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 Beatles’ I’m Only Sleeping is best skipped.