Bad news for all the fans who thought that this, finally, was Knopfler’s return to Dire Straits-style rock and roll: Those days are gone, and have been for awhile now. Get Lucky, Knopfler’s debut for the Warners heritage label Reprise (ugh — “heritage” — it has all the cache of a Revolutionary War reenactment troupe) is tonally more of a cousin to his Shangri-La album, gambling iconography and allusions intact. That Warner Bros. kept him within their ranks at all is baffling. His songwriting is as elegant and elegiac as ever,Â and there are few that will ever approach his skill at the guitar, but they’ll never get Brothers in Arms levels of sales from him again.
That’s fine by me. His folksier side suits him well, especially on the album opener, “Border Reiver,” complete with a quick rambling pace and tasteful flute & violin combination, and highlight “Monteleone,” which is a song about the famous guitar builder John Monteleone. It’s the most telling tune on the record, as it’s less about the man or his profession, and more about the romance of the guitar. One loves to make them, one loves to play them. “Cleaning My Gun” displays a little grit for those who prefer a punchier guitar sound, but the restraint might be maddening to those who regularly pull out Making Movies. For myself, Knopfler’s melodies and his penchant for picking chords that simply feel ‘right’ make up for any lost stage sweat (or as he once mused, “liquid gumption”) and his modern version of the ancient art of musical storytelling is seldom challenged. In another age, his characters would have been as familiar as John Henry.
The vinyl version is just about perfect, made more so by imperfection. Presented in a fine two-platter gatefold sleeve, and pressed on fine 180 gram vinyl, it is about as good as new LPs get, but even so the record edition has natural limitations. If you don’t have a super expensive turntable with an equally super expensive cartridge, you’ll probably hear a degree of surface noise, especially in the quieter points, like the delicate and gorgeous “Hard Shoulder,” a paean to Bacharach and David ’60s pop. On the CD, it’s still clear and pretty, but that very particular mode of delivery, a diamond-tipped spike rolling through a channel,Â adds something to these songs. They call it warmth but, I reiterate, it’s familiarity in it’s nicest possible form.
Get Lucky is not for everyone. It’s mostly a mellow affair, and it’s not out to reinvent anything, but definitely worthwhile on any format if you enjoy a good story the way I do – highly recommended.
Get Lucky (vinyl) is available at Amazon.com.