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It's written in the starlight
Brothers In Arms - Dire Straits
Member Name: Danscomp
Brothers In Arms - Dire Straits
Advantages: Great, classic tracks.
The year was 1985. Punk has had its day. The new romantics were hanging on like grim death. N-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-Nineteen had a stranglehold on the number one slot for a number of weeks. Do they know its Christmas had finally, finally stopped being played on air, and the horror that was to be named Stock, Aitken and Waterman was yet to emerge from Satan's back passage.
When some people buy their first album, they prefer to forget or deny it years later. I don't find myself in that position. 1985 proved to be a banner year for great albums. Born in the USA, Songs from the big chair, Hounds of Love, Eliminator and what was to be the very first CD I bought with my very own cash from a summer job, the incomparable Brothers in Arms.
Bongos and Chimpanzees
I'd never really listened to Dire Straits before. I was kind of aware of Telegraph road and Romeo and Juliet, but I always thought of them much as I did 70's Fleetwood Mac. Then along came a little something called MTV, and the first video they ever played changed all that.
That screaming red Stratocaster. The thumpingly great drum intro. Sting howling. And then the stinging lyrics about a workin' man musing enviously about rock stars. Knopfler later claimed that he'd been in New York and overheard some meathead grumbling, and Money for Nothing was born.
The album would become a juggernaut, going on to sell 30 million copies worldwide. This puts it among such greats as Nevermind, The Wall, Supernatural, Born in the USA and Led Zeppelin IV. Not bad for an album that most people only know the one track from.
So, does that mean only the one track is worth listening to? Far from it.
1. "So Far Away" 5:12
A very odd choice to start the album with, So far away is wistful, a bit melancholy, a bit bluesy. It is a great example of a calming track, but you'd normally expect to see it at the end.
2. "Money for Nothing" (Mark Knopfler, Sting) 8:26
There's not much I can add to this one. The signature guitar riff is technically a pain to learn. Knopfler uses a mixture of pick and fingerpicking; this means his thumb and index finger hold a standard guitar plectrum, but his other fingers separately pluck lower strings. I WILL master it one day.
3. "Walk of Life" 4:12
If So far away is melancholy-reflective, this one is happy-reflective. There's heavy use of a synth in this, and rock n' roll style playing. Listen carefully, and you can hear the direction that the success of the album allowed Knopfler to take. Yee and haw.
4. "Your Latest Trick" 6:33
We're back in blues territory again. What helps this track stand out is a fantastic Saxophone intro. In fact, it is so good that it became the Sax player's in-store riff of choice. Their own stairway to heaven.
5. "Why Worry" 8:31
If there's one track on here that could be marked out as the weakest, it's this one. Although I don't mind listening to it, it is almost forgettable. And that's not a good thing.
6. "Ride Across the River" 6:58
A Guevarra-ish tale of Guerrilla warfare, RATR is a natural companion to the song that would go on to provide a fantastic finish to the album.
7. "The Man's Too Strong" 4:40
With a raucous feel to it accompanied by some crunchy rock guitar work, the inclusion of this one helps raise the tempo of what is an increasingly slower back end.
8. "One World" 3:40
A bit of a puzzler, this one. A bit of this, a bit of that. Some great lyrics, fire that comes and goes. It seems to be about frustration and loneliness. And a touch of anger.
9. "Brothers in Arms" 7:00
A song that raises gooseflesh on my arms. Haunting riffs underlay a tale of loss. Although the dying singer makes much of the courage of his fellow brothers in arms, it is at its heart an anti-war song. As much as I love Money for Nothing, this remains the best track on the album for me.
Up the swanny
Mark Knopfler wrote every track except Money for Nothing, the credit for which he shares with Sting. He also co-produced the Album. The band's lineup changed a lot throughout the years, with John Illsey on bass and Alan Clarke on keyboards providing the most stability.
As a country, England has always punched for above its weight worldwide when it comes to producing some of the best Guitarists the world has ever seen. Jimmy Paige, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Ritchie Blackmore, Dave Gilmour and Mark Knopfler.
Knopfler is most recognised for playing a red Fender Stratocaster, but he's also made use of a number of others, including a Gibson Les Paul and a much-used Strat "copy" by Schecter.
Dire Straits broke up in 1988, reformed, then broke up for good in 1995 with Knopfler pursuing a solo career which included a number of forays into US country music. Not something you'd have thought a brummie rock guitarist would gravitate towards.
The Album is an absolute must-have for anyone who is into rock, and particularly any rock guitarist. Amazon are currently offering an MP3 download for £3.99.
Almost twenty years later, I am still listening to it.
Summary: Rock history. Get it now.