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  Mark Knopfler: Shangri-La

Mark Knopfler (vocals, guitar)
Richard Bennett (guitar)
Jim Cox, Guy Fletcher (piano, organ)
Glenn Worf (bass)
Chad Cromwell (drums)
Track listing:
  1. 5:15 am
2. Boom, Like That
3. Sucker Row
4. The Trawlerman's Song
5. Back To Tupelo
6. Our Shangri-La
7. Everybody Pays
8. Song For Sonny Liston
9. Whoop De Doo
10. Postcards From Paraguay
11. All That Matters
12. Stand Up Guy
13. Donegan's Gone
14. Don't Crash The Ambulance
Recording type:
Recording info:
  Recorded at Shangri-la Studios, Malibu
Engineering: Chuck Ainlay
Additional engineering: Guy Fletcher
Mixed at British Grove Studios, Chiswick, London
Assistant Engineer: Rupert Coulson
Mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering

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Related titles: 2

Reviews: 11 show all

Review by sgb July 12, 2005 (7 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Finally, a digital recording that does justice to Mark's uniquely provocative voice!

As are many other audiophiles, I've been enamored with the music of Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler for many years. Perhaps unlike others, though, I most appreciate the lyrics of the great introspective tunes, such as the loss of innocence in "Telegraph Road" from Love Over Gold, the angst in relationships he expresses in "You And Your Friends" from On Every Street, or his stinging indictment of Man as the most uncivilized of beasts in "One World" from the group's biggest seller, Brothers In Arms. There's an association with other great songwriters of this ilk such as Dylan, Paul Simon and Jim Morrison that I draw from tunes such as these that places Knopfler clearly atop my list of the best our generation can provide. Shangri-La is equally as intriguing as these prior albums, but the title might suggest some resignation, on the artist's part, that things aren't going to be changing any time soon: The world is OUR Shangri-La, he tells us, and we must make the best of it.

For years I've been irritated by the sound of Knopfler's voice on CDs. Nearly every system on which I've heard any of his recordings adds a subtle edge to the top of his voice that grates on me to the point that I cannot listen to any of the albums in their entirety. Even on the highly doctored SA-CD version of Brothers In Arms, that nuisance is still there; and this despite the intentional midrange reticence the engineers snuck in to enhance the, overall, poor qualities of the recording. Ah, but Shangri-La is different. The recording quality is world-class (even on the PCM layer sorry), lending a reality to the sound of Knopfler's voice that only Making Movies on vinyl from the back catalogue can approach. It's all there in one of the most palpable, transparent and natural sounding pop digital albums I've ever heard.

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Review by PaulHoncoop January 24, 2005 (6 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Mark is back after his little boring Ragpickers dream album. His new in America!! recorded album Shangri La sounds good. Some tracks have an American swung and remind me at J.J. Cale music.
Shangri La is not Mark's best album, but this sacd multichannel experience lift this record up to a higher level. For the firdt time you can hear Mark in 5.1 (dvd's from Dire Straits and Mark solo are all in stereo). The sacd multichannel mix is splendid!
The bass and treble are equal, so you don't have to set these when listening to the whole record.
Multichannel version sounds rich and warm, meanwhile it's lovely to hear Mark's guitarplaying/music from different corners.
Mark is a great performer. Shangri La is a great record. This multichannel sacd is great. What more do you want? I know; all Dire Straits records on mc sacd sounded like this one. Just keep on wishing
and maybe.....

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Review by Dan Popp July 20, 2006 (6 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
More of the same from the ironic, sardonic and laconic Mark Knopfler - but in this case, more is good. I admit that I expected a little more because of all the 5-star reviews, and was initially a little disappointed. I think there is a phenomenon that causes those listening in MC to spill-over stars from their sonic impressions into their marks for the material itself. Since I'm listening in stereo, my review will focus more on the songs and their execution.

Make no mistake, the stereo sonics are quite good. Mark sounds like he's singing and strumming in your living room - which is not entirely as it should be, in my opinion. The mix is a little odd; the bass guitar seems 2 notches too hot throughout, and the vocal seems to float above the track, rather than mixing into it, as well. Combined with the relatively sparse arrangements, this gives "Shangri-La" an 'intimate' feeling. The downside is that this mix makes the rhythmic support seem a little weak, and therefore the more uptempo songs don't have the force and punch I might expect.

The songs are quiet gems of reflection on the human condition. Knopfler's wry wit that brought us "Money For Nothing," "Ticket to Heaven" and "Heavy Fuel" is still distilling human souls and putting them on display. From the snake-oil salesman's sidekick in "Stand-Up Guy," to the retired extortioners sending "Postcards from Paraguay," MK gives voice to men bravely struggling to supress the conscious recognition of their own fallenness. He sends them up, but not in a mean-spirited way. There's a touch of, if not respect, then at least affection, for his subjects. This makes the roast palatable instead of bitter.

As well done as it is, there does come a feeling of "sameness" after awhile.

In fact, when Knopfler sings of children and love as "All that Matters," you may at first be puzzled as to whether you're hearing the voice of just another twisted personality (a parent who idolizes his offspring), or whether he's finally singing it straight. An occupational hazard of the satirist, I suppose.

The melodies are simple, evoking to me classic folk songs, though the chord structure is darker and the lyrics are more subtle. The musicianship is top-notch, as expected. Knopler's voice is serviceable to the way he tells the tale. And the characters are cleanly etched - though not, of course, clean.

If it weren't for the questionable stereo mix, and a little too little energy overall, this would rate 5 stars in my book, too. Not his 'best yet,' but worth many listens.

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