Dire Straits - Alchemy Live
I do not give this a higher mark simply because some of the tracks - the incredible "Telegraph Road" being the obvious example - are not as good as the studio versions. To my mind, the main reason for bringing out a live album is to demonstrate that music sounds better live. When the live performance falls short of the studio one, then question marks begin to arise in my mind. And question marks are raised over these live performances in my view. If the live experience does not translate into an improvement over the studio version, then I have to mark it down in comparison. Live this may be - Made in Japan this isn't. So in spite of the quality of the musicianship, it fails to compare - just - with some of the band's studio work. Not all of the songs are worse by comparison, however. "Expresso Love" has some excellent moments of extended piano work, while "Sultans of Swing" benefits from the undoubted fact that, belonging to the age when the band played simple, as it was songs, it crackles with an energy I remember from their live performances.
For a double album having only ten tracks is perhaps indicative of where Dire Straits were going. This is stadium rock by now and it should come as no surprise that these tracks were recorded in a stadium. The band was riding the wave of success brought on by their massive hit album, Brothers in Arms. It must therefore be seen against that context - this was an attempt by the band (or more likely its record company) to introduce a new generation of Dire Straits fans to the whole back catalogue of the band. However, there is a good collection of the work of Dire Straits covering not just their albums, but also some of the stuff from Mark Knopfler's solo output.
Still, there is no doubt that this is an excellent live album and one which should form part of anyone's record collection. For all their faults in the latter days of their carer amid claims they sold out (whatever that overused phrase means) Dire Straits knew how to turn in a performance. Sadly, I cannot give it a higher rating because, while it is impressive, it just falls short of what I would have expected from the band. I was fortunate to have seen them when they played dingy clubs in Bristol. There was none of the finery which bedecked their later concerts - just the band. Mark Knopfler could carry an audience with him by the power of his guitar. The further Dire Straits moved away from that, the further they moved away from me. This, no matter how technically good it may be, is not the Dire Straits live I remember.
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