STILL POPULAR: Mark Knopfler’s latest album, “Tracker,” has debuted at number three.
By Geoffrey Rowlands
It’s no surprise to see Mark Knopfler back in the UK charts. His latest album, “Tracker,” has debuted at number three.
Much more surprising for many music fans is the realisation that “Tracker” is 65-year-old Mark’s eighth solo album. Despite his numerous collaborations with artists such as Eric Clapton, Sting and Chet Atkins, plus producing albums for Aztec Camera, Bob Dylan and Randy Newman, Mark will forever be primarily known as the singer, songwriter and guitarist with English rock band Dire Straits.
Six massively successful studio albums, three live and three compilation LPs saw the band spend well over 1,100 weeks in the UK chart and win a string of awards. Their career initially spanned 1977 to 1988 before reforming again three years later but disbanding permanently in 1995.
“It’s been a long time since we last played together but I don’t mind people still associating me with Dire Straits,” smiled the affable Mark. “I feel proud to have been part of a band which was so popular. In fact, I should say well-loved rather than just popular. I think that’s why our songs are still played and our popularity endures.”
Mark’s decision to pursue a solo career saw the demise of Dire Straits.
“The band had just become so big. I still loved playing our songs but the sheer scale of our tours was dehumanising. I’ve always enjoyed talking with people, not being cut off from them. Breaking up Dire Straits was my way of getting back to some kind of normality in my life.”
He certainly sees himself as a regular person rather than a rock star.
“I’ve worked since I was 14. I did all kinds of things when I was young. I worked in a factory, in a warehouse, on a farm, lots of manual labouring. I got into journalism and then teaching. But music was always my passion. I played in various bands, firstly around my family home in the north-east of England and then in London.
“I played in a band called Brewers Droop who made an album and Cafe Racers were pretty good but none of them were really much more than pub bands. It was only after I moved in with my brother David and his friend John Illsley that things started to happen. We decided to form a band together, recruited Pick Withers as our drummer and Dire Straits was born.
“I know it’s easy to say this now but we really did have the feeling that we could be something special. We recorded a five-song demo tape and asked a BBC Radio London DJ, Charlie Gillett, for his opinion. He liked the tape so much he played one of the songs on his show.
“That song was Sultans of Swing. Two months later, we had a recording contract. Not so very long after that, Sultans of Swing was a top ten hit in Britain and America.”
While not officially a Mark Knopfler album, his solo career had effectively begun with the creation of soundtrack music and songs for the 1983 film, Local Hero. He scored several more film soundtracks before “Golden Heart” became his debut solo album in 1996.
Although not quite as successful as his work with Dire Straits, all but one of Mark’s albums have been UK top ten hits. The exception, 2004’s “Shangri-La,” peaked at number 11.
He may now be even more popular. “Tracker” has given Mark the highest UK album chart position of his solo career.
“I suppose we’d all like to think we’re getting better rather than just getting older. Maybe this is reflected in the chart position. Either that or a lot of people regard buying my album as some small way to recapture their youth.”
Disco-funk legends Chic will soon issue their first album for 23 years.
Now billed as Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, the appropriately titled “It’s About Time” hits record stores in June. Lead single, I’ll Be There, has just been released. The official video can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OXoSLANXIY
Nile is the only original member still performing with the band. But the video for I’ll Be There pays a fitting tribute to their initial line-up. It features American fashion model Karlie Kloss who is watching the original Chic on an old edition of the “Soul Train” TV show.
The footage is edited to make it appear that the original group are playing the new song. This is intercut with footage of the current line-up who are performing I’ll Be There.
We should have waited another couple of weeks before featuring news of Snoop Dogg’s forthcoming album and new single.
When last reported, Snoop and his record label were in the process of eradicating all online postings of tracks from “Bush,” which is scheduled for release on May 12. But with lead single, Peaches N Cream, having now been issued, life has become a little easier for fans who would like to hear Snoop’s new songs.
Indeed, “Bush” has just been posted in full at www.youtube.com/watch?v=83Th4bn3L_Q
The Peaches N Cream video is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UAIxwYEgm0
Built To Spill
American indie rockers Built To Spill release their eighth studio album, “Untethered Moon,” on April 21. It is their first new material since 2009’s “There Is No Enemy” and marks the introduction of the band’s new rhythm section, bass player Jason Albertini and drummer Stephen Gere.
Two tracks from the new album, Living Zoo and Never Be The Same, are posted at (no www.) soundcloud.com/builttospill
Hindsight, a song from “There Is No Enemy,” is also here.
If you enjoy their music, all of the band’s previous studio albums, plus their live LPs, can be heard in full on YouTube. Gain access by typing Built To Spill in the website search box.
Of Monsters And Men
Icelandic indie folk-pop quintet Of Monsters And Men became international stars thanks to the massive popularity of their debut single, Little Talks.
This paved the way for them to enjoy similar chart success with their album, “My Head Is An Animal.” The entire LP can be heard at www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCHUw7ACS8o&list=PLMogyzvc_OR333NwjsPy6CfNVTlCoEB1m
Fans will soon have a second studio album to enjoy. “Beneath The Skin” is set for release on June 9. Available now though is lead single, Crystals. The official lyric video can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUClIslXKZo
Blur’s eighth studio album, “The Magic Whip,” will be released on April 27. It is their first album of new material since 2003’s “Think Tank.”
The band played each new track during a recent fanclub-only intimate show at the Mode club in London. Just 300 tickets were available to fans who took part in a competition and were then entered into a ballot. Those who attended the performance were gushingly enthusiastic about what they heard.
See if you share their opinion by checking out the three album tracks so far revealed by the band. “Go Out” is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp1ks7PTzng
“There Are Too Many of Us” can be heard at www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQQObIQ63T0
“Lonesome Street” is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eR-SzHggms
Chicago rapper Lil Jay recently released a new 22-song mixtape, “Unexpected Fame 2.”
It can be heard and downloaded for free at www.datpiff.com/Lil-Jay-Unexpected-Fame-2-mixtape.694189.html
Jay’s typical gangsta rap lyrics mean the mixtape carries a parental advisory warning.
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