Review: John Illsley – Long Shadows (2016)


Bassist, and talented artist, continues his impressive post-Dire Straits career on solo album number six.

Fame and success can be a double-edged sword, especially if it’s with one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.  Members of legendary bands have always found it difficult to grab the public’s attention away from the familiarity of what they are best known for.

Illsley has always been a man with more strings to his bow than the average musician.  In recent years his work as an artist has gathered him as much attention as his music.  His Picasso-inspired paintings reveal a depth to his creativity that sometimes cannot be expressed through music alone.  If Pablo Picasso were a musician.  Now there’s a thought.

Illsley has kept a healthy pace after Straits frontman and guitarist Mark Knopfler called an end to the band in the mid-90’s.  His work has always retained that signature feel whilst not being afraid to step outside the comfort zone.  Long Shadows is no exception.

The short instrumental string-led opening of “Morning” leads into a familiar sound that Illsley has made a trademark for over 30 years.  With another vocal it could be another classic Dire Straits track.  It’s named “In The Darkness” and it’s free-flowing rhythm is matched by his lyrical take on the dangers of internet on the impressionable.

“Comes Round Again” continues the mid-pace feel and the album’s pattern is set.  There are melancholic and reflective moments with tracks like “There’s Something About You” and “Ship Of Fools” but overall it’s a Straits-like emotive and at times cinematic

There’s some country blues shuffle to savour with “Lay Me Down” which provides an album highlight but the standout track is the straight edged soft blues rocker “Long Shadow” with it’s grooves and slide guitar interplay, courtesy of Robbie McIntosh.

The closer comes in the shape of “Close To The Edge” that returns to the style that made him one of the most successful artists of the past 50 years.  It also shows how closely and perfectly matched he was with Mark Knopfler.

For the past twenty years fans and critics have speculated when Mark Knopfler may revive Dire Straits.  The overwhelming urge has been resisted so far and when you listen to the output of messrs Knopfler and Illsley it’s not hard to imagine what the band would sound like now.

Donnie’s Rating: 8/10

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