Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dire Straits ~ Brothers In Arms

(Click on heading to visit website of Mark Knopfler)
Style: blues-rock, jazz-rock
Label: Warner Brothers
Year: 1985
Home: England

Members: Mark Knopfler ~ lead guitars/vocals
Alan Clark ~ keyboards
Guy Fletcher ~ keyboards/b. vocals
John Illsley ~ bass/b. vocals
Omar Hakim, Terry Williams ~ drums

Additional: Michael Brecker, Malcolm Duncan ~ tenor saxophone
Randy Brecker ~ trumpet
Tony Levin, Neil Jason ~ bass
Jimmy Maelen ~ percussion
Michael Mainieri ~ vibraphone
Dave Plews ~ horn
Jack Sonni ~ guitar
Sting ~ b. vocals


I remember in high school my best friend at the time, now an elementary school teacher in Alaska, was trying to get me to listen to this album, his latest passion. The problem was while I was lost deep in Top 40 Dave Matthews Band & hardcore Robert Johnson blues, he was a movie soundtrack buff. Literally, he loved the saddest movie soundtracks you could find, particularly to war films. I just wasn't taking his recommendation. I also wasn't sold due to the heavy rotation of the MTV video at the time & find myself burning out on the breakout single "Money For Nothing." I can take the less than great cover art of this modest album, the sappy melodic commercial pop, but the lyrics just bored me. "Money For Nothing" is actually a jab at MTV bands who seemingly don't work for a living, dressing like faggots, though the pop sensibility overwhelms the song & its meaning has become obscured & heavily criticized. At the time, I didn't quite get it either, though now I can see it for being as smart as it really is ... I'm still a bit bored by microwave ovens though (something I don't own, believe it or not). The other two hits "So Far Away" & "Walk Of Life" are just too melodic pop without the guts for me in that Peter Gabriel/Steve Hackett vein (neither of who I listen to). The sad thing is, & what my friend was trying to get me to hear, is that underneath it all guitarist frontman Mark Knopfler is actually quite a competant guitarist & composer creating subtle lines. He's also one of the few rock fingerstylists, he doesn't use a guitar pick, like one of my favorites Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. Like Buckingham, Gabriel, Hackett DS was Knopfler's attempt to craft some rock that relied on something a little less in your face & a little more exploratory. He was going to me more than the straight ahead. At the time I couldn't appreciate what he was doing & I don't know if my friend even realized the full equation he was trying to peddle to me. Like Tom Verlaine of Television Knopfler took a minimalist approach. He'd rock without the heavy beat & do the blues without the shuffle & turn in solos that brought in a country music bend but without sounding like it. Brothers In Arms is the sixth DS album, they'd only make two more in the 90's as Knopfler went solo & into the world of soundtracks, & this had them finding the best of all worlds. There's melody, a bit of 50's rockabilly & country bluegrass, some world beat & jazz, even some blues that sound suprisingly very ZZ Top-ish, some prog-rock & lyrically little moody vignettes of peoples & places a la Dylan to string through it all. It's actually the perfect music for the baby boomer generation in contrast to the messy hard rock that the kids were banging out. Brothers In Arms was the first album to sell a million copies in the CD format & to outsell its LP version. Though, listening decades later when the name of Knopfler has seemed to fade from eye, its not the perfect album one might expect. After getting beyond the trio of standout hits the albums staggers under its own weight becoming a long prog-rock experiment of lengthy experimental moments of shimmering guitar sounds with little flashes of blues & country. It's also a very laidback album with Knopfler almost singing in a whisper that's a bit too laidback at times. I can see why my high school friend would love it - it's perfect soundtrack music that is made to be in the background & not distract. It's not a bad album but it becomes hard to remember that this is an album by a guitarist. It sounds like an album by a guitarist trying to be a composer or arranger & avoiding the spotlight. It's too laidback for its own good. DS took their music as far as they could with this album, not making another album for some years & then to little acclaim. One is recommended to pick up the greatest hits of DS instead & for the big picture, & the picture of what came next, turn to Knopfler's busy solo career that has an equal amount of diversity, including a duets album with country guitar master Chet Aktins, most to great acclaim.


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