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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Mark Knopler

Sailing to Philadelphia

Review by Larry Toering

Listening back to such a release like this for review is not an easy thing on the surface, as this is a true gem. Still, it’s clearly well worth re-evaluating over a decade later. There are so many players and singers on this that it's staggering to mention them all. Suffice it to say that there are some of the finest musicians and production assistant suspects around, now or then, included here. This is a review of the album version as it's been called, rather than later issues. What can be said about this release is one heck of a lot, in fact so much it's a grand effort to even try to describe it without writing an entire thesis on the subject. I find it to be an easy listening masterpiece that way.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
What It Is
This goes a long way in setting the tone for the whole disc, as its beauty is as exquisite as the entire set itself. I love how Knopfler runs his words together in a very recognizable fashion that anyone who knows his work with Dire Straits can appreciate. The guitar playing is menacingly sublime as well, for lack of a better description. He takes the ears on a journey that is similar to Star Trek TNG's holo-deck. This is stunning, indeed.
Sailing To Philadelphia
The title track is a whole different thing altogether, but as the disc glides along smoothly, that becomes evident at every turn. Of course, the vocal contribution is made here by James Taylor himself, and it helps make it what it is and then some. Revisiting this, I'm kind of boggled as to why the release didn't make record breaking sales. It's that universally good to this day.
Who's Your Baby Now
This has so much classic appeal that it's intoxicating. I can't find anything to point out about it that doesn't have that effect on me. All of the wit, charm and beauty to be found in Knopfler's catalog is laced through this track. I consider it one of the best examples of his standard here.
Baloney Again
The poetic factor increases on this playful number with great percussive values to spare. It’s another pure example of his genius displayed with the deadpan sense of humor for which he's so well known.
The Last Laugh
This is a lead vocal duet with Van Morrison, who along with Taylor (also appearing), are actually two of my favorite singers of all time. So, not to expose a heavy bias concerning that, I have to still say this is brilliant, indeed. It's a thing of perfection and grace.
Do America
If picking up a notch in in order, boy does this awesome track deliver, with a nice bouncy shuffle effect. I find it one of the best on offer.
El Macho
This is one of the high points as well, but for completely different values, as a good message is spelled out over a great little backing tune. I don't know what it is, but the soothing qualities of the disc are well defined in this one track alone. This is marvelous!
Prairie Wedding

Not being that familiar with much of Gillian Welch or David Rawling's work prior to this release, I have since stumbled upon more, including reviewing Welch, and I have to say a better perspective of them has indeed set into me since then. It doesn't have a huge impact all these years later either way, but it does help reckon with them now on tune on which they join Knopfler, adding their vocals to the mix.

Wanderlust
This is clearly one of the more Dylan influenced numbers in every way, and that to me is always a good thing. However, it's one of the less interesting tracks in some aspects to me as well.
Speedway At Nazareth

Picking back up a little, this one on the other hand is very interesting. Even though being pretty sure what it's about, I think it doesn't matter one bit, because once again he makes a song all it can be. This gets into my pick zone as well as any other track on the disc, for sure.

Junkie Doll

Between the instrumental and vocal values, this is extremely well balanced. It's like some kind of magic how well it all blends together. Another fascinating effort by all involved is effortlessly displayed on this.

Silvertown Blues

This features a shared vocals with the likes of Glenn Tillbrook and  Chris Difford, and they do a fine job but it's just not a huge moment for me in comparison to the other vocal guest spots.

Sounds Of Nevada
Going out at the same speed as most of the disc, this is a southwestern diamond in the rough of sorts that really moves me more than the previous two tracks put together. Once again Knopfler is as compelling as ever on this beautiful closer with a spooky essence. Do your ears a favor if you've never heard this album, and check this out. If you have, but haven't visited in a while like myself, I encourage readers to step in the way-back machine and wrap your heads back around this amazing time capsule.
 
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