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Records To Die For 3: Sailing to Philadelphia and Mr. Tambourine Man

Sailing to Philadelphia
Warner Brothers  47753-2. 2000. Chuck Ainley, Mark Knopfler prod.; Chuck Ainley, eng. TT: 60:34

Like Richard Thompson, Mark Knopfler’s talent as a guitarist is knowing that, sometimes, NOT playing is more important than cutting loose. “What It Is,” the only real anthem here, opens to the bombast of fiddles, and on many songs, the instruments and delivery are little more than a whisper. But Knopfler’s 13 vignettes – which include a prairie wedding, black gospel singers living out of their car, an itinerant professional race car driver, a rock band that sounds like Dire Straits on its first tour and the Englishmen who sailed to Philadelphia to survey the Mason-Dixon line, among others – cut to the quick, carried  by Knopfler’s always elegant, always bluesy guitar lines.(112)

Mr. Tambourine Man
Columbia 64845. 1965. Terry Melcher, Bob Irwin, prod.; Vic Anesini, eng. AAD. TT: 45.43

Sweetheart of the Rodeo gets all the hype, and this album has taken its share of abuse for having used studio musicians. But heard as the opening salvo of an American-Brit tit-for-tat with the then-indomitable Beatles, Mr. Tambourine Man still stands proud. Besides letting Lennon, McCartney and Harrison know we weren’t all a bunch of rubes over here, the Byrds, studio musicians and all, brought Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Jackie DeShannon into the electric age, where they belonged, and introduced the talents of Gene Clark to the world at large. Oh, and along the way established forever the electric 12-string as part of the rock vocabulary. (108)

This is the third installment of Records to Die For, which I wrote for Stereophile magazine over the years. The assignment is to write about your favorite records in 100 words. These were my choices for 2003; number of words in parentheses.


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