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Sail on, Mark!

There's no Dire Straits reunion in sight. Mark Knopfler, the group's guitar wiz, is sailing ahead with a solo album

Sailing to Philadelphia

For all those fans who expected a Dire Straits reunion, well, the sun is going down. Mark Knopfler, the Dire Straits frontman, is ready with his second solo album, Sailing to Philadelphia.

Ask a rock buff to list out ten all time favourites, and you are sure to find Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms somewhere in the list. A steady bestselling album in the UK, it is a perennial favourite elsewhere too.

The magic Knopfler creates when he slides along the frets makes him one of the finest guitarists in history. A teacher by profession, he teamed up with his brother David and two friends to form Dire Straits. Their self-titled debut album produced the hits Down to the waterline and Sultans of swing. The latter is still considered the anthem of club bands and pubs.

After their last studio album, On every street, the band called it quits. Mark went on to score music for movie soundtracks, and his first solo album Golden Heart came out in 1996. It moved away from the Dire Straits' style we were used to: it had a pronounced Irish folk flavour, Mark being an ardent country music lover.

His new album, Sailing to Philadelphia, strikes another path. In an interview with a Spanish newspaper, Mark said, "What am I looking for? I don't know. I don't know what I'm looking for in North American folk, nor in Irish, nor in Scottish..." The first single to be released, What it is was played on a Spanish radio channel last month, and Mark is fresh as ever! The guitar sounds exactly the same, and blends beautifully with the violins. The instrumental segment, initially slow, builds up tempo with a guitar solo. The lyrics are typical Knopfler.

Sailing to Philadelphia does not have too much of the Straits' sound, nor does it sound like Knopfler's first album. What makes it different from Golden Heart is that there is no Irish folk sound here.

The title track is a duet with James Taylor, and is the highlight of the album. Another duet, The Last Laugh, with the legendary Van Morrison, is again slow. Sivertown blues is where you feel the Dire Straits atmosphere. The harmonica piece in Baloney again is catchy and so is the ending of the song with a guitar solo. Wanderlust is a dull song, but you still find passages that remind you of Dylan or JJ Cale.

Mark doesn't want to do a stadium tour with this album. This is no Brothers in Arms, and probably won't sell as many copies as that hit album. This doesn't make it a great artistic masterpiece either, but it sure will grow on you.

Yesudas Jayson

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