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Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler scores with low-key approach



Dire Straits (Warner Bros. 26680)

As any Dire Straits fan knows, Mark Knopfler's singing is far from forceful -- half the time, he barely seems to be moving his lips. But he says a lot with that laid-back drawl, even if it takes a few listens to "On Every Street" to appreciate it. Unlike the brash, radio-friendly "Brothers In Arms," the songs here are restrained and reflective; even relatively raucous numbers like "The Bug" (as in "Sometimes you're the windshield/ Sometimes you're the bug") or "Heavy Fuel" (this album's "Money for Nothing") only push his delivery from mumble to grumble. But by keeping things low-key, Knopfler almost forces the listener to give his songs the attention necessary to grasp the quiet strengths of "Iron Hand" or the country-tinged "When It Comes to You."


Rush (Atlantic 82293)

Over the years, reviewers have used a variety of adjectives to describe the music of Rush, but "funky" was never one of them. After all, intricate, over-driven guitar leads and complex, jazzy drum fills were always more this band's speed than dance beats and rhythm breaks. Even so, "Roll the Bones" not only finds the trio getting down, but seeming utterly at home in the groove. It isn't just that songs like "Where's My Thing" or "The Big Wheel" emphasize the beat; the group even goes so far as to include a rap sequence in the title tune! Better still, this new-found funkiness further energizes an already zippy collection of melodies, making this the band's most approachable album yet.


Karyn White (Warner Bros. 26320)

A good rhythm section can help any vocalist, but a great singer always manages to get beyond the groove. That's what makes Karyn White's second album, "Ritual of Love," such a stunner. With Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on hand to hype the beat, the album has no shortage of rhythmic momentum; from the lithe pulse behind "Romantic" to the insinuating swirl of "Hooked On You," there's always plenty of rhythmic interest in these songs. But White's delivery always pulls the focus away from the groove and onto the singing, and that's true whether she's caressing a ballad (like "The Way I Feel About You") or vamping her way through the sassy, sexy "Walkin' the Dog."


Bad English (Epic 46935)

From the Bon Jovi-ish "nah nah" hook that opens "So This Is Eden" to the Eagle-like cadences of "Life at the Top," there's little on Bad English's "Backlash" that rock fans won't have heard before. That doesn't mean they won't like it; between the polished professionalism of John Waite's singing, the fancy fretwork of Neal Schon's guitar solos and Ron Nevison's high-gloss production, the album is eminently listenable. But what's the point of paying for an album's worth of recycled classic rock when you can hear the originals on radio for free?

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