My Record Collection 136

Mark Knopfler – was essentially Dire Straits (see D); singer, lead guitar and songwriter.  He quietly disbanded them in 1995 after more than a decade of huge success – but even before that he had been recording soundtracks and a handful of collaborations.  The Notting Hillbillies was a group of session players, featuring Mark, and mainly Brendan Croker singing, Guy Fletcher on keyboards and a few others to flesh out the sound.  Brendan was a folk singer who Mark admired and so the single album Missing, Presumed Having A Good Time was released in 1990.  A relaxed bluesy record where Mark takes mostly a back seat (he sings on ‘Your Own Sweet Way’ and of course his guitar picking is recognisable.  (Incidentally he also produced and played on Dylan’s Infidels in the late 80’s too).  This is just one of those records you can happily smile and drift away too.  Best songs – ‘Bewildered’, ‘Will You Miss Me’ and ‘That’s Where I Belong’.   The same year Mark also made an album with Chet Atkins called Neck and Neck.  Mark obviously loved his guitar picking style and this was maybe meant to be a purely instrumental album at first.  It is just a happy feelgood record, some instrumental, one or two sung by Chet and a couple by Mark.  Not the highlight of his career, but highly enjoyable – best songs – ‘There’ll Be Some Changes’, ‘Yakety Axe’ and ‘The Next Time I’m In Town’.  Mark’s first proper solo album was 1996’s Golden Heart.  And what an album; maybe his best, many of these songs would have graced a Dire Straits album.  But there is a folky feel to some of the songs and a scattering of gentle ballads too; a great mix, almost too many good songs.  Favourites include opener ‘Darling Pretty’, ‘Cannibals’ and ‘Are We In Trouble Now’ – but really I could have stuck a pin in and chosen any three.    Four years later and we saw Sailing To Philadelphia.   Another great album, maybe not quite as good as Golden Heart, just a touch tired sounding sometimes.  Best songs – the title track, ‘Who’s Your Baby Now’ and ‘Do America’.   2002 and The Ragpickers Dream came out, led by the theme song of the rejuvenated TV programme – Auf Weidershein, Pet – ‘Why Aye Man’ – a great rollicking song celebrating the North-East.     The album is on the whole quite pastoral and gently folky, mostly acoustic and glides along perfectly.  Maybe not his very best but so pleasant you just have to smile along to it.  Other good songs ‘Quality Shoe’ and the title track.  This album was accompanied by a live 4 track bonus disc.   Shangri-La appeared a couple of years later.  A much quieter affair, more folky and softer in tone.  I liked it but maybe it just felt that Mark was repeating himself and not really going anywhere new.   Although the record got better towards the end…’All That Matters’ is beautiful and ‘Lonnegan’s Gone’ ( a tribute to Lonny) – and best of all, the final track ‘Don’t Crash The Ambulance’.   He has continued with his solo albums but I haven’t kept up.   I did buy All The Roadrunning – a collaboration with Emmy Lou Harris (see h), but was slightly disappointed.  The sum of two brilliant parts not quite living up to expectations.  Oh, the songs are okay – and the singing and playing perfect – it just seems to lack a spark I had expected to find, and never really gets alight.  Best songs are ‘I Dug Up A Diamond’ and ‘Bellestar’.  I think it falls between the folk/rock style of Mark and the Americana of Emmy.  Oh Well.  Still a great artist and I may well return to him sometime

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