Mark Knopfler


BY Brent HagermanPublished Dec 1, 2004

To admit you like an ’80s guitar icon Mark Knopfler solo record is to hint at your greying hairs and maybe your mellowing musical tastes, especially when Knopfler’s four solo releases tend to lull the sonic palette instead of lob giant guitar riffs at it. There’s no denying though that Golden Heart was a stellar release, but both Sailing to Philadelphia and Ragpicker’s Dream failed to grab me. Shangri-La’s cinematic lyrics, wry sense of humour and way it revisits many aspects of Knopfler’s career, has appeal to spare, but, unfortunately, it is not consistently grand. Knopfler can certainly write a respectable ballad and has done so numerous times in the past. So why is it that the up-tempo tracks on Shangri-La far outweigh the quieter material? Album starter "5:15am”, for instance, is dogged by soft rock-sounding piano and percussion, and "The Trawlerman’s Song” could be an intense emotional sea-faring tale, but in the end it just lacks energy. It’s the peppier choices in "Postcards from Paraguay” and first single "Boom, Like That” that stand out as defining moments for the album. These are also the tracks where Knopfler’s ability to distil the best of Americana (check out the Danelectro slide work on the gospel/blues "Donegan’s Gone,” or the Knopfler-a-billy rhythm guitar on "Song for Sonny Liston”) and form it into a fresh British art form proven through and through.

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