‘That would have been just terrible’: Mark Knopfler had to edit Privateering after creative outburst

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The wildly productive Mark Knopfler, who’s just issued a song-packed two-disc collection of rootsy goodness, tells Paul Sexton of the Independent that it actually could have been a triple album.

Knopfler, 63, says he thought better of such a sprawling project, however — calling such things “unforgiveable.”

Up next is a highly anticipated tour with Bob Dylan, who himself has just issued a well-regarded new album, Tempest. The pair will each perform for 75 minutes a piece, Knopfler says, then he will sit in on a few Dylan songs. They first worked together on Dylan’s 1979 project Slow Train Coming. Knopfler then produced and played on Infidels, Dylan’s 1983 album. Knopfler also covered Dylan’s “Restless Farewell” for the 50th anniversary Amnesty International record.

Prior to that, Knopfler led Dire Straits from 1977-95, helping the band to an international bit with 1985’s Brothers in Arms, which sold some 30 million copies behind the charttopping “Money for Nothing.” That album is still the fourth-best seller in UK history.

There have followed seven solo albums, culminating with this summer’s Privateering. The two-disc set included a impressive 20 songs, though Knopfler says there’s plenty more where those came from.

“It could have been a triple album, but that would have been just terrible,” Knopfler tells Sexton. “Unforgiveable, really. I decided to put the brakes on, but I didn’t want these things to lose their moment. There is a kind of a moment, isn’t there?”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Mark Knopfler, Dire Straits and Bob Dylan. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

MARK KNOPFLER – PRIVATEERING (2012): Knopfler works with a loose theme here, that of living by your wits on the high seas, but the broader messages found on Privateering are sure to resonate with anyone who’s faced down life’s mighty struggles. It’s been three years since the former Dire Straits frontman issued Get Lucky, and he clearly has been busy: This album includes 20 new original songs — to go with eight additional cuts on an expanded super deluxe edition. I’m struck not just by the depth of music, though, but also by the breadth of sounds on this, Knopfler’s seventh solo album.

BOB DYLAN – TEMPEST (2012): For all of the album’s off-handed menace, for its many betrayals, for all of its fiery condemnations, Tempest offers commiserate moments of community, of gritty determination, of desire, of grace. Nobody ever gets saved, or even forgiven, as far as I can tell, But there are tender mercies, things worth grabbing onto, fleeting pleasures for those who’ve made it this far. Dylan — occupying simultaneously the role of leathered curmudgeon who’s seen it all, and tender-eyed romantic baring his chest — once more walks the fine line of contradiction, a place he has called home for so long that it ought to be re-christened in his honor. And, wouldn’t you know it? Even 50 years in, he still never loses his balance.

MARK KNOPFLER – GET LUCKY (2009): With Get Lucky, inquisitive ears get a compelling distillation of Knopfler’s thematic and musical storytelling. Among the cast of characters are truck drivers, itinerant workers, soldiers, guitar makers, and losers. The music ranges from the earthy and Celtic-tinged “Border Reiver” to the swampy blues of “You Can’t Beat The House?” After several listening sessions, you’ll come to realize that this man is not only a fine guitar player, but a tremendous teller of stories. It’s tough to pick favorites (since they seem to change for me on a daily basis) but you can’t go wrong with either “So Far From The Clyde” or “Monteleone.”

DIRE STRAITS – COMMUNIQUE (1979): This had to remain on the shelf for a little while, not because of a fear that the overexposed Dire Straits I used to fear would rear its head, but simply because music like this takes the right circumstances to come to life for a listener like me. Many albums I can hear and appreciate, but it takes that special moment, and a certain spontaneity, for some things to really click. Finally, that day arrived for Communiqué, a moment where I was able to hear it without the fog of expectation hanging over me, and it was able to reveal itself as an album full of the delicate subtleties that makes Mark Knopfler shimmer — that deep tobacco-soaked voice, the quick, fluid guitar, and the wit behind many of his lyrics. Knopfler possesses the too often ignored ability to understate just the right elements and come out with something that knocks the attentive listeners on their asses.

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