Lee Speaks About Music… #178

Firebird – Tomita



Electronic music is something I very rarely play these days though from time to time I still keep a watchful eye out for some of those electronic artists who I had in my record collection back in the 70’s which is where that genre of music got more of the time of day spinning on my turntable so to speak. Oddly enough the 80’s was a decade I detested for popular chart music which made me more or less turn my back on the radio and TV programs like Top Of The Pops. That was really down to all that retro synth orientated pop music that artists and bands like Gary Numan, Howard Jones, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, The Pet Shop Boys and many more were churning out.

The 80’s was a strange decade for music and even most of my beloved progrock bands like Yes and Genesis had gone pop and most of the rock bands had gone into more commercial rock music. One of the only things that kept my particular taste buds happy and alive in the 80’s were Tangerine Dream and I felt they had got a lot better in that decade due to the likes of  Johannes Schmoelling joining the band and later Paul Haslinger after he had left. In that decade I would say that they were more PROG! than the biggest majority of progrock bands and PROG! was very much on its way out and it was only really Marillion who had tried to revive it in that same decade who was the start of what’s known as Neo-Progrock.

My first introduction to electronic music came from a friend of mine in the mid-seventies around 74/75 and he was a big fan of Tangerine Dream though it was not them at the time who impressed me. It was this odd-looking album cover that looked like it had Mr Spock from Star Trek on the front cover that caught my eye and prompted me to ask him what it was all about and for him to stick it on his turntable.

R-2848649-1323736644.jpegSnowflakes Are Dancing

To be perfectly honest I was not impressed one bit by the album cover and it was only the fact that to me it looked like one of those CHEAPO! albums that made me take the piss out of it that really made my mate stick it on for me. Having listened to it I thought it was very strange yet soothing in parts and even comical with some of the sounds that were being generated in particular with the voice-like sounds. One of the other things I instantly picked up on about the recording, in particular, was that if like myself you liked the effect a stereo recording could deliver, this recording was a STEREOPHILE’S PARADISE! and one of the best reference stereo albums you could get. Though as fascinating it was hearing it for the first time it did not make me want to go out and buy the album at the time. 

By 1976 I had left school and got a job which meant I had more money to spend on albums and that was the year that my oldest brother first brought electronic music into my parent’s house when he purchased Jean Michel Jarre’s debut album Oxygene. That was an album that did impress me to which I later added to my own collection along with many more of his albums. But thinking back to my youth it was also a time when me and my brother tried to impress one another by bringing in a new artist to our record collections. It was like we were bragging to each other that I introduced you to so and so and was all rather childish at the time.

It was in that same year that whilst I was in the record store that I noticed Tomita’s new album release of Firebird. I had only vaguely heard of his music from that time of listening to Snowflakes Are Dancing round my mate’s house and it may have been down to the fact that my brother had brought some electronic music into the household that made me purchase the album to show him sort of thing. However, when I took it home and played it on the turntable we were both quite blown away and this album was not only like progrock but it was also my first real introduction to classical music.

Isao Tomita is very much what I would call an electronic genius and still to this day I regard him as the number one electronic artist and I don’t think anybody could personally touch him. Firebird has always been my personal favourite album of his and the strange thing about this relatively new reissue of the album is that it’s done in the way of a CHEAPO! by another record company. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…


The disc comes in a standard plastic Jewel Case to keep the cost down though personally, I don’t mind paying that bit extra for a cardboard Digipak or DigiSleeve because it does give a better overall presentation. One of the good things about it is that it not only comes with the usual linear production and credit notes but also all the original informative information that was on the original vinyl album. Over the years I have collected his albums on both vinyl and CD and I have yet to come across any of his CD’s come in anything but a plastic jewel case. This is a shame because this artist does deserve a lot more respect.

This is actually the third time I have brought this album and it’s the first time it’s ever been released on an SACD which is why I purchased it again. For its price point of £11.99 plus £2 postage & packing it’s an absolute bargain for a hybrid SACD that comes with stereo and multichannel mixes. I shall go into more detail about the record company later in my review of the album and how I have nothing but high praise for them.

The artwork was done by the art director and graphic designer  J.J. Stelmach who done the artwork for the biggest majority of Tomita’s albums and many other major artists over the years. He’s also won Grammy Awards for his artwork and the phoenix bird of fire is very apt to the album’s title.

Tomita In Brief History…

Isao Tomita more commonly known as Tomita is a Japanese composer and is regarded as one of the pioneers in electronic and space music. Though predominantly he is best known for his electronic arrangements of some of the classical GREATS! rather than his own compositions. Although in his earlier and later years he did put more into his own compositions. For example, after he graduated from university studying art history in 1955 he became a full-time composer for television, film and theatre. It was also during those earlier days at university that he took private lessons in orchestration and composition and in 1966 he wrote a tone poem based on Kimba the White Lion.

Throughout his career, he worked in both electronic music and wrote scores for orchestration even later on with the releases of albums such as Grand Canyon and Storm From The East in 1982 and 1992 respectively. The odd one or two of his own compositions would also find their way onto some of his electronic albums but on albums such as Firebird all the music was originally composed by classical composers such as Stravinsky, Debussy and Mussorgsky. That was generally the norm with the 4 electronic albums he released between 1974 – 1976.

Tomita’s influence and inspiration for electronic music came from two things. The first having heard the Wendy Carlos seminal album Switched-On Bach in 1968 and the second was the Moog synthesiser to which he took delivery of his first modular Moog synthesiser, along with a sequencer, in 1971. Although by then he had already composed much music and even released an album of cover songs of the likes of The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel entitled Switched on Rock in 1972 under the name of Electric Samurai. The release of Snowflakes Are Dancing in 1974 was his first worldwide solo release and is noted as his debut album.

By the 80’s technology had moved on with the birth of midi and this also provided him with the use of technology to create his own Plasma Symphony Orchestra which was a computer synthesizer process using the waveforms of electromagnetic emanations from various stars and constellations for the sonic textures. This was first used on his 1982 album Grand Canyon and it meant that his analogue synths had taken a back seat with the introduction of digital instruments. He virtually abandoned analogue with the acquisition of his custom-built, one-of-a-kind Casio Cosmo system around 1984. Though he did return to analogue in the 90’s with the release of his 1996 album Bach Fantasy which was released in Japan only.


It was also with the aid of new technology in the 80’s that he was able to play live performances and put on big shows such as the concert in Linz, Austria in 1984 which drew 80,000 people. In 1986, a gigantic concert called “Back to the Earth” was held in New York in commemoration of the centennial of the Statue of Liberty. He performed a number of outdoor “Sound Cloud” concerts, with speakers surrounding the audience in a “cloud of sound” with the use of helicopters suspending the speakers in the air. His last Sound Cloud event was in Nagoya, Japan in 1997, featuring guest performances by The Manhattan Transfer, Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick, and Rick Wakeman.

In the 2000’s he went back into music for films and collaborated with The Walt Disney Company in 2001 and followed it up with a synthesizer score featuring acoustic soloists for the 2002 film The Twilight Samurai. He also performed a version of Claude Debussy’sClair de lune” for the soundtrack of Ocean’s 13 in 2007. In 2012 he performed “Symphony Ihatov” in Tokyo, directing the Japan Philarmonic, an accompanying choir, and featuring cyber-celebrity/diva, Hatsune Miku, a digital avatar created by the Japanese company Crypton Future Media. He suffered from a heart condition for many years and sadly passed away of heart failure in Tokyo on the 5th of May 2016.

Most artists and bands think they have made it when they get to play in Japan hence the expression BIG In JAPAN! Tomita was not big in Japan he was MASSIVE! and his music stretched to other shores as well and he was, without doubt, an innovated creative genius in the world of electronic music.

The Album In Review…

Tomita’s third studio album Firebird was originally released sometime in 1976. The original Vinyl release contained 3 tracks and depending on which CD re-issue of the album you have it will either contain 9 tracks as in the 1984 UK & Europe edition or 6 tracks as in the 1991 remastered UK & Europe edition. Whatever edition you have the album comes with an overall playing time of around 48 minutes, 30 seconds. This particular SACD edition contains 6 tracks and was released on the 31st of May 2019. It’s the first time a Quadrophonic mix has surfaced in any other country apart from Japan and the US since the time of its original release back in 1976.

Isao Tomita was not only a composer but also a recording and mixing engineer who set up his own studio in 1973 which was known as Plasma Music, Inc. Sound played a vital role in the development of his music and he was obviously a wealthy man to be able to set up his own studio with the mass of equipment he used to make his music. I am fairly sure that he did Quad mixes for most of his albums back in the 70’s. Although back then you would have had to be quite wealthy yourself to be able to afford a Quadrophonic setup which is why the format soon died simply because the biggest majority of people including myself could not afford it.

These days setting up your own recording studio and even getting a multichannel AV Surround setup is not going to cost you an arm and a leg and such luxuries can even be a pittance in relation to what it would have cost back then. Take it from me Quadrophonic did not die out because the format was inferior, that was far from the case. In my opinion, it’s more superior to stereo and can project far more detail of what goes into a recording down to its better separation of having 4 channels instead of 2.

The sound did play vital importance to his recordings and to be honest even in stereo they can produce a sound very similar to surround sound with how the music projects from the speakers. Like I mentioned earlier his recordings are very much a STEREOPHILE’S PARADISE! and to some that might be enough and they might even think of how a Quadrophonic mix can in any way improve upon it. 

Well, thanks to the record company Dutton Vocalion I now have the chance to make my own comparison and I can honestly say that although this might sound like a CHEAPO! This record company in particular with its lower price point they are selling these recordings are in fact one of the best record companies I have recently stumbled upon and are giving you genuine value for the buck. I actually stumbled across them as a third party seller on Amazon UK and was impressed by their service and their website. So let’s sidetrack a bit to tell you more about them.

Dutton Laboratories was established and set up by British recording and re-mastering engineer Michael J. Dutton originally back in 1993. This first section of the company specialised in historic classical music performances that originally appeared on 78-rpm shellac discs. The Vocalion series was set up in 1997 and various other sections were set up a bit later on and basically, this is a record label or company that specialises in putting music that was made between the 1920’s to the 1970’s onto modern-day digital recordings. The company is bringing out new releases every month and mostly sells SACD and CD’s.

To be honest there is not much for me that they do sell because it does mainly cater for the classical side of things. I was even surprised to find Tomita on there and I am pretty sure he’s the only electronic artist they do have on there. But there are a few albums on there of interest by artists such as Art Garfunkel, Mott The Hoople and Argent that I noticed and some you get 2 albums on one CD sort of thing. I actually picked up Deodato’s debut album Prelude and his second album Deodato 2 on a single Hybrid SACD both come with Quadrophonic mixes for £11.99. I will review later and the other Tomita album I picked up.

In 1991 the first 5 of his albums were remastered and released on CD in the US & Canada they are also said to be in multichannel Dolby Surround. I remember my mate who introduced me to Tomita buying them all and paid around £10 more for each disc due to them being imports. He was more into electronic music than myself and I remember spending an afternoon around his house making comparisons with the original recordings. Each disc came with a modified album cover as seen below.

Collage_Fotor 1_Fotor 2

 I was not impressed at all by these releases and the whole multichannel thing was a farce simply because there was no way you could put a multichannel recording on a standard CD and would need an SACD or DVD to do such a thing in the first place. Like I mentioned earlier his albums were already capable of producing a sound very similar to surround sound and even though some of these 1991 editions sounded good, there were some that sounded worse. There was not enough in the difference between the original recordings to merit spending the extra money on them. The only real difference would have been down to the remastering and nothing else.

In 2003 the company that make AV & HiFi components Denon released a 5.1 mix of Tomita’s 4th album The Planets on DVD Audio. They also went on to release Ultimate Editions of some of his albums in Quadrophonic on SACD though they were only released in Japan and were quite expensive to get hold of. Some of them were given different titles and did not contain all the tracks from the original album and were mixed with other tracks from his other albums such as the Clair De Lune Ultimate Edition which is supposed to be his debut album Snowflakes Are Dancing. Yet it only contains 3 out of the 10 tracks that were on the original album.

My mate purchased some of these multichannel mixes but I was not impressed with what they were doing to them and compilation albums were never my thing and I certainly would not spend over the odds on such a thing either. However, the Ultimate Edition of The Planets that was released on SACD in 2011 did contain all the tracks from the album and a bonus track.


It’s generally priced over £30 and recently I did come across an online store selling it for £28 and I sent for it. But have heard nothing from them and luckily for me, they have not taken the money out of my account either. What you will also find with most of these Japanese imports is that all the linear credit notes are in Japanese and there is no English on them. I cannot say I like what they have done with the artwork either and that is nothing like the original artwork.

There is a reason why some of Tomita’s albums were released in the US first and some were only ever released in the US and Japan. His connection with the US market, in particular, was really down to his own country rejecting his debut album Snowflakes Are Dancing because it was not pop, or even classical and they could not find a convenient category to market it. So he decided to go to New York and over there he met Peter Manders at RCA Records and luckily for him he was a fan of the Wendy Carlos album Switched-On Bach. Having heard the tapes Manders was well impressed and on the same day he decided to release it and it became quite a big success in America. Some ten months later having returned back to Japan his Japanese record company finally released the album over there.

Firebird did very well on its release back in 1976 and sold over 100,000 copies in the first three months getting to the top of both pop and classical charts and it even appeared in some jazz charts. His fourth album The Planets was also released in the same year and it always amazed me how he was able to churn out 4 albums over a few years with how time-consuming it was to create the sounds. A lot of equipment is used to create and generate the sounds so let’s now take a look at what it took to make it.

Musicians & Credits…


Produced by Plasma Music, Inc. Music Composed by Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy and Modest Mussorgsky. Electronically Created & Arranged by Isao Tomita. Recorded at Plasma Music Inc studios Japan 1975. Remastered from the Original Master Tapes by Michael J. Dutton. Cover Design by J.J. Stelmach. Reissue Graphics by Paul Evans.

Component Equipment Used by Tomita for This Album
Moog Synthesizer Quantity
914 Extended Range Fixed Filter Bank
125Hz – 5KHz, 12-Band Highpass/Lowpass Filter
904-A Voltage-Controlled Lowpass Filter
24dB per Octave Classic Moog Lowpass Filter
904-B Voltage-Controlled Highpass Filter
24dB per Octave Highpass Filter
904-C Filter Coupler 1
901 Voltage-Controlled Oscillator
Used as a VCO or an LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) as on the Minimoog
921 Voltage-Controlled Oscillator
0.01Hz – 40kHz Frequency Range
901-A Oscillator Controller
1 Volt per Octave
921-A Oscillator Driver
1 Volt per Octave
901-B Oscillator
The Basis of the Moog Sound
921-B Oscillator
Newer and More Stable than 901-B
903-A Random Signal Generator
White/Pink Noise Generator for Wind/Rain/Sea Effects
911 Envelope Generator
2ms – 10s Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release Configuration
911-A Dual Trigger Delay
2ms – 10s 2 Channel Delay Unit
902 Voltage-Controlled Amplifier
Linear/Exponential Amplifier with 2 Inputs, 2 Outputs, 3 Control Voltages
912 Envelope Follower 2
984 Four-Channel Mixer 1
960 Sequential Controller
8 Steps by 3 Rows Sequencer with Fully Variable Voltages
961 Interface
CV/Trigger to Moog S-Trig Convertor for 960 Sequencer
962 Sequential Switch
Configures 960 Sequencer
950 Keyboard Controller
49-Note Monophonic Keyboard
950-B Scale Programmer 1
956 Ribbon Controller
Alternative to the Keyboard
6401 Bode Ring Modulator
Combines 2 Inputs, and Outputs the Sum and Difference,
Classically Used for Metallic Sounds, Such as Bells,
Designed by Harald Bode
1630 Bode Frequency Shifter 1
959 X-Y Controller
Joystick Controller for Mixing 2 Signals
905 Reverberation Unit
Spring-Type Reverberation
Mixer Quantity
Quad/Eight Compumix (24 Ch.) 1
Sony MX-710 (8 Ch.) 2
Sony MX-16 (8 Ch.) 3
Sony MX-12 (6 Ch.) 2
Accessory Quantity
AKG BX20E Echo Unit 1
Binson Echorec “2” 2
Roland Space Echo RE-201 1
Eventide Clockworks “Instant Phaser” 1
Maestro Phase Shifter 1
Roland Phase Shifter 2
Fender “Dimention IV” 1
Maestro Sound System for Woodwinds 1
Maestro Rhythm ‘n’ Sound for Guitar 1
Fender Electronic Piano
Probably a Rhodes Suitcase Model
Hohner Clavinet C 1
Sitar (Made in India) with Barcus-Berry  
Contact Microphone 1
Not Listed in Equipment Used
Tape Recorder Tape Speed
Ampex MM-1100 16 Tracks 76 cm/s
Ampex AG-440 4 Tracks (1/2″) 38 cm/s
Sony TC-9040 4 Tracks (1/4″) 38 cm/s
TEAC A-3340S 4 Tracks (1/4″) 38 cm/s
TEAC 7030GSL 2 Tracks 38 cm/s

The Album Tracks In Review…

Even though Tomita crossed over from analogue to digital in his later years in many of his interviews he always praised analogue even though it was time-consuming creating all the sounds. But the thing he noted it for was that it allowed you to develop your own unique sound which is important for every artist to have. Tomita very much has his own unique sound that distinguishes him from every other electronic artist and there is no mistaking it for anything else. He very much has his own unique way of arranging classical music. Though in general the music will follow the path of the original score and it is only the sounds he uses that make the biggest difference in relation to how the music is put across.

Just like classical music, there is a certain amount of progression and transitional changes that are commonly associated with that particular music and progressive rock. Tomita’s approach to Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite is really not much different to prog-rock and parts of it even remind me of Yes even though this is electronic music done with synthesizers and twiddling knobs. I guess in a way his music could be seen as electronic progressive rock. So, let’s now go through the individual tracks on the album.

Tracks 1-4. Firebird Suite: (a) Introduction And Dance Of The Firebird. (b) Round Of The Princesses (Khorovod). (c) Infernal Dance Of King Kastchei. (d) Berceuse And Finale.

Most people will be familiar with Stravinsky’sFirebird Suite” and the prog-rock giants Yes often used its “Finale” as an introduction to open up their live shows. The suite here is split into four sections or parts though a couple of them are two parts in one so I guess it could even be six parts. On the original vinyl album, this particular suite took up the whole of the first side of the album just like a good few albums that Yes produced back then. Like I mentioned there are some similarities with Yes and they go beyond the structure of how an album was put together with 3 tracks.

The Russian composer Igor Stravinsky wrote the Firebird Suite in 1910 and it was composed for the 1910 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company. The scenario set for the ballet was based on the Russian fairy tales of the Firebird and the blessing and curse it possesses for its owner. The music can be very dramatic and captivating, articulating not only the sense of danger and fear but also a certain amount of joy and beauty that was thrown into the plot behind the story it’s portraying.

The original suite Stravinsky wrote was twice as long as the version we have here, however for live performances it was stripped back to around half of its length like we do have here. They also re-arranged how the story was put across in some of the variations too and the version of the suite Tomita has chosen to follow was created in Switzerland for conductor Ernest Anserme in 1919.

Tomita very much broadened his pallet of sounds on this album and his vision to put across the story of the Firebird is nothing short of a master-stroke genius with how he manipulates and articulates his way along with the suite. I honestly do not believe there is a better version than this that exists. The first two-part section of the suite “Introduction And Dance Of The Firebird” goes through quite a few transitional changes and captivates the danger and fear with its introduction and its movement in the dance. He’s very much expressed it in a Cinematic way with his approach and the music not only puts you in the picture but it’s like it was made for a film and this how precise he’s portrayed it with the use of manipulating the sounds he’s created. 

The second part “Round Of The Princesses (Khorovod)” expresses beauty even though according to the fairytale thirteen princesses are caught under the spell of an evil demon named Kashchei. Here Tomita uses coral voices and a Mantovani of strings mostly to express the mystical story and these days you would think nothing of how they can emulate the sounds of an orchestra with all the samples that have been put into softsynth software you can get. But back then this was quite an achievement. It even sounds like he’s got Steve Howe’s Coral Sitar in here too 😁😁😁.

The third part “Infernal Dance Of King Kastchei” is my favourite section and it’s very much a battle and portrays the part of the story where the prince wanders into Kashchei’s garden to free the princesses. This section and the battle here puts me in mind of the battle in the middle section of the “Gates Of Delirium” by Yes with how menacing it is. This is very much prog-rock in my opinion and sounds purely FANTASTIC! and Tomita has really gone to town here by utilising all that he’s learnt about his craft of manipulating sounds and its pure DYNAMICS!

The advantage Tomita has over most musicians is that he not only studied melody and composition but he also studied how to create sound and besides doing scores for movies he also worked in creating some of the sounds that go into them and even worked on cartoons. He’s even created pots and pans and the sound of a Woodpecker for this section and it’s purely SYNTHTASTIC! I’ve always been fascinated by the sounds that go into a movie more so than the actual music that was made for the score. There really is a fine art to designing and creating sounds and to do them electronically the way he does them it does take a lot of manipulating with frequencies to get them as precise as he does.

The final two-part section “Berceuse And Finale” is once again masterfully created by Tomita. The first part is very much a lullaby and is quite haunting, the second part is perhaps the most familiar part of the suite that projects power to put an ending to the story. The whole of Stravinsky’s suite is a really GREAT! piece of work and the way Tomita has presented it is quite breathtaking and the whole suite is my personal favourite track on the album.

Track 5. Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun.

One of Claude Debussy’s popular pieces has been skilfully and masterfully given the electronic treatment by Tomita and this is another haunting bit of beauty with how it’s expressed with the sounds he has created for it. I think like many classical pieces they are more famous for their short melodic motifs or major theme rather than the whole piece in general. I guess that would be down to TV adverts and movies that only use short extracts to which nine times out of ten it is only the short motif or common theme they use.

This is another piece written for ballet and it was inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem “L’après-midi d’un Fauneand is very much one of his symphonic poem’s. I guess that even classical musicians had the same inspiration as many prog-rock musicians who base their lyrics around Greek Mythology and his poem was about intoxicating dreams of passion, lust, nymphs and naiads.

To be perfectly honest I would not give twopence for this piece of Debussy’s and it is only Tomita that makes it more interesting in my book. Personally, I think it fails to capture the structure and beauty in comparison to “Clair De Lune” which is one of his more refined and renowned popular pieces.

Track 6. A Night On Bare Mountain.

No matter whether it’s a night on “Bare” or “Bald” mountain the way Tomita has electronically handled Modest Mussorgsky‘s masterpiece is nothing short of SPECTACULAR! He did the same impressive job with Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition a year earlier. The piece was originally titled “St. John’s Night on the Bare Mountain” and the music was set to a story about St. John seeing witches throwing a wild party on the bald mountain near Kiev in the old Russian Empire, to which they all vanish when the church bell strikes at 6am. Mussorgsky wrote a number of different versions of the piece, none of them got finished and was put aside because his teacher told him they were not good enough.

Most of Mussorgsky’s works were unfinished and left to others to finish off and it was his friend and fellow composer Rimsky Korsakov who re-arranged the music for orchestra and this is the piece we know today. Sadly his music became more popular after his death and it was the inclusion of this piece in the Walt Disney film Fantasia in 1940 that boosted its popularity.

This is another of my personal all-time favourites with what Tomita has done with it and I will often use this particular piece as a reference to show this GREAT! man’s ability in the field of electronic music. He really brings this piece MAJESTICALLY! to life with all he’s put into it and it’s another purely SYNTHTASTIC! track on the album and equally merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! along with the Firebird Suite. It also winds up the album superbly.

Summary & Conclusion…

Tomita’s third studio album the Firebird is a skilful and masterful presentation of bringing classical music into a new age or another light and I would even go as far as to say that it really brings out the PROG! and more defines it than what you will ever find in classical music itself. There is only one Isao Tomita and he was, without doubt, an electronic genius who had a magical vision of breathing a fresher approach into classical music and made it much more interesting for those like myself who are not into classical music. He was my first real introduction to classical music and he for me personally took away all the boredom that is associated with that field of music and made it more accessible for my ears. 

Don’t get me wrong I admire the skill that goes into the composition and the playing of classical music and unlike the genres of Rap, Reggae and Punk Rock I don’t despise it like those genres of music either. There was even a time that I even started a little collection of classical music and I quite liked the music of Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss and a few others. However, I find that an orchestra of strings all sounds too familiar and it does not offer enough variation for my liking. The best way to hear any classical music is to go to a concert and listen to it there simply because you could never capture that on a recording. That is where classical music can really stand out from the rest. But on record, it can bore my pants off.

Speaking of recordings this Hybrid SACD comes with the original Stereo & Quadrophonic mixes of the album that were mixed by Tomita and have been remastered by Michael J. Dutton. The good thing about Tomita’s albums is the fact that they were never reissued that many times unlike much more popular artists such as Elton John, Led Zeppelin and so on which means that the original master tapes are still very much intact and of good quality. Vocalion Dutton may appear to look like a CHEAPO! record label as I mentioned earlier but there is a lot more quality about the company than meets the eye so to speak.

To obtain a licence from Sony to release anything on SACD is not always easy and the company do on most occasions control what is released on the format. These days SACD’s are mainly used for classical and jazz music only which is something that Sony decided to do with the format over a decade ago when they introduced Blu Ray onto the market. I honestly hate the company for what they are doing with the format and they have held back many major artists albums from being released on the format. So if like myself you are hoping many more of Tomita’s albums surface on the format in the near future the chances are it is not going to happen.

As I have already mentioned most electronic music has more of an ambient presence to make it sound more than just a stereo mix especially if like myself you have a dedicated listening seat positioned in the middle of the two speakers. Tomita was very articulate where he placed sounds in the mix which is why his albums do have a STEREOPHILE’S PARADISE! presence about them. You could say that the stereo field is ample enough for his music and it does not need more channels to bring out what lies within and beneath its surface.

Though being the surround FREAK! I am these days I have in the past experimented with his albums by using the UP-MIX! facilities that come with AV Receivers such as Dolby Prologic II and 7 Channel Stereo and these have produced some very satisfying and even amazing results and have made them sound even better. But of course these UP-MIX! facilities are only a simulation of a surround mix and not the real deal and when it comes to multi-channel mixes it is all about the placement of the instruments that make the big difference in giving you much more of an immersive experience. The more channels you have the more it can bring out of a recording and you will hear things you have never heard before. Separation is the key factor and it always has been in Hi-Fi even though many Audiophiles today claim that it was never the case, yet if like myself you brought HiFi mags many moons ago it was plastered all over them.

There is no doubt in my own personal experience that multichannel recordings have quite an advantage over stereo and offer the listener much more of not only an immersive experience but also to be able to hear much more that goes into a recording. Although like with all recordings it is down to how well the music was mixed in the first place and when it comes to multichannel recordings there are very few engineers who have the right vision to work in this field especially for those who do new mixes. My personal GODS! who have all that it takes to get a multichannel recording to sound right are Eliot Shiner, Steve Wilson and Chuck Ainlay.

I would also say that the biggest majority of albums from years ago were very well mixed in the first place and Michael J. Dutton has only remastered them from the original master tapes and not done a new mix with them. So with this release, you are getting to hear how well Tomita worked in surround sound with a quad mix and he clearly has the right vision and knew precisely what he was doing. There is also no doubt in my mind that even electronic music can benefit from multichannel recordings and this Quad Mix of Tomita’s Firebird album is to die for and will give you a much better presentation of his music and give you a very satisfying immersive experience. I have nothing but admiration and praise for what Michael is doing at Vocalion Dutton and will keep a watchful eye on his website for further new releases.

Tomita’s Firebird does really benefit from a Quad mix and it really does breathe new life into it and for its price point of £11.99 it’s a genuine steal and one I would highly recommend. I would also recommend the Vocalion Dutton website and it is cheaper to get it direct from them. They are well worth checking out and here is the link to their website: https://www.duttonvocalion.co.uk/

Quadrophonic Fire…

The SACD Track Listing is as follows:

01. Introduction / Dance Of The Firebird. 5:00.
02. Round Of The Princesses (Khorovod). 7:06.
03. Infernal Dance Of King Kastchei. 4:11.
04. Berceuse / Finale. 8:57.
05. Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun. 10:10.
06. A Night On Bare Mountain. 12:51.

The Package Rating. 7/10.
The Price Point Rating. 10/10.
The Quad Mix Rating. 10/10.
The Stereo Mix Rating. 10/10.
The Album Rating. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #177

Wish You Were Here (Immersion Box Set) – Pink Floyd



Well, I generally stay clear of expensive box sets such as this and at the time I saw that this particular box set had been substantially reduced in price since its release I did have on pre-order the John Lennon Box Set Give Me Some Truth which was due to be released on the anniversary of his birthday back in October last year.

To be honest, I am not one for compilation albums and I do not have any albums by Lennon or The Beatles in my record collection but at one point was willing to shell out the £48 for it. However, around the same time I was hunting for Pink Floyd’s 1975 album Wish You Were Here on SACD because having Dark Side Of The Moon on SACD and loving the immersive experience of the 5.1 surround mix I very much wanted it. Though the cheapest I could find it (second hand that is) was for the same price of £48 on Discogs it’s been out of print for a good while now.

One of the good things about pre-ordering anything on Amazon is that they do not take your money till they dispatch the item and I always pre-order things months in advance it gives you plenty of time to cancel your order at any time beforehand. I was not quite willing to shell out £48 on one SACD especially when I only paid £10 for the SACD of Dark Side Of The Moon many moons ago so it very much appeared that my £48 was going on the Lennon box set.

I am pretty sure the release of Lennon’s box set also got put back a week or so and it was about 3 days before its release that I stumbled across the Wish You Were Here Immersion Box Set going brand new on Amazon UK for the same price of £48.

This particular box set cost twice that when it was originally released and perhaps even a bit more and has it offered more for the buck the Lennon box set sort of went out of the window and I got this instead. I am fairly sure I made a wise choice but do these expensive box sets really give you your money’s worth? Before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging, artwork and contents.

Packaging & Artwork…

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Well as you can see the box set is quite chunky and around the same size as a vinyl album only a lot thicker to hold its contents. Box sets like this do take up a lot of media space, especially if like myself you no longer collect vinyl. Although for vinyl collectors I don’t think it would present them with a problem and it would be much easier to store.

For my own purposes, I always prefer media storage that comes with adjustable shelves to cater for CD’s, DVD’s and Blu Rays and even though box sets like this might look nice displayed in my media storage (as seen below) however, they do take up the space of around 60 to 70 CD’s.


That’s why I like the way Ian Anderson has repackaged the reissues of his Jethro Tull discography into a hardback book and I honestly believe they are the best box set anybody has come up with. They are so much easier to store (as you can see below) and can easily be stored along with your DVD collection and take up way less space. In reality, his box or book sets also come with much more than what you will find in this box set at a fraction of the price, which makes them by far the best value-for-money box set you could ever buy.


One of the biggest downfalls with any box set like this is getting at the contents inside and you do have to fiddle about a bit trying to get the lid off the box. But what makes the design of this particular box set even worse is down to them not printing the contents of the box on the back of the box itself. Instead, they have printed them onto a card (as seen below) and at times it can be a nightmare trying to line it up to get the lid back on the box. Honestly, some of these designers must have the brains of a rocking horse 😊😊😊.

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As you can see in the photos above it comes with a separate printed piece of card with the contents printed onto which has been folded on the one end so you can insert it into the one side of the lid. Why they could not have printed the contents onto the back of the box is beyond me and I can only assume that less thought and attention was put into the design as they went along making it. Somewhere along the line, I am sure those behind it all are losing their MARBLES!


The box design and artwork were done at Storm Studios by Storm Thorgerson, Jerry Sweet, Lee Baker, Laura Truman and Peter Curzon. The artwork on the front of the box is known as the “Desert Man” and was said to done back in 1975 and was an outtake of one of the pieces of artwork that were intended to be used on the back of the album to which “The Diver” was used instead.

It did also appear in a Pink Floyd calendar back in 2005 and I quite like this artwork but it’s perhaps understandable why it was not used thinking of the album’s title and why “The Diver” was used instead. But then again when taking a look at both “The Burning Man” and “The Claw” that were used for the UK and US front covers of the album. I would hardly say they were fitting to the album’s title either 😊😊😊.

The Packaging Contents…


As with many box sets such as this, they come with various trinkets and things you do not really need and are not going to offer you anything extra at all in the way of value in relation to the media content. To be honest most of the contents inside this box set I have not even opened to have a closer look at but you can tell just by looking at some of the items that some of the stuff in this box set is made entirely on the cheap and would not be suitable for the purpose they were originally meant for.

As you can see (by the picture above) the inside of the box presents you with a ribbon and a piece of foam which is aimed at giving it that bit of luxury feel to it and hold everything in place. The problem is that they do tend to put too many things in the box set for it to stop many of the items from moving about inside including the discs. So don’t be surprised to see that some of the discs have come loose when you open it.


First of all, let’s take a look at some of the junk that comes in the box and there is only really one item in the picture above that is not junk and that is the very thing I brought this for in the first place which is the Blu Ray (pictured in the bottom right of the picture above). Why this was not stored with the rest of the discs in the box set is obviously another cock-up by the designers and the picture on the cardboard sleeve they have used for the cover looks diabolical. It would have looked a lot better if they used the picture on the front of the box set or the original album cover.

The rest of the items here I have not bothered with because they have no real value. For example, just by feeling the quality of the scarf, it would not keep a nats armpit warm in the winter it’s that thin it would be pointless wearing. The 9 coasters spell out “Pink Floyd” and have various Storm Thorgerson pictures on the other side of them. I know this by looking at the unboxing of the package on the tube and even though I have not opened mine you can tell by looking at them that if you were to put any drink on these coasters they would turn to paper mache in no time because they have not even been coated with any substance to make them water-resistant.

The two black envelopes contain 4 collector’s pictures on cards and 2 smaller memorabilia cards with replicas of a stage pass, and a ticket printed on them. To be honest I quite like the collector’s cards. You also get a big card with “The Diver” picture although this is much better in one of the booklets because it has a glossy finish and on the card here it looks really dull.

The final item here in this picture is a bag of marbles, 3 in total and they are just clear glass, unlike the ones that came with the other Immersion Box Sets and are less interesting. What all that is about I don’t know unless they are there to remind us that Syd lost his marbles 😊😊😊.


The box set comes with three booklets although the grey one is more of an 8-page leaflet and contains all the linear notes and production credits. I have no idea why they could not have included this information inside one of the other booklets but I suppose once again whoever designed the box set was not thinking straight and certain things had to be added later on as they were missed out in the first place.

The other two larger booklets are perhaps the only real bit of extra quality you get besides the music media on the discs in the box. The black one is a 36-page book designed by Storm Thorgerson and includes the song lyrics along with some recording information, sleeve artwork, concert ticket and poster reprints and other pics.

The white booklet is a 24-page photo book of Pink Floyd Circa “1973 – 1975”, including photographs By Jill Furmanovsky and Hipgnosis.  Finally (pictured below) we have the other 4 discs which are stored right at the back of the box which is not really ideal when you consider that you have to remove all other contents in the box to get at them.


Overall, it is only the music media and perhaps a couple of books in this box set that has any real value and I rather think a lack of thought went into the design of the box set. There certainly is not a hundred pounds worth or more which was its original retail price when it was released and realistically a box set like this should have retailed for around half that price and I feel that the £48 I paid for it is about the right price point it should have retailed for.

It also lacks a lot of informative information, especially in comparison to what you get in the Jethro Tull box sets for £30 and in all honesty this box set could never compete with the Tull ones and shoddy workmanship has gone into the making of it.

The Immersion Media In Review…

Pink Floyd’s Immersion Box Set of Wish You Were Here was released on the 4th of November 2011. The music media content in the box set is spread over 5 discs and you get 2 CD’s, 2 DVD’s and a Blu Ray. Every way I look at this particular box set and its media content it’s plain to see that it was aimed to rip off surround FREAKS! such as myself. Simply because the only bonus content that had not been previously released before (besides the 5.1 mix of the original album) can be found on the second CD (only) and that was released at the same time in a 2 CD package known as the Experience Edition for around 20 bucks. So let’s now take a look at the media content.

CD’s 1 & 2.
The first disc contains a 2011 remaster of the original album which was done by James Guthrie and Joel Plante in the same year at Das Boot recording studios in California, America. As with any remaster they can be either here or there regarding any improvement over the original recording and this is perhaps an album that has been re-issued and remastered to the hilt over the years. However, I have no complaints with this recording and it does sound excellent to my ears.

The second disc is perhaps another reason to get this box set although the fact it was reissued as 2 CD package entitled “The Experience Edition” it would certainly be cheaper to get that and I honestly do recommend it as well because this is really good bonus content that I myself had never heard before. I would also say that the Experience Edition comes in a damn site better package too as you can see by the picture below.


The disc comes with 6 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 66 minutes, 49 seconds and it’s the live material contained on the first 3 tracks that I personally think are the real highlights here and the reason to get this edition. Some of the tracks have odd titles, though I am sure any Floyd fan would recognise them when they hear them. The opening 3 live tracks are all taken from the bands performance at the Empire Pool Wembley, London back in November 1974 which was before the album was released.

You get treated to a 20-minute early version of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and it’s perhaps not that unusual for any band to play new material live before it’s released. However, the next couple of tracks “Raving And Drooling” and “You’ve Got To Be Crazy” are very early demos of “Dogs” and “Sheep” which eventually wound up on their 1977 album Animals and these were aired well early. No doubt various bootlegs of these recordings have surfaced over the years but these recordings are quality and are really excellent bonus material to have. Both Andy Jackson and Damon Iddins were at the helm of the new mixes here and have done a CRACKING! job I will say.

The next track “Wine Glasses” is the shortest track out of the 6 and is one of the many pieces that came from The ‘Household Objects’ Project which began back in 1969 I believe. This piece was recorded at Abbey Road Studios back in 1973 and engineered by Alan Parsons and sounds more like Richard Wright playing the opening of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” on his keyboards than actual wine glasses. The final couple of tracks were also recorded at Abbey Road back in 1975 and were engineered by Brian Humphries. You get an alternative version of “Have A Cigar” with Waters singing it and a version of “Wish You Were Here” featuring Stéphane Grappelli on violin. Overall, the second disc is a very pleasing surprise and a GREAT! addition to have.

DVD’s 1 & 2.

The first of the DVD’s is audio-only and it contains the 5.1 surround and stereo mixes of the album Wish You Were Here newly mixed by James Guthrie. You have the choice of 448kbps and 640kbps and also the choice of Dolby Digital and DTS 48KHz/24 bit for the surround mix and an LPCM stereo mix. It also includes the original Quadrophonic mix which was created by Brian Humphries and assisted by Peter James and is credited as being mastered by Peter Mew at Abbey Road Studios. It only contains the album tracks and no other bonus content.

The second DVD contains the visual bonus content to which is very short. You get the Concert Screen Films from 1975, which can be viewed while playing back in either surround sound or stereo and this section contains two snippets of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” one that is 4 minutes, 56 seconds and the other runs for 7 minutes, 47 seconds. You also get the visuals put to “Welcome To The Machine” which I personally think is the best of the bunch here. Finally, it includes the 6-minute short film by Storm Thorgerson that was done back in the year 2000 which is in stereo only.

Blu Ray.

The Blu Ray contains the same content that is on the two DVD’s only it’s got more of a High Resolution as it’s uncompressed and comes with 96KHz/24-bit audio instead of 48KHz/24-bit. The other bonus content of the Concert Screen Films and short film are the same format as on the DVD.

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Blu Ray Main Menu

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DVD Main Menu

As you can see from the pictures above both the Blu Ray and DVD Menus are different with their presentation and both are animated and you get to see “The Claw” open up and join hands together with an audio clip of “Shine On” playing in the background. Even though the main menu screen does look smaller on the blu ray it is far more superior in detail and has more of a pristine HD quality look about it.

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The other advantage the blu ray gives you is with how the menus function and by clicking on either “Audio” or “Visual” it simply displays the other options without having to load up to another screen as you can see in the pictures above. This Flash-like menu system has hardly any delay and is much quicker to navigate your way around.

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The DVD’s navigation (as seen in the couple of pictures above) is slower and there is more delay as it loads from one screen to the other. Though it’s not a snail and both the blu ray and DVD menus have been very well designed and also animated to good effect.

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The couple of pictures above shows you how all the menu options on the Blu Ray are accessible on one single screen without having to load to another screen as with the DVD. The other advantage the Blu Ray has is everything is on one disc instead of two that you have with the DVD.

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Both the Blu-Ray and DVD also come with a surround setup. Although you can just as easily do that on your AV Reciever and I myself prefer to do so and often find the ones put onto discs are there to make it look like you got another added bonus.

One of the most unusual aspects of playing the album is that there are no pictures for you to look at and you are merely presented with a blank screen. Pink Floyd is a band that is generally noted for putting visuals to their music and it would have been nice to have some of Storm’s artwork to run along with the music. Although perhaps they saw it as a distraction and wanted the listener to focus more on the music. However, I have no complaints here because I do think they have gone to town with the music and how they have presented it for surround FREAKS! in particular. So, let’s now take a look at the surround mixes.

The Surround Mixes.

One of the things I love about the mixes in this box set is that it offers you two GREAT! alternative ways to listen to the album as it not only comes with a 5.1 surround mix but also the original Quad mix. That is something the SACD does not give you and where this edition really is the winner of the two. Both James Guthrie‘s 5.1 mix and Brian Humphries original Quad mix gives you a superb immersive experience and when it comes to how both mixes project across the room they really do offer you alternative ways of hearing the album.

I cannot fault any of them and they both give you the ultimate album experience in my book over the stereo mix. I also could not pick a winner out of the two and it really does give you two magical ways of listening to the album.

The Album In Review…

Pink Floyd’s 9th studio album Wish You Were Here was originally released on the 12th of September 1975. The album itself contains 5 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 44 minutes, 11 seconds and was received with mixed reviews upon its release although mostly positive and it had no problem reaching Number 1 in both the UK and US album charts. It’s sold well over 20 million copies over the years and over 6 million copies in the US alone. It also reached Number 1 in many other countries and had Platinum and Gold sales worldwide. The album is also noted to be both Richard Wright’s and David Gilmour’s favourite Floyd album.

I have to admit that coming off the back of the bands most iconic album The Dark Side of the Moon (which is my personal favourite Floyd album) the band did extremely well to follow it up and no doubt they had found their feet in the new direction they were going in by now.

Although egos between the band members were starting to crack in particular with one of its band members who thought he was in the PINK! rather than the red more so than the others so to speak. Things, however, had not quite reached a boiling point at this stage and they were not quite at loggerheads with each other, but after the tour of their previous album they were somewhat drained of ideas. Although you would not have thought so considering they played 3 new songs during that tour.

The band once again assembled in Abbey Road to record the album and spent a good 6 months from January to July 1975 working on new material for the album, the pressure had very much got to them of how they could maintain the consistency of their previous album and follow it up.

Alan Parsons was no longer interested in working with them due to him working on his own solo career and engineer Brian Humphries who they worked with earlier on the soundtrack album More was roped into to work with them.

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EMI’s Abbey Road set-up was not that familiar to Humphries and on one occasion he inadvertently spoiled the backing tracks for “Shine On” which both Waters and Mason had spent hours perfecting. The entire piece had to be recorded again. In 2014 Humphries also pointed out in an interview how the band were struggling to come up with ideas and how they spent much of their time playing darts, shooting with an air rifle, also playing word games and sitting around getting drunk.

The band spent four days each week from 2:30 pm until very late in the evening working on the album. Six months was a long time to spend making the album but luckily for them eventually everything started to fall in place despite the expense and all the stress that came with it.

It was at this time that Waters had taken more or less the driving seat and that the success of their previous album had more or less turned the name of the band into a brand and a product for the music industry. The band were that well off they could have even broken up at this point of their career. They were not completely at loggerheads with one another like I mentioned but the cracks had started to seep in and appear. Things could only get worse from this point onwards and not better.

As with their previous album the band used many effects some from their “Household Objects Project” which the band set up back in 1969. For those not familiar with the project I suppose in a way it’s a bit like the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop which was used to create sound effects by the use of many different objects. Floyd was always an experimental band and it was not unusual for them to use other sounds in their music even the sound of sausages and bacon frying in a pan as in “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” from their 1970 album Atom Heart Mother.

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Another tool used for making sound effects that were heavily used on their previous album is the EMS Synthi AKS and once again Waters, Gilmour and Wright made good use of it for this album especially on “Welcome To The Machine“. It’s very similar to the VCS-3 and was widely used in art-rock by many bands since 1971/2. Quite often when the band were short of ideas they would turn to this particular synth and household objects to get their creative juices flowing.

Musicians & Credits…


All Tracks Written & Produced by Pink Floyd. All Lyrics by Roger Waters. Recorded between January – July 1975 at Abbey Road Studios London, England. Engineered by Brian Humphries. Assistant Engineer Peter James. Quadrophonic Mix by Brian Humphries. 5.1 Mix by James Guthrie. Artwork & Design by Storm Thorgerson, Jerry Sweet, Lee Baker, Laura Truman and Peter Curzon at Storm Studios.

David Gilmour: Vocals – Guitars – Pedal Steel Guitar – EMS Synthi AKS – Additional Bass – Glass Harmonica – Tape Effects.
Roger Waters: Vocals – Bass Guitar – EMS Synthi AKS – Additional Guitar – Glass Harmonica – Tape Effects.
Richard Wright: Hammond organ – ARP String Ensemble – Minimoog – Steinway Piano – EMS VCS 3 – Hohner Clavinet D6 – Wurlitzer –  EP 200 Electric Piano – Rhodes Piano – Glass Harmonica – Backing Vocals.
Nick Mason: Drums – Percussion – Tympani – Cymballs – Tape Effects.

Additional Musicians.
Dick Parry: Tenor & Baritone Saxophones (Shine On You Crazy Diamond).
Roy Harper: Lead Vocals (Have A Cigar).
Vanetta Fields & Carlena Williams: Backing Vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Just like their previous album Wish You Were Here is their second album to also run along a conceptual theme written by Roger Waters and is based around the concept of absence and that is perhaps why the marbles in this box set are clear. The absence of Syd Barrett was certainly being remembered within some of the lines that were written for the albums mammoth epic opening and closing track and along with its other conceptional ideas that were penned in the words by Waters, it also has a stab at the music business in particular.

Each track is seamlessly merged to run along with one another as is the case with most concept albums though it is far from a concept story album as such nevertheless it flows along very well with its track placement. So let’s now take a look at how the album pans out as I go through the individual tracks.

Track 1. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V).

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Originally “Shine On” was one long track just like the band played it live at the Wembley Empire Pool in 1974 and it was Waters idea to split it up for the studio album which Gilmour was not happy with as he thought it would be better for it to take up the one side of the album just as they had previously done with “Echoes” from their 1971 album Meddle. However, Gilmour was outvoted three to one and in all honesty, I think Waters had the right idea because has a 20-minute piece it can sound a bit too much of the same thing for my ears, although Dick Parry’s sax does help to break up some of its monogamous zones and it is perhaps more of an instrumental piece in relation to the little number of words that are contained in the actual song.

It’s a song that is built up very slowly and is mainly keyboard orientated although Gilmour’s notation and lines on his guitar are what really make it shine. Floyd has always had a relaxed and chilled-out style to their music and the pace this song eventually gets to roll along and could be likened to the same relaxed pace that “Us and Them” runs along from their previous album. Just like that song, it’s easy to see how Parry’s work on the sax fit in here too and he does an exceptional job on the piece.

Waters wrote the words in the way of a tribute to Syd Barrett in particular the lines “Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun” and “You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon“. However, it was not entirely written about Syd and he was a symbol for all the extremes of absence. It was also by sheer coincidence that Barrett walked into the studio as the band were recording the song which I am sure most people are aware of.

The intro also uses the wine glasses (that can be heard on the second CD that comes with the box set) and the reason I said it sounded like Wright’s keyboards is that the sound of the wine glasses was multi-tracked into chords. They are nowhere as evident in the recording as what Gilmour did at his Live At Pompeii concert where he hired a guy playing wine glasses in the street to play on the intro of the song. These remnants were lifted from their incomplete studio album Household Objects.

The song is credited to Gilmour, Wright and Waters and no doubt is a Floyd classic. Waters also takes on the lead vocals and considering he has more of a talking voice he does sound like he’s singing on this one, though no doubt Gilmour’s voice and the backing singers Vanetta Fields & Carlena Williams give it more of a singing presence and help lift it up.

Track 2. Welcome To The Machine.


Like I mentioned earlier this track features extensive use of the EMS Synthi AKS and it has been put to very good use the so-called machine is the record company pushing you for your next record and another hit. The song was also used for the B-Side of their next hit single that follows it and was penned by Waters who he himself described in his own words “as a symbol of musical discovery and progress betrayed by a music industry more interested in greed and success”. Gilmour takes on the lead vocals and as always does a GRAND! job on it.

Track 3. Have A Cigar.

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Another of the songs that Waters penned which also has a stab at the music industry and along with the previous track are very much the rock songs of the album. It was also released as a single and reached number 1 in the UK charts. It’s a song that features neither Gilmour nor Waters on lead vocals and they roped in Roy Harper who had been previously on tour with Pink Floyd and was the support act for many of their shows. For some reason even though Waters knew he could not sing it at the time, Gilmour quite blankly refused to sing it although I personally think he could have sung it much better than Waters simply because he is no doubt the best vocalist in the band and I even think Wright is a better singer than Waters myself. However, Harper did a CRACKING! job with it.

Track 4. Wish You Were Here.

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The classic ballad song on the album to which the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony can be heard amongst the radio airwaves in the intro which was recorded from Gilmour’s car radio at the time. At the time they were in the studio both violinists Stéphane Grappelli and Yehudi Menuhin were performing in another studio at Abbey Road and were invited to record a piece for the new album. Grappelli obliged whilst Menuhin stood by and watched. The recording of it is on the bonus disc and even though it was never used for the album they paid Grappelli £300 for the session. I must admit I prefer it without the violin myself and it is, without doubt, a Floyd classic and happens to be Gilmour’s favourite Floyd song.

Track 5. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX).

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The album ends off very well as it runs into the final parts of “Shine On” to which I am pretty sure that the very final part was credited in the writing to Wright alone which is perhaps hardly surprising considering most of the song could have easily of been written on the keyboard. Though I will say I quite like how the band make a longer piece such as this interesting and even though there are transitions they are very subtle and smoothly done in the way of doing a variation of an existing theme and keeping it driving along with the other elements of instrumentation that comes into play. It finishes off the album in fine style.

Summary & Conclusion…

The Wish You Were Immersion Box Set by Pink Floyd is perhaps really only any value for those like myself who are Surround FREAKS! It’s far from a very well-presented box set and a lack of thought has been put into making it. It offers very little for its original price point even though it seems like you are getting a lot for your money. It’s perhaps worth the £48 I paid for it but not really anymore. Please also note that my price point rating score is based on the retail price of the box set and not its reduced price. The French words Ceci n’est pas une boite on the front cover of the box translates as ‘This is not a box’. I rather think that it should have said ‘This is not a good box’ 😊😊😊.

As with most of the bands box sets, they can be elaborately priced some are well over £300. It’s also worth noting that this box set is still widely available to purchase after a decade and as come down to less than half its price, it was obviously not a limited box set unless people are simply not buying it. It’s certainly not hard to obtain and it is even slightly cheaper on Amazon today than what I paid for it last year.

Pink Floyd’s 9th studio album Wish You Were Here is as solid as they come and because every track is so good it’s really impossible for me to choose a favourite track. Even my personal highlights of the album would be to stick the whole album on and play it all. The extra bonus material is also very good and both the 5.1 and Quad Mixes are superb and breathe new life back into the album. The fact that the Immersion box gives you a 5.1 and Quad mix is tempting me to buy The Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion box set for quad mix in particular.

There is no doubt that these Immersion box sets will give surround FREAKS! like myself, an excellent “Immersive” experience and this album is really brought back to life not only with its relatively new 5.1 mix but also with the original Quad mix done all those years back.

Although you will not get the “Immersive” experience with The Wall Immersion box set it does not come with any multichannel recordings at all and that is why I personally would not bother buying it. Though I have recently heard that their 1977 album Animals has finally been given at least the 5.1 treatment and will be repackaged differently.

It’s scheduled to be released at some point in 2021 and unfortunately, it’s one of those box sets where you have to buy the same thing 4 times over just to get your hands on the Blu Ray that comes with the 5.1 mix. No doubt this will retail at around the £80 – £100 mark when in reality it should cost no more than £50. It looks like the same sort of thing they did with Chris Squire’s 2017 box set of Fish Out Of Water I purchased and hopefully, at some later point they will see the sense to release a single Blu Ray Edition like they did with the Squire album. Though knowing this band its hardly likely has they do like you to sell a kidney now and then 😊😊😊.

Shines On In Surround…

The 2 CD tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1.
01. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V). 13:32.
02. Welcome To The Machine. 7:31.
03. Have A Cigar. 5:07.
04. Wish You Were Here. 5:34.
05. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX). 12:29.

CD 2.
01. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1 – 6) [Live]. 20:22.
02. Raving And Drooling [Live]. 12:35.
03. You’ve Got To Be Crazy [Live]. 18:12.
04. Wine Glasses. 2:16.
05. Have A Cigar [Alternative Version]. 7:11.
06. Wish You Were Here (With Stéphane Grappelli). 6:13.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 5/10.
Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 5/10.
Lee’s Stereo 5.1 & Quad Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #176

The Studio Albums 1978 – 1991 – Dire Straits



With all the new purchases I made back in September and October of last year, it took me quite a while to get the chance to review a couple of the box sets, I also purchased during those months. This particular Clamshell Box Set I only really brought for two reasons. The first being that it was very cheap and secondly because I had not updated my collection since I brought them when they were originally released.

Dire Straits are a band I have always loved ever since I heard them when they came out back in the late 70’s and hit the BIG TIME! with their first single release of “Sultans Of Swing” back in 1978. They are a GREAT! band who have a very distinctive guitarist who has a technique that stands out a mile from the rest of the crowd. It is without doubt Mark Knopfler’s distinctive guitar sound, style and Midas touch that has attracted the attention of millions to flock towards the bands music.

Another good thing about buying a box set like this is that it gives me the chance to review their albums which is something I don’t get time to do with all the new releases coming out. It would take me an eternity to review all the albums in my record collection which is why I only stick to reviewing the newer purchases I have made. It will also give me the chance to take a brief look back at the bands history. But before I do so, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

Packaging & Artwork…


The Clamshell box set looks quite neat with its design and the light blue stripe with the half-circle in the middle down the right-hand side of the box gives you the impression that you slide the box open to reveal its contents. Though has you can see in the picture below it opens like most Clamshell box sets and the good thing about this one is that it’s hinged.


The CD’s are housed in Mini-Vinyl-Replica cardboard sleeves each containing a double folded poster with lyrics/credits. They do more or less replicate the original vinyl albums because if I remember rightly none of the original vinyl albums came in gatefold sleeves. The only one I can think of that may have was their last album On Every Street and that was the only album I did have on CD only were as the others I had on both vinyl and CD.

It’s very similar to the Every Move You Make (The Studio Recordings) Clamshell box set by The Police I reviewed last year, only in that box set they did use cardboard gatefold covers even though the original vinyl albums were only put out in a single sleeve. In terms of quality, the Police box set is better made especially regarding how the artwork of the album covers had a better print quality and look to them.

However, at its well low price point, I have no complaints here and I prefer the cardboard sleeves in relation to the plastic jewel cases that my other CD’s came in. Stored in a box like this they are fine and the only time single sleeves like this are not appropriate is if CD’s were sold in sleeves like this simply because they are too thin to be stored with your other CD’s on a shelf and it would be hard to find them. They may have cut down on the quality of how the artwork looks but they certainly have not cut down on the quality of these recordings and they are EXCELLENT!

Oddly enough I even paid the same price of £16.66 for this box set as the Police box set which works out about the same price I paid for all 5 original vinyl albums when they were originally released. The box set is still available to purchase on Amazon UK for £16.99 which is excellent value for the buck.

Dire Straits In Brief History…


Dire Straits hit the scene around the same time as The Police and despite the fact that Punk Rock had exploded and raised its ugly head both bands managed to cut through all the nonsense and gained international success. The band were made up of two brothers Mark & David Knopfler from Newcastle in the northeast of England, and a couple of friends John Illsley and Pick Withers from Leicester in the east midlands region of England.

The bands drummer Withers, was the only one that came with any real experience in the music business having spent 10 years as a session player playing for the likes of Dave Edmunds, Gerry Rafferty, Magna Carta and others through the 70’s. He was also part of the group Spring, which recorded an album for RCA in 1971. At the time of the band’s formation, Mark was working as a teacher at art college, Illsley was studying at Goldsmiths’ College, and David was a social worker.

Both Mark Knopfler and Pick Withers played in a pub rock band known as Brewers Droop at different points around 1973 and at the time the band got together in 1975 they were initially known as the Café Racers. The name “Dire Straits” was given to them by Simon Cowe, of Lindisfarne back in 1977 who was Withers flatmate at the time and the name fitted in with the bands financial situation as Mark, in particular, was struggling to make ends meet as he was going through a divorce from his wife.

However, in the same year of 1977, they managed to record and put together a five-song demo tape that included “Sultans of Swing“, “Water of Love” and “Down to the Waterline” and took the demo tape to MCA in Soho only to be turned down. Mark used to listen to Honky Tonk on BBC Radio London on Sunday mornings and the presenter of the show Charlie Gillett seemed like a nice enough guy so he sent him the demo tape and asked him for some advice. What Gillett heard very much appealed to him and he played “Sultans of Swing” quite often on his show. A couple of months later the band signed a record contract with Vertigo Records a division of Phonogram and the rest was history.

The band drew its sound from various influences including country, blues, rock, folk and jazz and went on to have a stream of hit singles and blockbuster selling albums such as the bands 5th studio album Brothers In Arms. They also won many prestigious awards and won four Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards and won Best British Group twice in 1983/86 and also picked up a couple of MTV Video Awards and various other awards throughout their active career. Like most bands there were also a few line-up changes along the way and I will delve a bit more into the bands history as I take you through all six of their studio albums.

The Albums In Review…

The CD Edition of The Studio Albums 1978 – 1991 by Dire Straits was released on the 9th of October 2020 which was near enough 7 years later than the Vinyl Edition of the box set that was released back in November 2013. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon UK on the 14th August 2020 and it arrived on the day of its release. This particular box set contains all six studio albums that the band had produced and put out over the 14-year career before the band dissolved at the end of their final world tour in 1992. It does not feature any bonus tracks or live recordings and neither does it come with new remasters. All six albums contain the remasters from 1996 when the whole catalogue was remastered and are believed to be the best recordings.

Because there is a lot to get through I am going to try and keep this review as brief as I can and merely point out the highlights rather than go through all the individual tracks on the album in more detail. I shall also go through all six albums in the chronological order that the albums were released.

Dire-Straits-albumDire Straits

The bands self-titled debut album was released on the 7th of October 1978. The album contained 9 tracks and has an overall playing time of 41 minutes, 34 minutes. The album was an international success owing to the success of the single release of “Sultans Of Swing” which had been released earlier in May of the same year and catapulted the sales of the album. The album went 2 times Platinum in many countries selling over 2 million copies in the US. It also went 4 times Platinum in Canada and Gold in many other countries.

Much of the material that had appeared on the bands first three studio albums had already been written by Mark Knopfler prior to the band getting a recording contract with Vertigo Records in the previous year. It’s also worth noting that the single release of “Sultans Of Swing” was in fact recorded as a demo in a different studio and was recorded at Pathway Studios, North London, in July 1977. It was this demo that got them the recording contract and was also used for the single release in the following year.

In February 1978 the band went into Basing Street Studios in London to record the material that would feature on their self-titled debut album. They even re-recorded some of the earlier demos that they recorded at Pathway Studios including “Sultans Of Swing” and finished off the recording process by March of the same year. The original release of the album also contained a slightly shorter version of the song omitting the last few seconds of the guitar solo. The full-length version was included in the remastered edition of the album.

The bands first concert tour kicked off on the 9th of June 1978 at the Lafayette Club in Wolverhampton, England. They played a series of 55 concerts across Europe with the first leg of the tour promoting the single release of “Sultans Of Swing” which was officially released in April of the same year. The second leg of the tour promoted their debut album and they played further afield than the UK playing in Belgium, France, The Netherlands and Germany ending it off back in the UK at the College of Education in Hitchin on the 18th of November 1978. At this stage of their career, the band was getting their foot in the door so to speak and typically performed in small halls where they met journalists and performed on television programs.

The bands debut album is quite a solid one with the material that was written for it. Although out of its 9 tracks it’s pretty much evident that “Sultans Of Swing” is the standout track on the album and perhaps the only one that would have been suitable enough for a single release. “Water of Love” was also released as a single in a few other countries with “Down to the Waterline” used for the B-Side. Though it did not have much success but did manage to scrape into the Dutch top 30 and peaked at 28.

Unlike The Police who were more about writing chart-topping hit singles, Dire Straits were certainly more of an albums band in the way the material was written. I would also say that the biggest majority of their albums do feel like an album in relation to the albums the Police made and that is where they rock my boat more than that band. As a songwriter, I can assure you that Mark Knopfler has just as much as a good head on his shoulders as Sting. Both bands enjoyed major success and you could even say that they disbanded for the same reasons.

Speaking of single releases the B-Side of “Sultans Of Swing” was one of the bands earlier demos entitled “Eastbound Train” which was only ever recorded live and has never been released on any of their albums including compilation albums. The band also used to play it as an encore at most of their concerts between 1977 – 1979 and the recording that was used for the B-Side of the single came from them playing at the Hope & Anchor pub in London sometime in December 1977.

1280px-Hope_&_Anchor_pub_Upper_Street,_Islington_FotorHope & Anchor

The Hope & Anchor originally opened its doors in 1880 and by the mid 70’s it was one of the first pubs to embrace the emergent, but brief, phenomenon of pub rock, it also went on to become a leading venue in the punk rock movement. The manager of the pub Dave Robinson went on to form Stiff Records with Jake Riviera and The Stranglers recorded a live album at the pub, and the pub was also featured in the 1980 film, Breaking Glass. Mark often wrote about the things around him and the lyrics to their hit single were inspired by a performance of a jazz band playing in the corner of an almost empty pub in Deptford, South London.

There was also a rumour spread around by American folk singer Bill Wilson who claimed to have written most of the lyrics to the hit song and he often told the story during his live performance of the song of how he met Mark in America and wrote the words on a paper napkin. He did not get a songwriting credit on the release but claimed to have received some monetary compensation for his input.

Some reviewers claimed that his story was false and that Mark had never been to America until 1979. Although strictly speaking that is not true either because he did go to America in 1976 having had a free greyhound ticket given him to travel around the country whilst he was working as a journalist. It was also that visit to the country that gave him the inspiration to quit his job when he got back home and go into music full time. Only Mark himself could clarify if Wilson’s claims were true and I personally believe that Wilson was spinning a right yarn and his claims were false.

The album was produced by Muff Winwood the older brother of Steve Winwood who was both former members of the Spencer Davis Group in the 60’s and the recording engineer onboard was Rhett Davies. Mark always had a keen interest in sound and later went on to produce and co-produce many albums himself. The album’s artwork was a commissioned painting done by Chuck Loyola who was part of a creative group known as Hothouse and were based in London’s west end. He did the paintings for The Lurkers and The Boomtown Rats around the same time and various other artists.

Many of the songs on the album reflected Mark’s experiences in Newcastle, Leeds, and London. The opening song on the album “Down To The Waterline” was inspired by his teenage memories of him walking his girlfriend along the river Tyne in Newcastle late at night, the ship’s foghorn on the intro depicts the scene. It’s a song that certainly gets into the swing of things with the rhythm from Dave’s guitar whilst Mark’s fingerpicking licks very much provide the tightness of it all along with the bass and drums. It really is a GREAT! song and gets the album off to a very cool start.

The next couple of songs “Water Of Love” and “Setting Me Up” have a J.J. Cale feel about them and the first of them runs along the lines of country blues and features Mark on dobro guitar and lyrically it’s most likely inspired from the break up of his marriage. The latter of them is more upbeat and in the style of country rockabilly and is a song that was soon picked up and covered by both Eric Clapton and Albert Lee. They have even done the song together and it was featured on Clapton’s double live album Just One Night in 1980. A decade later it was picked up by Highway 101 who released it as a single and it hit number 7 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in April 1989.

Next up we have one of the two punchy numbers on the album “Six Blade Knife” which features John’s dominant bassline driving it along and some cool licks from Mark’s guitar. This is perhaps another song where the lyrics pertain to the break-up of his marriage. The lyrical content behind “Southbound Again” might also appear to be along the same subject matter however, these are very much pertaining to the lifestyle of being away from home all the time with the busy schedule of being on the road with the band. This is another of the upbeat tracks on the album that has a bit of a swing to it.

Sultans of Swing” I have perhaps already said enough about and it is the standout track on the album and my personal favourite along with everyone else I would expect. It’s very much upbeat with its swing and a song that uses an Andalusian cadence (diatonic phrygian tetrachord) which is a term adopted from flamenco music for the chord progression. Although for me personally the second of the punchy numbers on the album “In The Gallery” is another of the albums standout tracks and this was written in a way of a tribute to the Leeds sculptor and artist Harry Phillips who was the father of the musician Steve Phillips who in 1986 formed the band The Notting Hillbillies with Mark Knopfler.

Phillips and Knopfler go back a long way and Mark’s first encounter with Steve came when he was working in Leeds as a junior reporter working for the Yorkshire Evening Post. Mark had called Steve up to interview him and soon became good friends and started playing together and called themselves The Duolian String Pickers. They played in different pubs until Mark left Leeds in 1973 and moved to London to become part of Brewers Droop. The final couple of the tracks on the album “Wild West End” and “Lions” were written by Mark in those early days in the capital city. The first of them pertains to walking around the city eyeing up the girls and it’s quite a classic song that also has an uncredited piano player on it. The latter of the two was inspired by the Sculptured Lions that were erected in 1868 and stand in Trafalgar Square.

Overall, the bands self-titled debut album is quite a solid and very well produced album and one that easily still stands its test of time today and has never really outdated. It is very much one of my personal favourite Dire Straits albums and is not so commercial in relation to some of the others that followed. The written material makes it more like an album rather than a string of hits that can easily wear off hearing them all the time which makes it more pleasurable to listen to as a whole without having to skip a track. My personal highlights are as follows: “Down To The Waterline”. “Water Of Love“. “Sultans of Swing“. “In The Gallery” and “Wild West End”.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Muff Winwood. All songs were written by Mark Knopfler. Recorded between the 13th of February to the 5th of June 1978 at Basing Street Studios London, England. Recording Engineer Rhett Davies. Remastering by Bob Ludwig. Art Direction by Alan Schmidt. Cover Painting by Chuck Loyola. Photography by Paddy Eckersley.

Mark Knopfler: Vocals – Lead & Rhythm Guitars.
David Knopfler: Rhythm Guitars – Backing Vocals.
John Ilsley: Bass Guitar – Backing Vocals.
Pick Withers: Drums.

The album tracklisting is as follows: 1. Down To The Waterline. 3:59. 2. Water of Love. 3:25. 3. Setting Me Up. 3:18. 4. Six Blade Knife. 4:12. 5. Southbound Again. 3:00. 6. Sultans Of Swing. 5:48. 7. In The Gallery. 6:16. 8. Wild West End. 4:41. 9. Lions. 5:02.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.


Like I mentioned Dire Straits were more of an albums band and this is perhaps an album that escaped a lot of people upon its release though I would say it’s very much on par and equal strength to the bands debut album. It may not have produced a hit single which is most likely why it escaped most people’s radar apart from in Germany where the album shot straight to number #1 whilst their debut album was still at number #3 upon its release. It was also the first time an album had entered the German charts and gone straight to the top. Like many of the bands their first few albums took longer to circulate but later very much went Gold and Platinum with the number of record sales. This is another of their albums that speaks highly to me and is amongst my three personal favourite albums of the band.

The bands second album Communiqué was released on the 15th of June 1979 and like their debut album it contained 9 tracks and came with an overall playing time of 42 minutes, 33 seconds. You could say that with the success of the hit single from their debut album that the band were no longer in “Dire Straits” and unlike the £12,500 it cost to make their debut album no expense was spared as they jetted off to the Bahamas to record their second album. The band were very much in demand and on their first tour of North America were they played 51 sell-out concerts over a period of 38 days. This did have an effect and caused a strain on the bands rhythm guitarist David Knopfler who eventually decided to leave.

The album was produced by Barry Beckett and Jerry Wexler who were both veteran producers from Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and the band spent a couple of weeks in the final couple of months of 1978 recording the album at Compass Studios in Nassau, Bahamas. The studio was founded and set up by Chris Blackwell the owner of Island Records back in 1977 and over a decade it at churned out many albums from many famous artists including ACDC, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Iron Maiden, Madness, Grace Jones, Talking Heads, Brian Eno and many more.

Compass CollageCompass Studios

As time went on Blackwell’s other business interests steadily increased and spent less time looking after the studio. It was after the death of the manager and producer Alex Sadkin in 1987 that the studio started to decline. Although in 1992 Blackwell took action to try and save the studio by hiring Terry and Sherrie Manning who upon their arrival began restoring the two large studios, tearing them apart and completely rewiring them with modern recording equipment. The studio was eventually closed in 2010 due to the amount of increasing crime in the area.

There is no doubt that Mark Knopfler has his own distinctive guitar style that gave Dire Straits its own distinguishable uniqueness and the set of songs he wrote for the bands second album if anything is perhaps less influenced. Like most songwriters, he tends to write about things he sees along his travels and in some places he might even visualize a different way of seeing things and putting them into another perspective so to speak. The opening song on the album “Once Upon A Time In The West” is such an example and you could say is a metaphor for the way he compares London’s west end with the wild west and it reflects upon the dangers of living in both.

You could say there is a sense of danger to many of the songs on the album and the next couple of songs are prime examples. “News” is a song that perhaps reflects back to his days as a journalist but not necessarily inspired by any of those stories. The words in the song refer to the dangers of drink driving and pertain to a motorcyclist meeting his fate. “Where Do You Think You’re Going” reflects on the dangers in a love affair where some men can be control freaks sort of thing. The albums title track “Communiqué” is perhaps more inspired from his days as a journalist and you could say is a journalist’s song with the amount of expressions and clichés that are contained in the songs lyrics.

There does tend to be a downbeat to all the songs on the first half of the album yet for my ears they sound “LUSH” and contain the better songs on the album, not that there is a bad song here mind. “Lady Writer” is perhaps the most uplifting and upbeat song on the album and perhaps more along the same lines of “Sultans Of Swing” with its uptempo and the way it swings along. The song was inspired by watching a lady writer on the TV hence its title and was also the only single release from the album with “Where Do You Think You’re Going” used for the B-Side. Unfortunately, the single release did not catch on and peaked just outside the top 50 here in the UK.

Angel Of Mercy” is another of the songs that have a good upbeat to it and is perhaps the rocker of the album and you do get the sense that the second side of the album is more driven along. “Portobello Belle” simmers the album down and is a fine folk song and lyrically follows similar lines to “Wild West End” and “Lions” from their debut album. “Single-Handed Sailor” brings the tempo back up and this is a song that was inspired by Sir Francis Chichester whose greatest achievement was to sail single-handedly around the world from West to East. The album then sinks back to its downbeat and ends off quite soothingly with “Follow Me Home” to which the lyrics are inspired by an incident he had in another country perhaps somewhere like Spain and it winds up the album very well.

The bands second album contains a very consistent set of songs and like its predecessor is quite a solid album. It’s perhaps one of those albums that got least mentioned when people talk about the band but the written material is very strong and well-fitting to the bands formidable style. My personal highlights are as follows: “Once Upon A Time In The West“. “News“. “Where Do You Think You’re Going“. “Communiqué” and “Lady Writer“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Barry Beckett & Jerry Wexler. All songs were written by Mark Knopfler. Recorded between the 28th of November to the 12th of December 1978 at Compass Studios Nassau, Bahamas. Mixed January 1979 at Muscle Shoals Sound, Sheffield, Alabama. Sound effects provided by Clack Inc. Sound Studios, New York. Recording Engineer Jack Nuber. Mixing Engineer Gregg Hamm. Mastered by Bobby Hata. Mastering Supervisor Paul Wexler. Remastering by Bob Ludwig. Cover Design by Hothouse. Art Direction by Alan Schmidt. Illustrations by Geoff Halpin.

Mark Knopfler: Vocals – Lead & Rhythm Guitars.
David Knopfler: Rhythm Guitars – Backing Vocals.
John Ilsley: Bass Guitar – Backing Vocals.
Pick Withers: Drums.

Additional Musicians.
Barry Beckett – Keyboards.

The album tracklisting is as follows: 1. Once Upon A Time In The West. 5:24. 2. News. 4:13. 3. Where Do You Think You’re Going-. 3:49. 4. Communiqué. 5:48. 5. Lady Writer. 3:44. 6. Angel Of Mercy. 4:34. 7. Portobello Belle. 4:29. 8. Single-Handed Sailor. 4:42. 9. Follow Me Home. 5:50.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Sleeve_of_Making_Movies.svgMaking Movies

The bands third album Making Movies is my least favourite of all Dire Straits albums though it was perhaps more popular with many because it churned out a hit single that was to put the band back on the map so to speak. Though personally, I don’t think this album is a patch on its two predecessors. I put a lot of it down to the production and how some songs, in particular, are not that suited to the bands formidable style. Although I would not say that the album had a bad production but perhaps the best way I could describe it, is that it tends to be on the dry side of things which does not really allow some of the songs to breathe. Though I will say that the 1996 remaster of the album does make it sound a bit better and it’s perhaps the written material that is more on the dry side of things more than anything.

Making Movies was released on the 17th of October 1980 and unlike its predecessors, it only came with 7 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 38 minutes, 27 seconds. The album did very well on its release and was spurred on by the single release of “Romeo And Juliet” that broke into the Top 10 of the UK Single Charts and peaked at number #8. The album reached number #4 in the UK Album Charts and done even better in countries like Norway and Italy where it reached the number one spot. The album also accumulated double Platinum sales in the UK and US.

The album was produced by Jimmy Iovine and Mark Knopfler and it was having heard the production done on Patti Smith’sBecause the Night” that spurred Mark to get in touch with him. Iovine had also recorded and mixed a couple of albums for Bruce Springsteen and it was him who brought in the E-Street Band keyboardist Roy Bittan to play keyboards on the album. It was during the recording sessions of the album that Mark’s brother David Knopfler decided to leave the band and pursue his own solo career. Although he does appear on video with the band playing a couple of live songs from the album these performances preceded the recording. Sid McGinnis who is uncredited on the album played the rhythm guitar on the album.

The album was recorded at the Power Station Studios between June and August 1980 the studio was originally set up and designed by the producer, recording engineer and studio designer Tony Bongiovi back in 1977. The building was originally Consolidated Edison power plant hence the reason for its name and it picked up countless awards over the years including winning the best studio six years running. It is in fact one of the most awarded and decorated recording studios in the world and churned out hundreds of gold platinum records from artists such as the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, David Bowie, Madonna, Bob Dylan, the Clash, John Lennon, Pat Metheny, Sting, Joan Jett, Chic, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Aerosmith, George Michael, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, the Kinks, Billy Joel, and many others recorded iconic albums at the studios.

Studio Collage 1980Power Station Studios

In 1996 the Power Station was renamed Avatar Studios and in 2017 the college of music Berklee in New York City renamed the facility the Power Station at Berklee by special arrangement in a nod to its founder Tony Bongiovi. Its live rooms are larger than typical recording studios thanks to their industrial origins, meaning the building is one of the last remaining complexes in the city capable of hosting a full-scale orchestra.

Perhaps one of the strangest things about the album Making Movies is that the albums self-titled song was left off the album and has never been released. They also recorded three other songs during the sessions that were also left off the album “Suicide Towers“. “Sucker for Punishment” and “Twisting by the Pool” to which the latter was released a couple of years later on an EP. This video taken from the BBC Arena documentary gives you an insight it how the song goes.

The material that Mark Knopfler wrote for the bands third album was perhaps more rock-driven and has a different feel to the country bluesy and even folky style that was associated with their first two albums and I personally do not think they have the right edge to rock in the same way general rock songs would rock out so to speak. In some ways I would even say the so-called rock songs on the album sound like they have a false pretence with how they are delivered especially its opening track “Tunnel Of Love” and the production does not really help it. I could say the same thing for “Solid Rock” too and although both of these songs sounded better played live I honestly think they lack the balls to rock out the way a rock song supposed too and they are not particularly suited to the bands formidable style.

No doubt others might consider “Tunnel Of Love” one of the bands classics and I dare say even Knopfler himself might lean more to it in that term being as it was written about where he grew up in Newcastle and holds some fond memories. “Romeo And Juliet” is by far the best-written composition on the album and would have been the song that I would have expected to have enticed most people to buy the album. Once again I do prefer it live in relation to the dryness of how the studio version presents it to you and the extended live version on the bands double live album Alchemy is much better for my ears.

You could say that “Skataway” is now the albums self-titled track being as they left it off the album and the words “making movies” are contained within the lyrics. Lyrically the song pertains to a female roller skater breezing through busy city streets listening to music on her portable radio with headphones on. A video was also made for the song and got quite a bit of airplay on MTV around the time. I don’t think that much of the lyrics but musically it perhaps does have more feel to it. “Expresso Love” is another song that potentially is meant to rock things up and personally I think it does so better than “Tunnel Of Love” and “Solid Rock“. It’s perhaps one of the bands heavier songs and lyrical content does hark back to some of the songs from their debut album that was written around the city of London such as “Wild West End” for example.

Hand In Hand” is another fine ballad of a song though perhaps does not measure up to the strength of “Romeo And Juliet” and is perhaps in some ways along the lines of “Love Over Gold” which was the self-titled track from the album that followed it. The album ends off with perhaps a bit of fun with “Les Boys” and it does seem like a bit of an oddball track that is completely different to the rest of the material on the album. The lyrical content might not go down with everyone too as it is written about the gay scene in Germany and is perhaps not “Gay Paris” 😊😊😊. However, it’s not that bad and the song does have a fine structure to it and some fine musical lines.

Personally, I don’t think the material for the album Making Movies lives up to the material that is on the bands first two albums and with the majority of the songs on the album they do try to rock things out a bit more but are perhaps lacking the edge. I was also never happy with the production of this album even though the album does sound better with the 1996 remaster it does tend to sound dry and dull and the songs benefited more from being played live. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Romeo And Juliet“. “Skataway” and “Expresso Love“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Jimmy Iovine & Mark Knopfler. All songs were written by Mark Knopfler except an extract from “The Carousel Waltz” by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II. Recorded between the 20th of June to the 25th of August 1980 at the Power Station New York, USA. Recording & Mixing Engineer Shelly Yakus. Assistant Engineers Jeff Hendrickson & Jon Mathias. Mastered by Greg Calbi. Remastering by Bob Ludwig. Cover Design & Artwork by Neil Terk. Photography by Brian Griffin.

Mark Knopfler: Vocals – Guitar.
John Ilsley: Bass Guitar – Backing Vocals.
Pick Withers: Drums – Vocals.

Additional Musicians.
Roy Bittan: – Keyboards.
Sid McGinnis: Rhythm Guitar (Uncredited).

The album tracklisting is as follows: 1. Tunnel Of Love. 8:09. 2. Romeo and Juliet. 6:02. 3. Skateaway. 6:38. 4. Expresso Love. 5:14. 5. Hand In Hand. 4:48. 6. Solid Rock. 3:26. 7. Les Boys.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 5/10.

51rURFClIML._AC_SL1200_Love Over Gold

The bands fourth studio album Love Over Gold is where I personally feel they had reached their peak and this album to me has something the others don’t have and it’s perhaps down to its atmosphere. Unlike their previous album Making Movies which I thought lacked the space and ability to breathe this album for me personally has it all and has always been my personal favourite album of the band. With the departure of David Knopfler and the fact that the band quite often used session players to play keyboards, Mark Knopfler recruited two new members to the band. Both Alan Clark (keyboards) and Hal Lindes (guitar) had played on the bands On Location Tour to promote their previous album which is how they became involved in the making of this album.

Love Over Gold was released on the 20th of September 1982 and its material was made up of 5 tracks some of which were on the lengthier side spread over an overall playing time of 41 minutes, 13 seconds. The album was produced by Mark Knopfler and was the first in a long line of collaborations between him and the recording engineer Neil Dorfsman who was noted for his work with the likes of Paul McCartney, Bruce Hornsby and Sting. The album was recorded at the same studio as their previous album at the Power Station in New York between the 8h of March to the 11th of June 1982. Although only 5 tracks made it onto the album once again Knopfler had written a few more that never made it onto it. One of the songs he wrote that was intended for the album was “Private Dancer” to which he felt needed a woman’s voice rather than his own so he handed the song to Tina Turner for her comeback album of the same title.

One of the other songs entitled “The Way It Always Starts” he wrote at the time eventually found its way onto the soundtrack album for the film Local Hero to which he scored and featured Gerry Rafferty on vocals. “Badges, Posters, Stickers and T-Shirts” found its way onto the B-Side of “Private Investigations” which was one of the two single releases from the album reaching number 2 in the UK Singles Charts. Though I am pretty sure that “Industrial Disease” was only released as a single in the US and “Solid Rock” from their previous album was used for the B-Side. The album did very well on its release reaching number 1 in most countries and spent over 200 weeks in the album charts here in the UK.

This was the last album that the bands drummer Pick Withers played on and he decided to leave the band after the sessions for the album were completed in 1982 to spend more time with his family and to pursue jazz music. He was eventually replaced by Terry Williams who joined the band for the worldwide tour to promote the album. The new rhythm guitarist Hal Lindes also left after the tour of the album though he did also work with Knopfler on his Soundtrack album Local Hero and he himself went into making music for films. Though later in 1989 he did team up with Fish and played on his debut album Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors.

Dire Straits fourth album Love Over Gold really showcases Mark Knopfler’s guitar skills and it contains some very well crafted and adventurous material. The album opens up with quite an epic fourteen-minute song entitled “Telegraph Road” to which you would have thought that the band were now breaking into progrock territory. The song is in every way a pure classic rock song that tackles the toils of growing up in an industrial civilization with the GREAT! set of meaningful lyrics that were written for it. The lyrical content we get on a couple of songs on this album are perhaps more politically minded in relation to the subject matter that Knopfler normally writes about and these are lyrics I am sure everyone can relate to and they immediately draw you in to be more attentive.

Musically, I think one of the key combinations of how the music was structured and put together is how both Mark Knopfler and Alan Clark feed off each other and it is the combination of the guitar and keyboards on this song (and for the biggest majority of songs on this album) that make it work so well. To be perfectly honest I find it hard to believe how Clark never got a writing credit simply because the keyboards play a vital role in the way the music is structured. There is no doubt that “Telegraph Road” is a Dire Straits Classic and for some, it might not just be the best song on this album but their all-time favourite song of the band. Though I will stress that when it comes to this album I would even say the next couple of songs that follow it are in every way in contention for the best song on the album.

Next up we have a song that is said to be inspired by the American-British novelist, screenwriter and detective fiction writer Raymond Chandler and “Private Investigations” is another sure-fire classic and very well written and constructed song. It really shows how versatile Knopfler can be on the guitar and this is an absolute GORGEOUS! bit of nylon playing. It’s also one of the two songs on the album that features Mike Mainieri on marimba. “Industrial Disease” is the shortest track on the album and even this is near enough 6 minutes long. It’s also by far the most uptempo track on the album and in my opinion and sure-fire classic Dire Straits song.

This is the second song on the album where the lyrical content is politically minded and the subject matter of the cold war is raised very well here. Whenever a country gets too big for its boots you can bet your life that America will intervene and as usual sticks its nose in where it’s not wanted. America is the greediest country in the world and it does not like it whenever other countries are doing better than they are and will often cause a war over it. It’s very much a warmonger country and a country that breaks all the rules. It is, without doubt, their so-called government that are the biggest terrorists in the world. Back when this song was made it was Japan that was doing well. These days it’s China and once again the Americans had to poke their noses into it all. If you want to know where COVID-19 came from. I would suspect that it would be no further than the White House in America and certainly not China and that is my personal opinion.

The albums self-titled track “Love Over Gold” is another GORGEOUS! acoustic ballad of a song that also features some fine vibes and marimba from the session player Mike Mainieri. Lyrically this could be seen as a sequel to “Romeo and Juliet” and both songs were written about Knopfler’s ex-girlfriend Holly Vincent and so too is the final track on the album “It Never Rains” that is another GREAT! song that builds its way along into a powerful crescendo to end off the album in GREAT! style.

Overall, the album Love Over Gold takes Dire Straits to another level and even though the band may have found their feet after making 3 albums things are done so masterfully here in the way of setting them on the path of a new direction and approach to their music that works 100%. I do feel that more than one hundred percent was put into the writing and the making of the album and it’s very much a solid album that is enriched with the right atmosphere that embellishes it to make it work so well. My personal highlights from the album are “Telegraph Road“. “Private Investigations” and “Industrial Disease“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Mark Knopfler. All songs were written by Mark Knopfler. Recorded between the 8h of March to the 11th of June 1982 at the Power Station New York, USA. Recording & Mixing Engineer Neil Dorfsman. Assistant Engineer Barry Bongiovi. Mastered & Remastered by Bob Ludwig. Cover Design & Artwork by Michael Rowe. Photography by Peter Cunningham & Alan Lobel.

Mark Knopfler: Vocals – Guitar.
Hal Lindes: Guitar.
John Ilsley: Bass Guitar – Backing Vocals.
Alan Clark: Piano – Organ – Synthesizers.
Pick Withers: Drums – Vocals.

Additional Musicians.
Mike Mainieri: – Vibes – Marimba (Tracks 2 & 4).
Ed Walsh: Synthesizer Programming.

The album tracklisting is as follows: 1. Telegraph Road. 14:18. 2. Private Investigations. 6:46. 3. Industrial Disease. 5:50. 4. Love over Gold. 6:17. 5. It Never Rains. 7:59.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

R-768493-1441767625-6918.jpegBrothers In Arms

In terms of sales, Brothers In Arms could easily be seen as Dire Straits most iconic album, it’s also perhaps their most successful commercial album too. It’s actually the eighth best selling album in UK chart history and went 14 times Platinum here in the UK and spent 14 non-consecutive weeks at number one in the UK Album Charts. It also done well in other countries reaching number one in almost every country and went 9 times Platinum in the US and spent 9 non-consecutive weeks at number one and down under in Australia it spent 34 non-consecutive weeks at the top of their album charts. It’s sold over 30 million copies worldwide.

The album was released on the 13th of May 1985 and contained 9 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 47 minutes, 40 seconds the vinyl version that is. However it was also the first-ever full “DDD” Digital album to be released on CD and that version had the same amount of tracks only it was much longer and the total playing time of the CD was 55 minutes, 11 seconds. This was very much down to vinyl restrictions and there are quite a few differences between a few of the tracks on the CD and Vinyl versions.

I have to admit that I myself first brought the vinyl album not having a CD Player at the time of its release and it was not until the following year in 1986 that I brought a CD Player to which I then went out and brought the album again on CD. I think what makes this album more commercially successful is really down to it producing 5 hit single releases from the 9 tracks on the album. Being more of an albums man myself I do not usually bother buying singles though I do remember buying “So Far Away” basically because it was the only single that was released before the album came out and I was that impressed by their previous album Love Over Gold that I could not wait to get my hands on their next release.

I do tend to think there is a danger of an album wearing off a lot quicker when a lot of the tracks are released as singles and that is perhaps why the longevity of The Police albums soon wore thin so to speak. Like I mentioned earlier The Police were more of a singles chart-topping band and the biggest majority of the material on their albums is written for that market. Up until this point, I saw Dire Straits as an albums band and the trouble is with albums like this is that you are more or less getting into the Greatest Hits territory of albums.

Though what I will say about this particular album is that it does have some very good well-written album tracks and they to me are what I personally like the most about this album and out of the 5 singles they did release I would also say that both the albums self-titled song “Brothers In Arms” and “Your Latest Trick” I do feel are more like album tracks and to perfectly honest I cannot see for the life of me why the latter of those two tracks was ever released as a single. The self-titled track of those two songs is the only track on the album that I feel that would have fitted in with the material that was written for their previous album Love Over Gold because it does have that same atmospheric sound and feel about it with its production.

Speaking of the production the same recording & mixing engineer Neil Dorfsman on their last album also had a hand in the production along with Knopfler for this album. He also picked up the best-engineered album award and the album did win at least 4 awards including the best selling International Album. Unlike the bands last couple of albums which were recorded at the Power Station in New York the band jetted off to the eastern Caribbean and recorded the album at Sir George Martin’s second studio AIR Montserrat.

Collage_Fotor 85

Quite a lot of GREAT! albums by many well-known artists came out of this studio during the decade from 1979 -1989 it was functional and in use. Unfortunately, Hurricane Hugo swept across Montserrat in 1989 and devastated much of the island forcing the studio to close. Things did not get much better on the island either and six years later the Soufrière Hills volcano erupted, bombarding the land with lava flows and thick layers of ash. The ongoing volcanic eruptions have made nearly half of the island uninhabitable. These days Air Studios Montserrat is rotting away.

To cut down on the expense Mark Knopfler had already written the material for what was going to be the new album at the time and rehearsed it with the band before they booked Air Studios. Another keyboard player Guy Fletcher was recruited to the line-up from their previous tour and there is also quite an array of session musicians (mostly uncredited) who play on the album.

The album kicks off with “So Far Away” and like I mentioned earlier there is a difference in the timing on the CD although it’s nothing really to write home about and the ending is just a bit longer. To be honest I am not sure it benefits from being longer simply because it is one of those songs that can be a bit repetitious and tends to drag on a bit. That is something I did tend to find the more I played it. I could say the same thing for the following track “Money For Nothing” which has been extended even longer although lyrically at least the words are not too repetitive and with its uptempo, it’s easy to see why a song like this would appeal to many. Sting actually got a co-writing credit for this song although his contribution was nothing more than the words in the intro that get repeated along the way.

Walk of Life” is perhaps the oddball track of the album and personally I felt should have been left off the album simply because it does not fit in with the rest of the material. It’s very much your standard rock n’ roll song along the same lines of what Knopfler did with “Two Young Lovers” to which he did see the sense to leave off the bands previous album. There is no doubt this is single material and will appeal to more than the biggest majority of tracks on this entire album but personally, for me, it’s too much of the same old thing I am afraid and I might as well just of brought an album by Showaddywaddy or Shaking Stevens and it would have sat more with their albums than Dire Straits 😊😊😊.

Your Latest Trick” is the song where the biggest changes have been made between the Vinyl and CD releases and two different mixes were recorded of the song. The one on the CD release is much slower though both versions are very good I feel. “Why Worry” is another of the songs that have been extended only this time a 3-minute instrumental section has been added to the CD release and I have to say I prefer it for it as well. All the differences between both format releases appear on the first side of the album only.

The second side of the album is my personal favourite side and even though the albums self-titled track was released as a single it does feel more like an album track along with the other three songs on this side. “Ride Across The River” is a GREAT! song and one of my personal favourites on the album. It not only has GREAT! vibes but very well punctuated drums play their part in it. To be honest I am not sure who is playing the drums on this song but it could be Omar Hakim. I do know that once again Mike Mainieri is providing the vibes and marimba who played on the bands previous album.

The Man’s Too Strong” is a very good acoustic ballad of a song and features Jack Sonni on guitar synth which lends a hand to the accentuating parts of the song. One of my other personal favourite tracks on the album is “One World” and this is a very well spirited uptempo and uplifting driven song that is driven along by a dominating and punctuating bass line to which it is played by non-other than Tony Levin. The final track on the album “Brothers In Arms” is another of my personal favourite songs on the album and perhaps the best song on the album and it puts an end to the album SUPERBLY!

Overall, Dire Straits 5th studio album Brothers In Arms is quite a solid album. However, much of the material written for it was perhaps a bit more commercially derived which is why it gained its popularity and it’s perhaps not quite as adventurous as their 4th studio album Love Over Gold. The one thing that does help me personally still play this album today is that it was released with a 5.1 mix on a Hybrid SACD in 2005 to which was mixed by Chuck Ainlay who is another of my personal best surround mixing engineers and its no surprise to me that it also picked up the Best Surround Sound Album at the 48th Grammy Awards ceremony in the following year. The sad thing is that it is the only Dire Straits album to get the 5.1 Surround treatment and I would love to see Chuck do a surround mix for Love Over Gold which is really crying out for one.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Neil Dorfsman & Mark Knopfler. All songs were written by Mark Knopfler except track 2 written by Mark Knopfler & Sting. Recorded between October 1984 to February 1985 at AIR Studios, Montserrat W.1. Recording Engineer Neil Dorfsman. Assistant Engineer Steve Jackson. Mastered & Remastered by Bob Ludwig. Cover Design by Sutton Cooper & Andrew Prewett. Photography by Deborah Feingold. Painting by Thomas Steyer.

Mark Knopfler: Vocals – Guitar.
John Ilsley: Bass Guitar – Backing Vocals.
Alan Clark: Keyboards.
Guy Fletcher: Keyboards – Backing Vocals.
Terry Williams: Drums.

Additional Musicians.
Sting: Vocals (Track 2).
Tony Levin: Bass (Tracks 8).
Michael Brecker: Saxophone (Track 4).
Jack Sonni: Guitar Synth (Track 7).
Mike Mainieri: – Vibes – Marimba
Omar Hakim: Drums.

The album tracklisting is as follows: 1. So Far Away. 5:12. 2. Money for Nothing. 8:26. 3. “Walk of Life. 4:12. 4. Your Latest Trick. 6:33. 5. Why Worry. 8:31. 6. Ride Across the River. 6:58. 7. The Man’s Too Strong. 4:40. 8. One World. 3:40. 9. Brothers In Arms. 6:59.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

R-2276246-1300484896.jpegOn Every Street

The bands sixth studio album On Every Street is an album that was lucky to surface depending on how you look at it that is. It was after the tour of their most successful album Brothers In Arms in 1987 that Mark Knopfler decided to take a break and work on other projects and his own solo project with film Soundtracks. The limelight of success and stress had got to him just like it did with Sting with The Police. However, the band did get back together in 1988 for Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute concert staged on 11 June 1988 at Wembley Stadium, in which they were the headline act. Knopfler announced the dissolution of Dire Straits in September 1988. In the following year, he formed The Notting Hillbillies and it would be a good six years since the overwhelming success of their previous album before he decided to reform the band for one final time.

On Every Street was released on the 9th of September 1991 and the album contained 12 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 60 minutes, 16 seconds. Although the album took its time coming off the back of their most successful album it was always going to be a tough act to follow suit in the same popular motive vein so to speak. However, the album still managed to hit the Number One spot in the UK Albums Charts and had twice Platinum sales in many countries proving that Dire Straits were still very much a popular force in the music scene and a force to be reckoned with.

Despite there being a good 6 years in between their last studio album, Knopfler did manage to keep most of the band together apart from the bands drummer Terry Williams who left the band after the Brothers In Arms tour ended in 1988. The band were now down to a 4 piece with two keyboard players a guitarist, and bass player so once again many session players were called upon to record the new material for the album. Jeff Porcaro best known for his work with Toto and Steely Dan and has literally played on thousands of albums as a session player plays drums on most of the tracks. Another well-recognised drummer Manu Katché perhaps more widely known for his work with Peter Gabriel and Sting plays on a couple of the tracks.

The album was recorded at George Martin’s Air Studios only this time the one in London, England. Looking at the material that Knopfler wrote to make up the album it does appear to be a bit of a mixed bag and it’s perhaps trying to follow the same commercial vein with some of the songs that were written as their previous album and some of the songs do have a bit of familiarity about them. Once again an array of singles were released to promote the album and a total of 6 in all. But only 4 of them were major releases and 2 of them were only ever released in France, Germany and The Netherlands.

It’s very much an album of contrasting styles ranging from blues, rockabilly, folk, pop, jazz and rock. It does appear that Elvis has left the building with its opening track “Calling Elvis” which was the first single to be released from the album and made its way into the UK TOP 30 peaking at Number 21. Like the opening track on Brothers In Arms “So Far Away” it does have an ending that drags on only the lyrical content is much better on this song I feel and so to is the guitar riff which makes it less repetitious in some respects.

Sticking with the major singles from the album “Heavy Fuel” is another song that has similarities with “Money For Nothing” with its distorted guitar riff and you do get the impression that Knopfler was trying to make a carbon copy with how he’s gone about his writing on some of these songs. “The Bug” is another rockabilly number like “Walk of Life” and no doubt all of these songs are potential hitmakers and very good well written single material. The albums self-titled song “On Every Street” is perhaps the most unusual single release out of them all and is in every way more of an album track in relation to the other 3 songs here. Although personally for myself along with the well laid back song “You and Your Friend” are my chosen favourites from the album.

Iron Hand” is another song that could be likened to “The Man’s Too Strong” from their previous album and there is quite a few country songs on the album such as “When It Comes To You“, “How Long” and “Ticket to Heaven” which has a 60’s feel with George Martin’s strings and is perhaps something that Adam Faith would have sang all those years ago. “Fade To Black” is a deep down blues song and a good dose of humour is also thrown in for good measure with the up swinging “My Parties” and not forgetting the longest track on the album “Planet of New Orleans” which features some fine guitar playing by Knopfler has with most of the tracks.

On Every Street is perhaps an album that shows Mark Knopfler’s versatility and diversity when it comes to songwriting and you certainly get a mixture of styles on this album. In some ways, you could say that the material is a bit too versatile and diverse to make it stand up as a collective set of songs to put on one album and make it sound like a good album. All being said it is an album that has some fine moments and in terms of a rating I would put it on level par with their third album Making Movies. Though unlike that album this one is much better recorded and produced a lot better which is one of the things I personally think lets their third album down badly.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Mark Knopfler. All songs were written by Mark Knopfler. Recorded at Air Studios London, England between November 1990 to May 1991. Recording Engineers Chuck Ainlay & Bill Schnee. Mixing Engineers Neil Dorfsman (Tracks 1 – 6 & 8 -12). Bob Clearmountain (Track 7). Assistant Engineers Steve Orchard, Andy Strange & Jack Joseph Puig. Mastered & Remastered by Bob Ludwig. Cover Design by Sutton Cooper & Paul Cummings. Photography by Paul Williams.

Mark Knopfler: Vocals – Guitar.
John Ilsley: Bass Guitar.
Alan Clark: Organ – Piano – Synthesizer.
Guy Fletcher: Synthesizer – Backing Vocals.

Additional Musicians.
Jeff Porcaro: Drums – Percussion.
Phil Palmer: Guitar.
Chris White: Flute – Saxophone.
Manu Katché: Percussion – Drums (Tracks 7 & 11).
Vince Gill: – Guitar – Backing Vocals (Track 5).
Paul Franklin: Pedal Steel Guitar – Acoustic Lap Steel Guitar (Track 6).
George Martin: Conductor – String Arrangements (Track 9).

The album tracklisting is as follows: 1. Calling Elvis. 6:26. 2. On Every Street. 5:04. 3. When It Comes to You. 5:02. 4. Fade to Black. 3:49. 5. The Bug. 4:18. 6. You and Your Friend. 5:59. 7. Heavy Fuel. 4:57. 8. Iron Hand. 3:09. 9. Ticket To Heaven. 4:26. 10. My Parties. 5:52. 11. Planet of New Orleans. 7:47. 12. How Long. 3:53.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

Summary & Conclusion…

Dire Straits were, without doubt, a GREAT! band and one that that should appeal to most peoples taste in music I should think and a band that certainly left its mark in musical history. It was a vehicle for Mark Knopfler’s songwriting who still to this day writes such GREAT! songs in his own solo career. I would even go as far as to say that as a lyricist he has excelled himself since those days he was with Dire Straits. As much as I like his solo career I still prefer the musicality that was given to the songs in his former band and I can still play the albums he did with Dire Straits more so than the music he still churns out in his solos career. There are so many timeless classics that still sound GREAT! today and they are a band that have never been that far away from my turntable so to speak.

The Studio Albums 1978 – 1991 by Dire Straits offers you tremendous value for the money and £16.66 for 6 albums nicely presented in a Clamshell Box is hardly going to break the bank. No doubt many will already have their albums and this box set perhaps will not be of any interest to them unless you are an avid record collector who simply has to have everything. I myself am not an avid collector and brought it to update my old collection with the 1996 remasters that are said to be the best sounding recordings and I honestly cannot complain one bit because they do have the edge over the original recordings slightly apart from the Brothers In Arms SACD I have that is. For those who had their albums and sold them. This is the perfect way to replace them at its price point.

Lee’s overall Complete Box Set Value Rating…

The Box Set Presentation Rating Score. 8/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.