Posts Tagged ‘Mark Knopfler’

Bob Dylan’s Gospel years inspired and rankled in unequal measure – with the critical brickbats and audience boos often drowning out the strength and beauty of the impassioned musical ministries delivered by Dylan between 1979 and 1981, gathering around him his five-strong chorus of gospel singers, and a crack band that included Little Feet guitarist Fred Tackett, bassist Tim Drummond, Muscle Shoals keyboardist Spooner Oldham and pianist Terry Young, and veteran drummer Jim Keltner. it’s no great mystery that when Bob Dylan seemed to find new faith around 1979, a lot of fans and Dylanologists lost theirs — in him. it seems clearer that another major impetus for him in heading down the path of spirituality had to be the opportunity to tap into the higher power of a great rock-gospel band.

So what were audiences to think when, with the release of 1979’s “Slow Train Coming” album, he sang that he was “Gonna change my way of thinking / Make myself a different set of rules” and preached that “there’s only one authority / And that’s the authority on high”?.

Roots music aficionado that he’s always been, Dylan has long understood the power gospel music has to move and inspire listeners. In turn, Bob Dylan served up some of his most impassioned, electrifying performances with these gospel-steeped songs.

Bob Dylan — Trouble No More — The Bootleg Series Vol. 13/ 1979-1981.” This one spans the so-called “Christian period” of his trio of albums: “Slow Train Coming,” “Saved” (from 1980) and “Shot of Love” (1981).

Slow Train Coming was at least a challenging and engaging album, with much typical imagery and complexity. A stunning gospel version of the title track features in the current hit play Girl from the North Country at the Old Vic theatre. The follow-up album, though, 1980’s Saved was too close to pure gospel, too devotional, and alienated even more fans. Shot of Love in 1981 continued the religious theme to a degree, but it was intermingled with what one might term secular tracks, and there was evidence that Dylan was once again changing course.

Filmed at Toronto’s Massey Hall and in Buffalo, New York, Dylan’s gospel shows have long been a bootlegger’s holy grail, and it was only on last autumn’s Trouble No More boxed set, the latest volume in the official Bootleg Series, that some of that footage finally found official release. Now that hour-long film has made it The nights of religious fervour and impassioned performances. It intersperses up-close and personal studio rehearsals with exceptionally intimate live footage of some of Dylan’s strongest Gospel songs – the likes of “Solid Rock”, “Slow Train”, “When He Returns” and “Precious Angel” – with slightly contrived but absorbing enough “sermons” written by Luc Sante and performed by Michael Shannon, who plays a lean, mean kind of preacher who wouldn’t be out of place in Girl from the North Country, the hit Dylan musical.

A lot of fans abandoned Bob Dylan during his Gospel [de]tours, largely to their own detriment

The subjects for each “sermon” were apparently suggested by Dylan, but it seems the singer had no further part in shaping their texts. A shame. There was a bit of a disconnect between the tone of these spiritual homilies and the music itself, so intimately captured, and so strong and vivid an expression of Dylan’s spiritual journey at the time. It might have made more sense to, say, use Hank Williams’ Luke the Drifter song-sermons. It was material that certainly chimed with Dylan from an early age (“I could listen to the Luke the Drifter record all day and drift away myself, become totally convinced in the goodness of man…” he wrote in Chronicles).

Director/producer Jennifer LeBeau excelled in choosing the strongest musical performances, all of it prefaced by that remarkable rehearsal footage, and closing with an extremely affecting performance of “Abraham, Martin and John” by Dylan and Clydie King, his then-girlfriend and a Gospel singer whose voice sounds like the female voice of an Old Testament God – tearing the air like paper and raising whatever roof it’s under until it hits the ground.

A lot of fans abandoned Dylan during his Gospel [de]tours, largely to their own detriment, but this was a film that put the music’s undeniable power up front, in your face and centre stage. Plenty of people back in 1979 and 1980 were talking up the “end times” and we’re enjoying a new flavour of “end times” right now, aren’t we, in a more solid, indigestible form? In that light, it’s fascinating to see and hear these spiritually impassioned songs performed under “the darkness that will fall from on high” that Dylan felt pressing down on him during those Gospel years. But let’s leave the last word to one of the men who was there, Fred Tackett. Here’s what he thinks of the film: “I was amazed, man. Everything was just so good. They picked the very best songs. Him and Spooner Oldham playing this harmonica and Hammond organ together at the end of ‘What Can I Do for You’… it was just so cool and hip, and Bob Dylan is playing so great. They found the best stuff and put it in this movie.”

In tracks like ‘Solid Rock’, you can feel his heart bursting with religious passion

That force comes through as well in the best tracks of Bob Dylan’s Trouble No More – The Bootleg Series Vol 13 1979-81, the concert chronicle of his much-maligned “Christian” albums. The fiery gospel fervour delivered here benefits a great deal from being live rather than reproduced in the studio. These two discs are dynamite, containing, I am sure, some of the very most stirring moments of Dylan’s gigantic opus. In tracks like “Solid Rock” from San Diego in 1979, you can feel his heart bursting with religious passion, and everyone else – from the tightest of bands to five red-hot back-up singers – possessed by the spirit. This combination of note-perfect excellence and total letting-go can only be good for the soul, Dylan’s own, but for us the audience as well.

The deluxe set from Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings encompasses eight CDs and one DVD with director Jennifer Lebeau’s new documentary, “Trouble No More: A Musical Film.” An abridged two-CD set and a four-LP vinyl version are also available.

The deluxe set comprises 100 tracks: alternate studio versions, rehearsal takes and live performances. Only one has been previously released: “Ye Shall Be Changed,” which appeared on the first installment from 1991, “The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3.”

The first two discs of the “Trouble No More” set are drawn from various tour stops from 1979-81, while discs 3 and 4 collect rare versions of songs from the studio albums along with several that didn’t wind up on any of those releases. The fifth and sixth discs contain his full show from April 18th, 1980 in Toronto, while CDs 7 and 8 offer up another full concert from June 27th, 1981 at Earl’s Court in London. (For Dylan completists, the singer-songwriter’s website is offering two additional discs with yet another complete performance, this one from his Nov. 28th, 1979 tour stop in San Diego.)

Discs 1 through 4 are framed smartly, each of the four opening with markedly different renditions of the same song: “Slow Train Coming,” displaying how Dylan’s restless artistry was always in search of the right feel, tempo and attitude for a given song.

An alternate studio take of one of the “Slow Train Coming” album’s higher profile songs, “Gotta Serve Somebody,” features a livelier bounce in the rhythm section of Drummond and drummer Pick Withers, while keyboardist Barry Beckett pushes the song forward with beat-anticipating piano interlaced with funky clavinet parts. The backing gospel singers on the released version are absent.

The fidelity of the live versions varies noticeably in places, which makes for some compromises. The performance of “Man Gave Names to All the Animals” on the first disc, recorded in 1980 in Portland, Ore., benefits from a more fluid reggae-ized lilt by the band, and is buoyed further by a break where the gospel singers are featured.

But Dylan’s vocal is low in the mix, rendering certain lines difficult to discern, especially to anyone not already intimately familiar with his clever roster of creation stories he cooked up for so many critters.

Bob Dylan's 'Trouble No More' examines the gospel years, 1979-81

When ‘Sultans Of Swing’ Wasn’t A Hit

It’s so much a part of the fabric of rock history now that it’s strange to think that ‘Sultans Of Swing’ missed the charts altogether when it was first released exactly 38 years ago by Dire Straits, on 19 May, 1978.

The Mark Knopfler composition was, however, still part of the upward curve for the band during that year. They’d been supported by BBC Radio London, notably on broadcaster and writer Charlie Gillett’s show for the station, and were rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the hottest live bands on the circuit — almost living out the life of the funky little band described in the song’s lyric.

‘Sultans’ not only continues to be heard on radio, TV, in retail outlets and many other places to this day, but had an influence on Knopfler’s current solo album , especially on the song ‘Beryl.’ “I think there was a definite nod to the early Straits with ‘Beryl,’” he says. “That was a deliberate thing, going back to a period because it seemed to suit the song. I took a sort of ‘Sultans of Swing’ approach to it for that reason, because it’s something you’d associate with a time.”

Knopfler also remembers the early days of sweat and toil when Dire Straits really were playing the role described in ‘Sultans Of Swing.’ “You’re just going from gig to gig hoping to keep it all together,” he says, “and hoping to get onto a tour, which we managed to do. You just take it on from there.”

Straits ticket

In the month that the single was released in the UK (the first time), Straits toured with the Climax Blues Band, and did European shows opening for Styx. In June, they played their first headlining UK tour, but ‘Sultans’ didn’t become a hit until the new year of 1979, when the band made the US charts with their self-titled debut album and then the single, which climbed all the way to No. 4. Back in Britain, it reached No. 8, and they were well and truly on their way.

The album that captured the growing phenomenon of Dire Straits as a live attraction is marking a birthday. ‘Alchemy: Dire Straits Live,’ recorded over two nights at London’s Hammersmith Odeon and accompanied by a sister longform video, was released this week in 1984.

Alchemy: Dire Straits Live is a double album and the first live album by the British rock band Dire Straits, released on 16 March 1984 by Vertigo Records internationally, and by Warner Bros. Records in the United States. Recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on 22nd–23rd July 1983, the album features the band’s best-known and fan-favourite songs from their first four albums, the Extended  play EP, and the Local Hero soundtrack (composed by Mark Knopfler); many of the songs have reworked arrangements and/or extended improvisational segments. The album cover is taken from a painting by Brett Whiteley.

‘Alchemy’ followed the band’s first domestic No. 1, the ‘Love Over Gold’ album of some 18 months before. As Dire Straits grew, record by record and tour by tour, into one of the biggest bands in the UK and beyond, the live record went on to have a long life. It debuted in the UK top three, spent all but one week of its first seven months in the top 40 and, in the slipstream of the subsequent sales sensation that was ‘Brothers In Arms,’ went on to spend more than three years in the UK top 100.

‘Love Over Gold’ had gone straight to No. 1 in Britain in October 1982 and stayed there four weeks. Then, with some time for a little extracurricular activity, Mark Knopfler pursued the first of the side projects that ultimately steered him towards the solo career he follows to this day. His soundtrack to the film ‘Local Hero’ included the Ivor Novello Award-winning ‘Going Home.’

Then it was back to Dire Straits business. After dates from March, 1983 in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, the band embarked on a massive European tour from May onwards. They played to big audiences all across the continent, arriving home via an Irish date at Punchestown Racecourse, followed by a London engagement at the Dominion Theatre.

Knopfler and Dire Straits Then came the two sellout Hammersmith shows of July 22nd and 23rd, which turned into celebrations of everything the band had achieved so far, from ‘Sultans of Swing’ to ‘Private Investigations.’ When the recordings of the performances were delivered to Knopfler at his home, he was too exhausted from the tour to listen to them. But he recalled that the Saturday show, the second one, had been especially good, so that formed the bulk of the double album.

‘Alchemy’ was released while the coal miners’ strikes dominated the news in Britain, and while scientists first murmured about something called the greenhouse effect. Meanwhile, this first document of Dire Straits’ live work carried on selling for years.


Dire Straits Start Their Studio Adventures

Dire Straits had no easy ride en route to the multi-million-selling domination of their later years. The group had to endure plenty of low-profile gigs that paid next to nothing and lots of travelling to their own shows in a van or on public transport in their formative months. But right around this time 37 years ago, the band knew they were on the right path, as they started recording their debut album at Basing Street Studios in London in February 1978.

Having had the help and support of a much-respected broadcaster and author, they now turned to a former member of the Spencer Davis Group. Writer and BBC Radio London DJ Charlie Gillett had been the early champion of Dire Straits, largely creating the momentum that led to their record deal with Vertigo by playing their demos on his show.

Now, as they entered the studio to start recording Mark Knopfler’s songs, they were working with Muff Winwood, who had enjoyed great success himself as bassist in the Spencer Davis’ group, with brother Steve, in the 1960s and was now an in-demand producer (with an earlier notable triumph at the helm of another notable breakthrough album, Sparks’ ‘Kimono My House’) and A&R man.

Dire Straits’ self-titled debut album was recorded over the next few weeks and released the following October, after they had supported both Talking Heads and the Climax Blues Band on UK tours, and become headliners themselves for the first time. The LP contained the later hit single ‘Sultans Of Swing,’ as well as ‘Southbound Again,’ ‘Down To The Waterline’ and other examples of Knopfler’s fine writing and guitar work, and how they meshed perfectly with the band’s tight playing. The roots of one of the most potent sounds of the 1980s were being laid down.

the guys are on tour in the USA at the moment and stopped off to perform this gorgeous song. this is a beautiful song sung originally by Mark Knopfler and James Taylor this is the story of two English surveyors who travelled from England to America in the 1700’s where they established the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland now commonly know as the Mason Dixon Line, filmed at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia.