Picks and Pans Review: Alchemy

UPDATED 05/21/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/21/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

Dire Straits

Not all live albums offer any improvement on the studio recordings that lure people into concert halls in the first place; not a few such LPs are a vast disappointment. In Dire Straits' case, however, lead singer guitarist Mark Knopfler is one of those performers who rises to, and sometimes above, occasions. This two-record set, recorded last July at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, is ample demonstration of that skill. The crowd's response to such Straits hits as Romeo and Juliet or Sultans of Swing seems to have a measurable energizing effect on the band in general and Knopfler in particular. The rest of the group, drummer Terry Williams and bassist John Illsley in particular, are a high-power bunch too, but it's clear who the star of the group is. Knopfler's droning vocals are increasingly Dylanesque; he and Bob Dylan, having worked together so often, are beginning to resemble each other like old married folks. In fact, when Knopfler sings the raucus Two Young Lovers over the happy honky-tonk sax of Mel Collins, it makes you wonder what Dylan would sound like singing Great Balls of Fire. Knopfler's guitar solos, which sometimes resemble Jimi Hendrix-meets-Django Reinhardt confrontations, roam across the range of his instrument. He throbs and careens on Solid Rock, while his probing, meditating solo on Private Investigations all but casts a spell. This is not quite the next best thing to being there; there's a video tape cassette of the concert too. But if you don't insist on seeing a terrific band while you listen to it, this is a splendid way to go. (Warner Bros.)

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