Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Brothers in Arms is the sixth-best-selling album of the entire 1980s. I wonder if that might surprise some people. It feels like Dire Straits have been, not forgotten certainly, but not remembered at anywhere near the level of their success. They weren’t just famous. They were massively, enormously, stadium-filling-pop-superstar famous.
On the ’80s album-sales charts, Brothers in Arms sits just behind Born in the U.S.A. and just ahead of Appetite for Destruction. It feels like both albums loom far above Brothers in Arms in the current consciousness. In one (admittedly imperfect) measurement of popularity among young people, Spotify streams, three separate songs from Appetite dwarf anything from Brothers in Arms. And in terms of covers, I can attest that songs from Born in the U.S.A. get covered far more often by younger artists – the deep cuts as well as the hits.
But Brothers in Arms deserved to be in those albums’ company then and it deserves to remain there now. So today we pay tribute through tributes, covers of the huge hits and the lesser-known tracks that, despite selling a gajillion copies, seem to have slipped between the cracks. Enjoy.
Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders – So Far Away
Four songs from this album more or less tie with “Sultans of Swing” and “Romeo and Juliet” for the most-covered Dire Straits song. Somewhat to my surprise, “So Far Away” isn’t among them. It ranks far below. Perhaps a run of wonderful covers in the last few years made me think the song was more popular than it was. The best by a hair is Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders. This Australian singer’s voice is a dead ringer for his countryman Nick Cave, though the latter is several decades his senior. That low croon, coupled with a slide guitar playing its weepiest, makes for a truly heart-rending version.
Wille & the Bandits – Money for Nothing
Many covers of this song basically seem like an excuse to play the guitar riff. UK band Wille & the Bandits do get there eventually, but by the time they do, the context has been so warped you barely notice. A little reggae, a little electronica, a little ragged roots music mix into a truly strange brew.
Bhi Bhiman – Walk of Life
Bhi Bhiman’s wonderfully whistled “Walk of Life,” originally recorded for his killer covers EP Substitute Preacher, was later used to soundtrack a TV commercial of Alice Cooper playing golf. How many Dire Straits covers can say that?
Wave Mechanics Union – Your Latest Trick
Wave Mechanics Union’s website URL is “progjazz.com.” That illustrates the initial concept: A ’30s-style jazz band plays King Crimson, Yes, Gentle Giant, etc. On their second album, though, they expanded beyond that niche, incorporating covers of non-proggers like Paul Simon, Fiona Apple, and Dire Straits. “Your Latest Trick” is an appropriate choice for a jazz group, featuring one of the most famous sax lines in rock music. They should do “Careless Whisper” next.
The Everly Brothers – Why Worry
Mark Knopfler reportedly wrote “Why Worry” with the Everly Brothers in mind. Though he beat them to recording it, it wasn’t by much; Don and Phil released their version later that same year. Their harmonies make clear the song was meant to be theirs. Knopfler himself might prefer their version; a few years later, he told the BBC he regretted the extended runtime of his own band’s recording: “The playout of ‘Why Worry’ seems to be a very pointless thing to me now, all that faffing around with pretty sounds.”
Linn Cecilie Særsten – Ride Across the River
Solo piano covers of Dire Straits songs, on paper, could be a pretty lounge-singer-y affair. Not in Linn Cecilie Særsten’s hands. I can’t find much info about her beyond a rather sparse YouTube page, but if she hasn’t recorded more covers like this, she should.
Roberto Tarenzi – The Man’s Too Strong
Roberto Tarenzi is a jazz pianist from Rome who clearly has an ear: He heard one of the most obscure tracks on the entire album (and a not particularly jazzy one at that) and realized it would work for his new quintet. Jazz covers of obscure rock songs that surface online tend towards the elevator-music variety. This one has heart and soul – and a killer bass solo too.
Eastern Mountain Time – One World [Premiere]
I have wanted to write a feature on Brothers in Arms covers for years now. But one song always stymied me: “One World.” For the longest time, I couldn’t find a single cover. There are a few on YouTube now, but none worth sharing. At long last, Vermont singer-songwriter Sean Hood has come through to let me complete this project. And his cover was worth the wait! Spooky and gothic, it should be the theme for the next True Detective.
The Diamond Family Archive – Brothers in Arms
The Diamond Family Archive aka Laurence Collyer has recorded three Dire Straits covers: “Walk of Life,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and this. All are revelatory. (As is, incidentally, the Moody Blues cover he recorded for our tenth birthday a couple years back.)