1984 – Vertigo
British guitar rock band Dire Straits’ double live album Alchemy is a ramblingly expressionistic trek through the band’s oeuvre stopping occasionally along the way for some fun and guitar solos. From start to finish across both discs of this sprawling gig the listener is treated to a whole glut of intricacy of composition, rock and roll fun, emotive sound, and, well, just plain old fashioned music.
We start off with the ludicrously epic introduction to Once Upon A Time In The West, but the initial pretentiousness of this track soon fades away into a nicely rocking tune which rolls through the air of the stadium like some sort of prowling beast. It really is nice on this record to hear a band actually making good use of their live surroundings by letting the natural acoustics of the venue create vast echoing spaces in the music that charge the air with a certain kind of electricity. I will say, however, that with this track running around thirteen minutes you know that you are in for the long haul with this record.
Really I just feel with this album that there is a little too much emphasis on the sound-scaping aspect of the group and that the songs often drag on for that little bit too long which does lead to it getting kind of boring at times. I mean, Romeo And Juliet, a song that I am usually rather fond of, doesn’t really need the extra two and a bit minutes that have been added to it in this live version.
I suppose for those listeners who are keenly interested in musicianship and guitar prowess this might not seem like such a big deal, but for me it did get a little tedious after a while and I found myself wishing at times for a good solid riff or something I could at least sing along to. This said, there are times when the group displays a great level of enjoyment and fun despite their propensity for self-indulgence and artistic pretention. During Sultans Of Swing, for example, whenMark Knopfler quips out “he’s got a daytime job and he’s doing alright, thank you very much!” I did have myself a little bit of a chuckle, and it really made me feel as if the band were connecting with me on a much more personal level than just pure music.
On the whole, though, Alchemy just didn’t really interest me all that much. It has some great music on it and it’s all very beautifully played, but I just couldn’t seem to really get into it. Perhaps it’s the fact that every track drags on for so long, or perhaps it’s that the balance between expressionism and out-and-out rock is a bit skewed, but either way there was something about that got a bit boring after a while. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad even in the slightest, it’s just not really interesting enough for me to really be able to say that it’s good.
Here is the wonderful live recording of the Dire Straits track ‘Sultans Of Swing’ as heard on the record ‘Alchemy’
- Let’s talk about “Dire Straits” (musicreviewstoday.com)
- Dire Straits (jimstunes.wordpress.com)
- Guitar Stories: Mark Knopfler on the Six Guitars That Shaped His Career (openculture.com)
- Mark Knopfler to sing solo and Straits tonight (timesofmalta.com)
- School of Rock Examination: Dire Straits (wncx.cbslocal.com)