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Review: Privateering - Mark Knopfler

by David Spencer

Imagine the fuss if Chris Martin decided now was the time to finish Coldplay and then the following years and years of calls for a reunion. When a singer decides to end the career of a band it is often a brave move and it does not come much braver than when Mark Knopfler put Dire Straits into retirement back in 1995. At the time the band were still one of the biggest in the world, after shifting 30 million copies of Brothers In Arms alone.

Since then Knopfler has produced six solo albums, of varying quality but always superbly crafted and made with a great deal of affection. Given that this seventh album comes only three years after his last, it is surprising that Privateering is a double, containing 20 tracks (Knopfler’s first studio double album of his 35 year career). The singer and guitarist says the older he gets the more he wants to write, adding wryly “Whether that is just panic at time running out, I’m not sure”.

Pleasingly and surprisingly there is little excess baggage across the two albums. There is the expected folk twist of the title track, country blues (Miss You Blues) and even a bit of Money For Nothing-ish rock (Corned Beef City). But it is with the likes of Go, Love, where his light touch and whispery vocal work to top effect, underlined by the Celtic-tinged beauty of Kingdom of Gold.

Lyrically, Knopfler has always painted pictures and carved identifiable characters with ease and here there are tales of northern sheep farmers (Yon Two Crows), boastful gamblers (Hot Or What) and the two lovers sharing a rainy memory on Seattle; a song that will almost certainly not be taking up by the US city’s tourist board in a bid to shed that wet image.

Anyone expecting a Dire Straits widescreen epic from a Mark Knopfler solo release has now long since given up, and dedicated fans are left with a singer still enjoying his trade and still delivering quality. To give it the football analogy, this is proof, if it was needed, that form is temporary, class is permanent.