Last week’s entry, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem was a bit off of the beaten path for a guitar blog. This week I want to steer it smack into the middle of the street. To do so, I picked a song that is dominated by guitars. Two guitars, in fact. But it’s not what you think. I could easily have given you a song that blasts you with heavily distorted guitar cannons to reestablish the rock focus for this blog. But you know me, I like to mix it up. Instead, you get expertly played clean Stratocasters played by brothers Knopfler.
“In the Gallery” and the rest of Dire Straits’ self-titled debut album represent the counter-argument to the fuzz-laden rock vibe found in the late seventies. Distortion wasn’t necessary for Mark and David Knopfler’s guitar sound. Just some compression and plenty of bite. And I mean bite. Listen to this track. The amount of grit that can come from a cleanly played Strat is phenomenal.
Its not just the juxtaposed clean sound that sets this song apart for me. In fact, the juxtaposition is secondary to the amazingly skillful musicianship present in this song. The David’s rhythm playing is extremely tight and Mark’s melodic fills are teeth-cuttingly sharp. Add the poignant lyrics about the art industry and you’ve got a great tune. That alone makes “In the Gallery” a strong recommendation. As the Sham-Wow guy would say: “But wait, there’s more!” For the same low price, you get the great rhythm playing, the melodic fills, the excellent lyrics and…wait for it….
…possibly one of my favorite solos of all time. At 3:05 into the song, Mark plays a solo that artfully combines minor pentatonic runs, arpeggiated chordal passages and straight-up chordal harmonies. It is a masterpiece in improvisation. It feels both finely sculpted and raw. A rare combination that bores straight to my musical soul every time I hear it.
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There are not many powerful albums out there that can match this debut effort. If I had to keep but ten albums in my collection, this would definitely be one of them.It may sound primitive to a younger crowd, but it has a less-commercialized feel and sound to it. “In the Gallery” has always been my favorite Dire Straits tune. Hard to beat the masterful and mood filled lead work by Knopfler. Hard to believe that almost 30 years has passed since this album was released. I’ve gotta get the remastered version. Gotta check out “Six Blade Knife” for some tasty bluesy guitar! This was a true gem of an album start to finish!
Agreed. One of my favorite albums. Definitely one of my top ten.