Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)

British Grove/Blue Note B002920602
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

It’s not unusual for me to buy a new Mark Knopfler album, enjoy it for a few plays, then file it away, thinking, “Another solid album.” I do the same with albums by Van Morrison and James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. But invariably, when I pull any of them off the shelf six months or so later, I find that I enjoy them even more than I remembered. Consistency can make me take certain musicians for granted, only to be reminded, when I play their music again, that their greatness remains undiminished.

Down the Road Wherever is Knopfler’s ninth non-soundtrack solo album, and its first track, “Trapper Man,” opens with a keyboard line from Guy Fletcher before Ian Thomas’s drums hit hard to bring in Knopfler’s familiar, softly distorted guitar. Knopfler tells the story of a trapper, “filth and grease on his clothes and hands,” who brings his wares to a trader. The trapper reminds the trader, who wears “gems and rings,” that it’s the trapper’s dirty work that makes possible his own good life. Knopfler fills the song with unrushed guitar lines that help set the tone for his story.

“Back on the Dance Floor” is as close to a return to the sound of Dire Straits as Knopfler has gotten in his solo career, and its dirty blues is a welcome sound. Imelda May’s backing vocal gives the song a lift, but it’s Guy Fletcher’s keyboard flourishes and Glenn Worf’s solidly funky bass that drive this track. Knopfler is a storyteller, and his guitar solos help establish the background of his narratives instead of being excuses to merely show off. His slide solo in “Just a Boy Away from Home” glides from the blues into a long quote from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that gives this performance emotional focus.

Knopfler ventures into new territory with the easy funkiness of “Nobody Does That,” which has a terrific horn chart reminiscent of the Average White Band and a gritty sax solo by Nigel Hitchcock. Tom Walsh’s muted trumpet intro to “When You Leave” leads to some romantic crooning from Knopfler, whose voice continues to grow more fluid and expressive with age. The calypso soul of “Heavy Up” is also aided by a strong horn arrangement, and a deft, understated vocal from Knopfler.

Down the Road Wherever

Knopfler is adept at spinning tales, and two of the strongest on Down the Road Wherever are also the album’s most personal. “One Song at a Time,” from which the album gets its title, contains memories of Knopfler’s travels as a musician, absorbing history and experiences to use in his songs. “Matchstick Man” grew out of a memory of hitchhiking home after a gig -- with only his voice and acoustic guitar, Knopfler paints a picture of a young musician making his way in the world.

Many of the musicians on Down the Road Wherever have often worked with Knopfler before; there’s an ease and professionalism in the sound of this album that, on first hearing, might feel too laid-back. But repeated listenings reveal more depth in the arrangements, more subtle interplay among the players. And Knopfler always uses his considerable guitar skills in service to his songs. The quote from “You’ll Never Walk Alone” first struck me as sentimental, but after I’d listened a few more times, I found that it underlined and strengthened the feeling of hope contained in the song’s closing lines.

Knopfler and Fletcher coproduced and recorded the album at Knopfler’s British Grove Studio, which prides itself on using a mixture of old and new audio technologies. The sound is clean and expansive, with a broad soundstage that provides plenty of breathing room for all of the instruments and voices. At this point Mark Knopfler has nothing to prove, but Down the Road Wherever is proof that he’s not coasting -- it’s another impressive entry in a rewarding discography.

. . . Joseph Taylor
josepht@soundstagenetwork.com