Mark Knopfler’s nine-year run of solo albums with Warner Bros. Records was nothing shy of prolific.  The former Dire Straits chief was that band’s exclusive songwriter, but it wasn’t until the latter part of its tenure did the CD revolution take hold.  Knopfler’s writing tasks on each Straits LP were limited to about 40 minutes of music, give or take.  Enter the CD era- fittingly, with Straits’ 1985 mega-seller, Brothers In Arms– and boom like that, potential album lengths doubled in capacity. 

So, too, did Knopfler’s pen and guitar strokes.  When he went solo with his 1996 debut, Golden Heart, the English-teacher-turned-rockstar prodigiously filled in the space.  More than anything, this neatly assembled set of five proper albums, remastered at Abbey Road by Miles Showell, (and a disc of B-sides) released over that near-decade span is a testament to Knopfler’s insatiate appetite for composition. 

His guitar mastery is expectedly tasteful, restrained, and always provocative, yet it’s the constant stream of fresh characters and settings that make his journeys as much literary as they are musical.  McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc shows up.  Boxer Sonny Liston, too.  As do Imelda Marcos, and Mason and Dixon. These, as well as dozens of other more anonymous blue-collar leads- trawlermen and scaffolder’s wives- flow sometimes obviously, sometimes cryptically in and out of Knopfler’s richly drawn folk-rock vignettes. 

He keeps a fairly consistent band across the stretch, with his Straits’ mate and sometime co-producer Guy Fletcher anchoring the lot of Brit and Nashville players.  This lineup serves a consistent and unrushed sound and approach, tying the albums together more than defining them individually.  It’s clean and unadorned (the only extras: album cover art cards), collecting Knopfler’s post arena-rock output in one place; a six-disc, sonically spotless reunion of Mark Knopfler’s poetic and charismatic cast.