Best of 2004: #13 -- Mark Knopfler Shangri-La
It's been 10 years since Mark Knopfler ended the two-decade run of Dire Straits, but he still hasn't lost any of his trademark flair and wit. He's certainly in fine form on Shangri-La, his best solo effort to date, which plays like A&E's Biography set to music. There are plenty of riveting tales about such enigmatic icons as Ray Kroc ("Boom, Like That"), Col. Tom Parker ("Back to Tupelo"), Sonny Liston ("Song for Sonny Liston"), Lonnie Donegan ("Donegan's Gone"), and even Knopfler himself ("Don't Crash the Ambulance").
Throughout Shangri-La, Knopfler frames these fascinating subjects with his one-of-a-kind guitar virtuosity and soothingly familiar voice. While many of his contemporaries are losing steam (and credibility), Knopfler continues to produce relevant music, while showcasing his legendary skills. Shangri-La is, without question, one of the most satisfying listens of the year.