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Music Review: Mark Knopfler – Get Lucky

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So I was bored the other night and decided to flip through the on-demand offerings on the cable, and came across a short concert segment of Deep Purple doing "Space Truckin." This was mid-1970s excess at its purest: long hair, satin pants, platform shoes, banks of amplifiers, explosions. Yeah, Ritchie Blackmore sure did know his way around the fretboard, yet I couldn't help but giggle at the spectacle of the Stratocaster being played with the heel of Blackmore's platform shoe.

Now don't get me wrong. If I had been at this concert, I would have thought it was one of the coolest things ever! It was part of the show! You had to cut your guitar heroes some slack. Jimi had his lighter fluid. Ritchie threw busted amps off the front of the stage. Awesome. Besides, it wouldn't be fair to devalue Blackmore's true talent based on a reaction to a little bombast. His guitar hero reputation is well-deserved and can't be diminished based on a little preview of Spinal Tap.

I know what you're thinking, that I'm about to launch into the lecture about how Mark Knopfler is no guitar hero. Nah! That'd be boring and obvious. Besides, it would distract from a more important point: that Knopfler is so much more than "Money For Nothing." Yes, radio and MTV overplayed the hits and, in the case of Dire Straits, clubbed people over the head with Brothers In Arms.

The concept of "too much success" is an odd one, but in Knopfler's case, it caused people to shy away from not only Straits' back catalog but also Knopfler's solo work. That's a real shame because the cool nuances of songs like "Romeo and Juliet" and "Brother's In Arms" foreshadow the exquisite music to come.

With Get Lucky, inquisitive ears get a compelling distillation of Knopfler's thematic and musical storytelling. Among the cast of characters are truck drivers, itinerant workers, soldiers, guitar makers , and losers. The music ranges from the earthy and Celtic-tinged "Border Reiver" to the swampy blues of "You Can't Beat The House?."

After several listening sessions, you'll come to realize that this man is not only a fine guitar player, but a tremendous teller of stories. It's tough to pick favorites (since they seem to change for me on a daily basis) but you can't go wrong with either "So Far From The Clyde" or "Monteleone." Serving as a sort of eulogy for the death of a ship, the former song tells the story of a merchant ship traveling to India to be dismantled at a "breaking yard." There's something sad about this idea, that of a once vital ship being sent on its final journey the scrap heap. Ah, but with "Monteleone" we get redemption in waltz time as Knopfler very elegantly sings of luthier John Monteleone and his work. For some reason, the line "it's time to make sawdust" gets to me every time. Great stuff.

Though it probably wasn't his intent, I see a line drawn between these two songs — with the deconstruction of an object back to its raw materials and then the breakdown of a natural object to be used to construct something new. In both cases, the past is transformed and can't help but have an impact on the future. If you want to listen to Mark Knopfler's past and future, check out Get Lucky.

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About Mark Saleski

  • Josh Hathaway

    Great work, Mark. You’re right about there being so many great stories on this record. He is such a well-rounded artist, talented in so many areas. This is a record to be savored for years and years…

    Oh, and thanks for the links.

  • Len Bellacicco

    I love Mark and have seen him several times with both Dire Straits and on his own. He is an amazing guitar player and storyteller as you say. His imagery can take you to another place and time. But sometimes I wish he would just give us some of that Dire Straits energy that I know he is capable of and just rock the hell out of us once in a while like he used to. I know it’s still in there.

  • Roy Sweetgall

    (Part 1) Glad to see this reviewer focus, for once, on the stirring lyrical content of MK’s work. Yes the gorgeous sound and stunning guitar work are each exquisite and worth the price of admission by themselves, but I find the breadth, gentle wisdom and sheer lyricism of his words spellbinding. Consider the incredible range – Imelda’s shoes, Kroc’s business practices, Sonny Liston’s childhood, the coaly Tyne, distilling the R & J legend down to “you & me babe; how ’bout it?”, industrial disease, the battlefield perspectives of Brothers in Arms versus that of his late uncle in Piper to the End, the wicked political humor of “Don’t Crash the Ambulance – don’t begin to cover it. Every album has been, for me, an educational experience as well; how many of you knew what a border reiver (both 15th and 20th century versions) was prior to the release of Get Lucky?

  • gabriel narducci

    time puts everything into place and i know that knopfler will be honored as he should be sometime in this life. outstanding artist, great and unique storyteller and fenomenal guitar magician. because that’s what his does with it, pure magic. mk is a combo of what an musician must be. listening to him you get a sense that you are in an endless journey everywhere. his straits days are over but they were unbelieveble peace for the ears. his solo work is a follow up of how he can and will surprise you.

    MK SOS UN CAPO…

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Since this gets the Saleski seal of approval, and since Josh wrote about 697 articles about it, I suppose I should check this out.

    -Glen

  • Pete Ryter

    MK’s music is so dynamic, so non-retrograde. It’s a feeling of a photographer taking a picture of a small piece of life – a truck/lorry driver, a handy/fix-it man, or a young soldier. No favorites on the “Get Lucky” CD. Each song takes me along a musical journey. Such an imagination! MK shows the art and beauty of songwriting.

    And let’s not forget “Early Bird.” “All the villa’s on the hillsides, gotta have a view of the sea”

  • Robin McGillicuddy

    I have seen MK 5 times and I will see this man every chance I get. He has been my guitar hero since i was in my early 20’s,I was flipping thru channels on the television when i saw a live version of Sultins. Jaw dropping performance! I have been a follower ever since. I m just wild about the old as well as the new. I Have tickets to see the Get Lucky tour in April 2010. Keep em coming!

  • Mad Cow

    I remember seeing MK in Ottawa in 2008 and was amazed that most in the crowd were as old as I was…late 40’s. I got my kids, now in their late teens and early 20’s, to appreciate this virtuoso, which they did quite easily. I just couldn’t help but think how much the new generation of our time was missing out on a legendary artist. I have ticket for Montreal on April 30th; my oldest son can wait to attend this concert!!

  • Penwestern

    I simply love Mark Knopfler and have been waiting since December to see him in Milwaukee on April 24th. His music is unique. Mark Knopfler forever.

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