It was in the later 1970s that Mark Knopfler first served notice to the wider world that he was a guitar player of rare calibre. Hundreds of millions of album sales later, and with an unparalleled catalog of recordings to his credit, he continues to be one of the greatest exponents of the guitar in the world. We’re celebrating that fact by remembering some of the finest-ever solos of the man born in Glasgow on August 12, 1949, with this 20-track playlist.
It includes material both from Dire Straits, across the course of their recording span of some 15 years, and the distinguished catalog of solo albums Knopfler has been making over the last 20-plus. The list runs in chronological order, from the first studio album in what has become a unique career.
The track containing what is probably still Mark’s most famous solo is one that he still reproduces on a regular basis on stage: the spectacular run on his Fender Stratocaster from around 4’58” until the fade of Dire Straits’ debut hit “Sultans Of Swing.” Their self-titled first album of 1978 also featured the equally brilliant “Down To The Waterline” and “Water Of Love.”
The next year’s follow-up album Communiqué delivered the single “Lady Writer” and another track much admired by Knopfler fans, “Single Handed Sailor.” Listen for the fine solo starting at around 2’48,” which as with many of his recordings, energizes the song all the way to its fade.
Guitar that energizes
1980’s Making Movies offered the singles “Tunnel Of Love” and “Solid Rock” and from the 1982 album Love Over Gold there was “It Never Rains” and the memorable solo at the culmination of the epic “Telegraph Road.” It almost goes without saying that the title track from Brothers In Arms stands among his finest work.
While Dire Straits were still recording, Knopfler paused to make the delightful Neck & Neck album with one of his guitar heroes, Chet Atkins. Their version of “I’ll See You In My Dreams” has both of them soloing delightfully throughout. At the end of the Straits’ recording era, their final studio album On Every Street contained his mellifluous solo on “You And Your Friend,” and the 1993 concert set On The Night an atypically hard-rock workout on the live version of “Private Investigations.”
From Mark’s fine collection of solo studio albums, Golden Heart included the jaunty “Don’t You Get It.” Sailing To Philadelphia had two more fan favorites among his best solos, the exhilarating “Speedway At Nazareth” and the more measured “Baloney Again,” reminiscent of another of his favourite players, J.J. Cale.
Another example of the gentle, less-is-more playing style of his solo years is on the elegant “Our Shangri-La,” the near-title track from 2004’s Shangri-La. The Privateering album featured the folk-influenced playing of “Redbud Tree” and “Go Love,” and 2015’s Tracker included the Cale-esque “Broken Bones.” Then came another masterful solo release in 2018’s Down The Road Wherever, which featured a remarkable nod to Rodgers and Hammerstein on “Just A Boy Away From Home.”