John Illsley's VIII: a decent album with fining playing but skip the Beatles cover

The eighth solo album by former Dire Straits bassist John Illsley reconfirms his allegiance to their signature sound

John Illsley: VIII cover art
(Image: © 100%)

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On VIII opener It’s A Long Way Back, John Illsley retreads Sultans Of Swing and reflects on his time with Dire Straits. His allegiance to their signature sound is writ large throughout the eight originals here. 

The album follows last year’s autobiography My Life In Dire Straits, and those 18 years were clearly on his mind when mixing at Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios – even on, say, the brass-laced and reggae-fied The Mission.

VIII remains Dire Straits lite, though, with vocals that impersonate rather than replicate Knopfler’s delivery. That holds for the songwriting, too, although there are some decent melodies and plenty of fine playing, plus excellent backing vocals (by Jess Van Den Bogaerde, Hannah Robinson and Dee Dee Illsley). 

Which Way Is Up or Love You Still (featuring Melvin Duffy’s pedal steel and a guitar solo by Robbie McIntosh) are the standouts, but the cover of The BeatlesI’m Only Sleeping is best skipped.

Neil Jeffries

Freelance contributor to Classic Rock and several of its offshoots since 2006. In the 1980s he began a 15-year spell working for Kerrang! intially as a cub reviewer and later as Geoff Barton’s deputy and then pouring precious metal into test tubes as editor of its Special Projects division. Has spent quality time with Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore – and also spent time in a maximum security prison alongside Love/Hate. Loves Rush, Aerosmith and beer. Will work for food.