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Classic Albums: Love Over Gold - Dire Straits - 1982

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A Winter's Tale

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Prior to the release of 'Love Over Gold', the British rock band Dire Straits had acclaimed recognition and mainstream success with their self-titled debut in 1978 (an album which included the classic Sultans of Swing) followed by Communique in 1979. Their first two albums had unqiue country/jazz/pub-rock/folk/rock and roll sound with Mark Knopfler delivering excellent melodic lead guitaring aswell as his unmistakable husky voice and his poetic, story-telling lyrics. The rest of the band included Pick Withers as drummer, David Knopfler on rhythm guitar and John Illsley on bass. Their third release 'Making Movies', released in 1980, was a turning point. As ever, Mark Knopfler was the dominant member (his brother David left the group during the recording of the album) but the inclusion of some keyboards/piano (notably on the classic track 'Tunnel of Love') saw the group expand on their style/sound from their first two releases to their later work - in my opinion, Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler and his songwriting had achieved a greater range.

'Love Over Gold' was recorded between March and June in 1982. Hal Lindes (guitar) and Alan Clak (keyboards) joined the group. The album was a success, reaching no.1 in UK and the single 'Private Investigations' reached no.2 aswell.

The album begins with the amazing 14: 18 long 'Telegraph Road'. This track is possibly Dire Straits' greatest recording and I'd say this is one of the greatest pieces of music of the 20th Century. The song tells a story one person's struggle with unemployment in a city. It starts with a faint note on the keyboard which gradually builds for around 55 seconds - a very atmospheric start which sets the scene for the start of a long, emotional story about a man who is lost in the struggles of his life. 55 seconds in and the texture of the atmosphere and story builds further with the introduction of acoustic guitar and piano which leads to the introduction of the drums and the musical tension around 1:30. Knopfler's trademark electric guitar enters at 1:50. The tension halts between 2;10 and 2:15 with nice piano work being the precursor to Mark Knopfler's wounderful story-telling lyrics and singing - "A long time ago came a man on a track, walking thirty miles with a sack on his back - And he put down his load where he thought it was the best...made a home in the wilderness" - this is accompanied with gentle piano work.

At 2:35, his story continues further with the addition with an upbeat tempo - including drums, bass, acoustic and melodic electric guitar - "built a cabin in a winter storm...". Following this at 2:55 is the chorus "then came the churches, the came the school, then came the lawyers..." with an upbeat tempo aswell as piano and organ. The beat stops for Knopfler to say "the dirty old track...was the Telegraph road" and the tense music returns. 3:35, Knopfler returns to telling the story of the town/city ("then there was a hard times, then there was a war/Telegraph road sang a song about the world outside, telegraph road got so deep...and so wide"). This is followed by a sublime and emotional musical passage with Alan Clark on piano from 3.35 and a fantastic guitar solo from 4:10-4.45 - his solo escalates the emotion of the song. The music starts to slow down as Knopfler sings "my radio says tonight it's going to freeze - people coming home from the factories". At 5.15 the music dies down to organ followed by slow and sad piano at 5.25. The drums and guitar return at 5.50 to accompany the mood of the piano and the music continues to build up to 6.40. There is some fine atmospheric music from 6.40 to 7.15 with keyboards, light piano and guitar work punctuated by a bell or some similar percussive instrument. At 7.00, the guitar sounds very similar to the slide guitar at the end of the Queen song Radio Ga Ga. "I used to like to go to work but they shut it down" - the struggle becomes more apparent and dramatic. The music, lyrics and singing becomes even more emotive from 8.20 with some fantastic lines such as "You know I'd sooner forget but I remember those nights when life was just a bet on a race between the lights". The drama of the music escalates up to 9.05 with the line "and I don't want to see it again. . ." The sorrow of the tale is just about complete with line "from all of these signs saying sorry but we're closed/all the way down the telegraph road". 9.36 is the beginning of one of the greatest guitar solos and 5 minutes in the history of rock music. The tempo and the intensity of music builds into the most stunning ending to the track as the song fades into 'Private Investigations'.

Like the opening track, 'Private Investigations' builds the atmosphere and in doing so includes different passages of music. The track begins with a sinister mood from the synthesizer. This is a slow track and is driven accompanied Spannish-style classical guitar and piano. Knopfler's lyrics describes the emotions akin to a Private Investigater, but in this case it is the bitter feeling resulting from being betrayed by a lover. The song around 3.55 moves into a slow, bass driven sequence - accompanied by acoustic guitar and marimba. The tension builds, there is some fantastic electric guitar chords around 4.50. The musical drama continues with effective piano playing around 5.10. This returns at 5.45 after a sinister passage. The music slowly fades with deep notes from the synthesizer.

Industrial Disease is an up-beat rock and roll trick driven by drums, guitar and keyboards. The song focuses on the decline the manufacturing industry in Britain during the early 1980s but Knopfler does seem to approach the song with a tounge-in-cheek attitude in some ways.

Love over Gold is a fine, romantic Dire Straits song. The song is driven by gentle piano and acoustic guitar. Quite slow in tempo and quiet in nature but the music builds from 1.20 with the inclusion of the drums and the music finds a beat. From 4.00 the song enters a nice instrumental passage - with nice flourishes on the piano, acoustic guitar and marimba driven by the drum beat. The beat ends at 5.20 and the song fades with gentle touches on the marimba.

It Never Rains is a fantastic track to end the album. The song starts with soft, friendly keyboards followed by a steady rhythm, gentle use of the piano and guitar. The song builds and gets heavier. There is some excellent music from 4.45 with a solo from Knopfler, on top of the heavy rythm and keyboards. This intsrumental passage continues to build and twist before fading into its ending.

I would assume that a lot of people would say that the 1985 release Brothers in Arms is Dire Straits 'definitive' record but I personally think that Love Over Gold is Dire Straits finest in terms of musical structure, texture, sequences and atmosphere. The opening track is a stunning musical/dramatic/emotional epic and the ending is one of the finest in music. All of the other tracks are solid, well-crafted and consistent. Certainly, Dire Straits as a band, and Knopfler as individual song-writer, singer and guitarist made for a high standard of music but no album in Dire Straits' or Knopfler's catalouge displays music any better than their 1982 release 'Love Over Gold'.
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its a great recording, telegraph road was the first ever cd I bought in the eighties and I was amazed by the clarity and dynamics on my new hifi system, but that was in the days before the overuse of compression that spoils modern recordings

 

,thats why I am thinking of going back to vinyl

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