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MARK KNOPFLER – SHANGRI LA - UNIVERSAL
Record Rating: *****

Mark Knopfler - Shangri La - Universal Mark Knopfler along with Eric Clapton and Phil Collins became one of the leaders of a group of rock and rollers in the late '80s that redesigned their music with their literate songs, sweet harmonic sounds and spidery vocals. Released in the summer of 1985, Brothers In Arms was Mark Knopfler and his band Dire Straits' breakthrough album, spending nine weeks at the top of the American charts and selling over nine million copies and in England - the album became the biggest selling album of the '80s.

Shangri La is Knopfler’s fourth solo release (and his first since a very serious motorcycle accident in March 2003) and it finds the Dire Straits front man in terrific form. After the disaster that his last album The Ragpicker's Dream turned out to be, Knopfler comes back shining bright, maybe more than ever. For in Shangri La he gives a record full of wonderful and meaningful songs. Taking its title comes from the 1960's vintage studio where the entire set was recorded, the album gets my top rating for good lyrics, interesting tunes, virtuoso instrumentation and of course Knopfler's voice, which sounds a little smoother with age than his usual Dylanesque growl. The fourteen tracks fit easily into Knopfler's comfort zone, and if you’re looking for something like Money For Nothing – you can forget it. Knopfler’s Dire Strait days seem to be well behind him, and for those desiring to hear traditional Knopfler long guitar solos, prepare to be disappointed: there is essentially none. Still there is quite a lot to pick up on this record – tracks like Our Shangri-La and All That Matters are quite evocative performances. Each of these songs somehow fit into Knopfler's relaxed scheme of life at the moment.

So once you overcome the initial skepticism you’ll get (especially if you’re a big Dire Straits fan) of his resistance to '70s and 80’s rock in favor of a more traditional folk album - it’ll sound whole lot sweeter to you. If I can use one word to describe this CD it would be “Understated”. The upshot – the new Mark Knopfler album is full of wonderful and meaningful songs. What else do you need to know?

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