Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published July 31st 2019
You'll love this album more than gold
From the mid-1970s through to the mid-1990s, Dire Straits were seemingly everywhere. Their laid back rock sound became the soundtrack for many a late-night party, and it seemed radio could not get enough of them. In fact, the first song played on the first commercial FM radio station in South Australia (SA-FM, for those playing at home) was 'Sultans Of Swing'. And the mega-selling Brothers In Arms album seemed to be in everyone's CD collection in 1986.
But in 1982 they released a 40-minute, 5-track album that is a work of art: Love Over Gold.
This album was a huge seller in Australia, on the back of two singles, and I got it in 1983 on cassette, which later had to be replaced by the CD because I'd worn one particular track out.
This album is exquisite, and what was side one is still something that gets played way too much in my home. I find the music just sets a good mood for a dark fantasy story. I don't know if there is an updated version available (20 or 30 year collector's tin, you know the deal), but I do know that on the follow-up album Alchemy, a live album (and one of the best live albums ever produced, in my opinion) some of the stand-out tracks came from Love Over Gold.
I do find it a shame that when people talk about Dire Straits today, they tend to focus on their first, self-titled album or Brothers In Arms, and this album gets overlooked. It is one of the great guitar albums, and, to my mind, still stands up today as a wonderful piece of musicianship. This was a band that was tight, knew what they were doing, and had a leader in Mark Knopfler who knew what he wanted and how to get the best out of all of them.
To the album! All tracks were written by Mark Knopfler, who also produced the album, but it is not a one-man show.
Side one (come on, yes, sides) has two tracks on it. The first is the fourteen minute mini-epic 'Telegraph Road'. Starting with a synthesiser and thunder sound effects, it soon develops into a slow piano and guitar opening before the rest of the band comes in. That instantly recognisable Knopfler guitar sound is front and centre, but it shares the stage with the piano. And then the lyrics start. It tells the tale of the opening up of a part of America, centred on the Telegraph Road which helped keep people informed and connected. It is another song that tells an amazing story. The music builds up gloriously " like a rolling river" and then the guitar peels off a solo that is stunning, and then it slows down again. This feels like a classical piece with various movements all worked together seamlessly. As I said, it does go for a little over 14 minutes, but it does not feel like that at all. I get lost in this track. And then, from about 10 minutes on, the final guitar work-out comes and it is just superb. 4 minutes of a music that is awesome. What a way to start.
Track two was the first single 'Private Investigations', another song telling a story, this one about a fed-up private detective. The opening is beautiful, with that clear guitar sound and the lyrics sounding like they have been drenched up from a real man's life. And then the musical outro. Wow. When I was involved in a sporting club, we used the outro of this song for a few displays and it worked so wonderfully well. At over six and a half minutes, it is another longer song, but almost feels like two pieces the lyrics version and the instrumental version. I still get chills from the 3:45 mark where the bass guitar takes over and then Knopfler's guitar plays, building up to a full band crash, fade out, come back in, and then fading out again. This is so well-written.
That's the first side. Two tracks, 21 minutes, and still so incredible.
Side two starts with the second single and shortest song on the album (at 5:50!), and probably the best-known track from the album 'Industrial Disease'. It a different style to the first side, being almost a protest song against the way the world was in 1982 and, listening to the lyrics, the way it still is today. There was some backlash at the time about the line " how come Jesus gets industrial disease?" but it fits in the context of the song, and, really, it's hardly going to topple the churches, is it? Still, great song, even if pretty damn cynical.
The album's title track is next 'Love Over Gold. A ballad with some quite depressing lyrics: 'When the things that you hold can fall and be shattered/Or run through your fingers like dust." And we finish with another 3 minute guitar solo, a beautiful piece of work.
The final track on the album is the 8-minute 'It Never Rains'. This song created an argument between myself and a good mate in year 10 at high school (about the time Brothers In Arms came out and we were arguing about the merits of previous Dire Straits albums). He said this song was an updated version of Bob Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone', while I said it was a critique of the music industry in general (the " tin pan alley " reference). Reading on the Internet some years later, though, the general consensus was that it was written about an ex-girlfriend of Knopfler. Whatever the origins of the song, it certainly sounds angry (well, as angry as Knopfler sounds on record), and the closing guitar solo is another great one, lasting for over three wonderful minutes, and the perfect way to end the album.
Dire Straits in 1985
There you have it. An under-rated but incredible album. It is my favourite Dire Straits album (though some others are excellent as well). Dire Straits as a band folded in 1995 and Mark Knopfler has gone on to have a successful solo career, including penning and playing the soundtracks for numerous films, including my favourite film of 1987, The Princess Bride.
This is not an album for anyone expecting the singles of Brothers In Arms, but for a listener with patience who enjoys the music and wants to escape into it. Most definitely recommended.
And, as always, comments, questions, suggestions, etc., are encouraged.