which is a perfect choice for wintery evenings at the light and heat of the mantelpiece.
Just one last very personal thing about the Get Lucky album :
Here I'm giving you my own perfect playlist, including one or two previously unreleased tracks, and removing others.
Do what you please of it...
1/ BORDER REIVER (1st single)
2/ HARD SHOULDER
3/ HOME BOY (I LOVE IT!!!! PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED AND AVAILABLE IN THE GET LUCKY BOX SET)
4/ EARLY BIRD (edited) (I LOVE IT!!!!) - Could have been a fantastic single! YOU LUCKY AMERICANS CAN GET IT THROUGH AMAZON.COM
5/ BEFORE GAS AND TV
6/ MONTELEONE (WHAT A TREAT!!!)
7/ CLEANING MY GUN (Third possible single)
8/ REMEMBRANCE DAY (JUST PERFECT!!! - Second single)
9/ GET LUCKY (Fourth possible single - already used a lot on the radio)
10/ SO FAR FROM THE CLYDE (THIIISSSSS! IS A PIECE OF STORY TELLING!!!)
11/ PIPER TO THE END
on September 28, 2009
I was explaining to my 13 year old daughter why Mark Knopfler is my all time favorite musician and artist. My explanation was that his music embodies all of the things that music can bring and add to one's experience when one matures. Mark Knopfler is at a point where he does not need to wow all with raging guitar solos. That is for the young. His themes have changed to clearly represent who he truly is and what he holds dear. When one is young, it is the gaining or losing of love, infatuation, and the enjoyment of youth and the promise for what one can become and the fear of not becoming something of merit. Mark Knopfler's earlier songs with Dire Straits had a higher percentage of these types of themes. They were also higher in octane over all, representing the stage of life he was in when he was performing in Dire Straits. He has moved past this in a way that reflects intelligence and subtlety and maturity, a very interesting maturity at that.
My belief is that through writing the soundtracks for Cal, Local Hero, Last Exit to Brooklyn, Shot at Glory, Princess Bride, working in the Notting Hillbillies, and Chet Atkins, all of these things enabled him to weave the musical culture and heritage of Northern England and Scotland, with American blues and country influences. This is where he is today. He is home with a style that is all his own. His songs are the stories that represent nostalgia of his youthful experiences and his formative time in the North of England/Scotland (the Car Was the One/Get Lucky/So Far From the Clyde/Before Gas and TV/Cleaning My Gun), as well as the sacrifice that others make on our behalf (Remembrance Day), the acknowledgment of great skill (Monteleone), the blues tinged You Can't Beat the House. But my favorite one of all is A Piper to the End. Mostly because it uses images of a piper (his uncle in this case) as a representative of one's essence or your soul when we go off the great beyond, with his hoping that he can still meet the uncle he never did meet. But still this song is about hope, the hope for something better, ending up in a better place when it is all over, and faithful friends. This song is utterly gorgeous like this album.
on September 16, 2009
I own virtually every piece of work this man has done clear back to Dire Straits. I've been blessed to see him twice in concert at a local winery, sitting out in the grass, sipping wine, making friends sitting in the immediate area and seeing firsthand the absolute genius Knopfler is blessed with. Get lucky did not let me down. I am thrilled that there's a bit of the "known" Knopfler and a bit of his "roots" in this work. A man who knows who he is, likes what he does and draws you in with every note and word whether it be traditional Knopfler or Knopfler ready to embrace his heritage. I love it! Buy it! A true "Piper To The End".....thumbs up for the sentiment and the song......beautifully done.
on September 24, 2009
If popular music is, for us, what poetry was for the Victorians, Knopfler is our Robert Browning. It's hard not to draw parallels between Browning's dramatic monologues, which could delineate the character of a hero or a villain in a few dozen lines, with Knopfler's songs -- which do the same, often with more delicacy and indirection than Browning could muster.
This album is, in my estimation, better than either Kill to Get Crimson or Shangri La, both of which I love. It subsumes what Knopfler did on those albums, pulls in what was transcendent about The Ragpicker's Dream, as well as pointing backward to other Knopfler gems, like the soundtrack to Local Hero and to Golden Heart, which doesn't get the airplay it deserves, even from Knopfler fans.
On this album, you get a bit of every Knopfler we know and love.
If you are the king of Knopfler fan who gravitates to, say, 5:15 AM, you have Remembrance Day to wash over you.
If you loved Why Aye Man, Knopfler's given you the another piece of that mosaic, with So Far From The Clyde.
If you liked the grit of anything on The Ragpicker's Dream, there's Before Gas and TV -- the latest in the "faustian compact with civilization" theme that runs through Knopfler's body of work.
If you dug The Scaffolder's Wife, Hard Shoulder (my favorite on this album) is going to give you shivers -- and make you think, interestingly enough, about Elvis Costello's best lyrics, despite the musical differences, and (I'll bet) Burt Bacharach.
If you think Song for Sonny Liston is Knopfler at his best, then you've got You Can't Beat The House, this time out.
Monteleone and The Car Was The One are wonderful -- a glimpse (something we rarely get) into Knopfler's own imagination, into what he values.
And what unites this album is what always pulls Knopfler's work together: the peculiar beauties of his voice, and the immaculate, thrilling voice of his guitar.
Bottom line: his best in years. Better range, better depth, better, better, better.
Buy 10 copies. Hand them out to your friends who can still remember how Sultans of Swing turned their worlds upside down, and let them remember -- and look forward.
I can't think why it's taken me so long to review this CD. I have no excuse.
Every diehard Mark Knopfler fan looks forward to the newest offering from him as eagerly as Pavlov's dog drooled for food. Chatter about a project begins almost as soon as he enters the studio, if not immediately after a tour; any visit to one of several forums is all about the newest music, with much speculation over the format; instruments used; personnel; and what way Mr Knopfler will direct his music. When this album was in production in 2009, discussion reached something of a fever pitch.
There are always those yearning for the MK of long ago, with lightning-fast licks and clever bends; the MK of recent years, however, in keeping with his gradual incarnation as an Elder Statesman of the guitar, has morphed into an introspective, subtle storyteller, with an occasional flash of the old fire. In "Get Lucky", with the exception of a couple of numbers that classify as blues, the songs are folksy, plot-driven, and with that beautiful guitar mastery of Mr Knopfler's flowing through every song.
Beginning with the plaintive Irish flute in "Border Reiver" - an ode to a dependable, if plebian, automobile common in a past era in Great Britain - MK's reliance on his boundless realm of excellent eclectic musicians is well-served. He has, in the past, collaborated with musicians of many stamps; lately he has been exploring his Celtic roots with flutes, violins, and a lot of acoustic guitar as well. He leads a majority of the tunes with his huge stable of beautiful electric guitars, and his signature, warm, affecting touch on the strings. No one can ring out quite the effect he can elicit from a guitar; anyone at all familiar with his style can identify his contribution in any given piece of music.
A lot of his songs on this album come from personal reflection. "Remembrance Day", which is the British name for Veterans' Day, is a haunting etude for those lost in war, chorused by children (including Mr Knopfler's daughters); "Before Gas And TV", a folk-driven sad piece, addresses the camaraderie of community before the onset of the cyber-age; "Piper To The End" was written to commemorate MK's maternal uncle, a piper in a regiment who lost his life in WWII; "The Car Was The One" speaks of his own love affair with race cars, seen through the eyes of an impressionable young man who is more taken with the car itself than the star aura of the ace driving it.
There is no one song on this album that I could single out as a favourite; the entire album is exquisite. Those who have matured with Mark Knopfler will be rewarded by "Get Lucky". It helped me through an extremely rough patch over the past year, when I needed great music and a reliable, familiar voice to soothe my angst. Mark Knopfler is consistent in his quality and ability. He may have evolved past the days of "Money For Nothing" - he tends toward non-rock in his tours these days - but the evolution is apropos and welcome, and thankfully, he shows no sign of slowing down. So bring on the next album, Mark. Those in the know would rather listen to your most marginal work than the best of many others.
on November 1, 2009
The album itself is excellent (as just about everything MK does is), but there is little on the bonus DVD to recommend it over the regular CD version. Contrary to the track listing here on the Amazon page, the DVD does NOT contain any interviews with Mark or the band. What it does contain is:
1. a video of the band playing an acoustic version of Cleaning My Gun in the studio (fairly interesting, but not a particularly notable performance, in my opinion);
2. a video of the photoshoot (Mark is not exactly a beauty queen or a teenage starlet, so I am not sure if this will be of interest to anyone).
The rest of the DVD is filled with Mark and Chuck Ainlay (the album's producer) walking around the studio and bragging about this or that particular piece of recording equipment that they've managed to get their hands on. If you are seriously interested in the technical aspects of the recording process, you will probably find some useful information there. Everyone else will probably be better off getting the regular CD version and then downloading two Amazon-exclusive bonus tracks, Early Bird and Time In The Sun.
on September 15, 2009
Listening to Get Lucky it seemed to me that the word for the moment was "mellifluous".
So I looked it up cause I wasn't really sure what it means.
Definition: Pleasant to hear.
Synonyms: smooth, honeyed.
Yup. That says it all about this laid back CD.
Those looking for lots of hot licks (which Mark can obviously lay down with the best of them) may be disappointed. But there's another kind of virtuosity that's about melding it all together in a way so seamless it becomes, well, mellifluous. And that's what Get Lucky has in spades...
Knopfler's voice, which sometimes seemed quirky in the Dire Straits days, is now an essential ingredient of what sets him apart. And his lyrics give you something to think about...
He's made it all that much more accessible with liner notes that invite you in to an understanding that otherwise might be missed. What would you make of this?
The chisels are calling
It's time to make sawdust
Steely reminders of things left to do
Monteleone, a mandolin's waiting for you.
We learn it's about John Monteleone of New York City, the world's greatest builder of arch top guitars.
Or what about this?
`Sure as the Sunrise'
that's what they say about the Albion
`Sure as the Sunrise', that's what they say
about the Albion and she's an Albion
She's an Albion
Well, Mark tells us. "Border Reiver is about the hard life of a lorry driver at the end of the 60's. Before moving to Newcastle upon Tyne we lived near the Albion works near Glasgow and I'd see drivers dressed like long riders in goggles and trench coats taking out the chassis to test them before they were fitted with their cabs and beds. Albions were known for their quality and `Sure as the Sunrise' was the company motto".
And what about
If you've got a truffle dog
You can go truffling
No hint here, but it does rhyme with
On and on we go
Through this old world a' shuffling
This is a very beautiful and almost wistful CD. Understated as it is, it yet carries great emotion in songs like Remembrance Day and Piper to the End, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.