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Dire Straits' Self-Titled 1978 Debut Distinguished by Jazz-Inflected Mix of Folk, Blues, Country, and Rock: Guitarist Mark Knopfler Displays Uncanny Precision, Intricacy, and Texture
Breakout Dire Straits Album Includes "Sultans of Swing" and "Down to the Waterline": Band's Shuffles, Boogies, and Ballads Spark With Crispness, Soulfulness, Coolness
Dire Straits' arresting self-titled debut arrived in the midst of punk's reign but couldn't have been further removed from the era's slash-and-burn style. Recorded in West London in February 1978, the band's tasteful, jazz-inflected set embraces folk, blues, and pub rock while also tracing a direct line back to the beat-oriented sound of early rock n' roll. Country and roots accents further distinguish the British quartet's stripped-down music from any 1970s peers, as does the transparent production, which has remained revered among audiophiles the world over - and which has never been better than on this meticulous analog pressing.
Mastered from the original master tapes and pressed at RTI, Mobile Fidelity's 180g 45RPM 2LP version of Dire Straits features natural tonalities, superb balances, you-are-there imaging, deep-black backgrounds, and pristine clarity. Even if you've heard this album hundreds of times before, you've never experienced it with such lifelike sonics and premium richness. This numbered, limited-edition collector's set immerses you within the smoky, laidback atmospherics of every song. This is how all vinyl should sound.
Crucial to every arrangement, Mark Knopfler's winding guitar lines emerge with supreme transparency and multi-hued textural detail. His intricate playing comes across as if it's being transmitted via his 60s-era Fender Vibrolux amplifier placed right before you. The cleanliness, dimensions, and live feel are that good. His bandmates, too, benefit from the extra groove space afforded by this 45RPM edition. Rhythms skate and swirl; percussive effects resonate with crispness and attack; the leading edges of notes naturally decay.
Dire Straits' strong, well-edited batch of original material further enhances the overall enjoyment and makes the record one whose pleasures go far beyond the organic sonics. Just as Knopfler's narratives pour forth with poetic and surrealist texts, the musical settings - an intoxicating combination of easygoing shuffles, back-hall boogies, and pop-honed ballads - mirror the old-fashioned soulfulness inherent in the classic recordings of the late 50s and early 60s. The lyrics are equally captivating.
Drawing from his time as a youth in Newcastle, Leeds, and London, Knopfler invests tunes with an autobiographical slant and emotional connectivity that become obvious the moment he opens his mouth to sing. "Down to the Waterline," "Wild West End," and "Lions" all feature colloquial touches that add to their reach. By extension, "In the Gallery" functions as a tribute to Leeds sculptor Harry Phillips (father of future Knoplfer collaborator, Steve Phillips) while the record's breakout smash, "Sultans of Swing," pays homage to struggling bar bands.
Through it all, Dire Straits performs with a subtle cool and clever poise that no band ever matched. Just how good is the chemistry? Bob Dylan heard the quartet and invited Knopfler and drummer Pick Withers to play on Slow Train Coming. But even Dylan himself didn't hear Dire Straits sound this magnetic back in its original heyday. Now, everyone can.
I remember hearing the hype related to this record before actually listening to it, and I bought a U.K. Vertigo copy when it became available, I think before the inferior sounding Warner Brothers edition hit the shelves. I played it for a while impressed by the sonics engineered by the great Rhett Davies, but bored by the 'old style' music and Knopfler's gruff, Dylaneseque emotionally detached vocals in the age of punk and other more adventurous and hyper-emotional outings, to where I traded the record in at Aaron's on Melrose. Now comes this reissue and how times have changed! Starved as we are today for actual musicianship and craft in popular music, this record becomes musically attractive and enjoyable, aided by a stellar remastering job at 45rpm. The record sounds amazing. If you are a fan, you'll want to upgrade to this. If you're not, it's still worth considering if just as a demo test record to help determine your system's transient precision and clarity and especially its bass and mid-bass performance. You might even start to enjoy the music. Much to my surprise I did.
"...The sparse atmospherics - built around Knopfler's crystalline Fender Strat and 60s-era Fender Vibrolux amp, his Dylan-esque vocal snarl, and a tight rhythm section (guitarist David Knopfler, bassistg John Illsey, and drummer Rick Withers) - shines on this remaster, which delivers shimmering highs and punchy lows." - Greg Cahill, The Absolute Sound, March 2020
- Numbered, Limited Edition
- Production and Mastering by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
- Specially Plated and Pressed on 180 grams of High Definition Vinyl
- Special Static Free - Dust Free Inner Sleeve
- Heavy Duty Protective Packaging
- Mastered From Original Master Tapes
- Pressed at RTI
|Mark Knopfler||vocals, lead & rhythm guitars|
|David Knopfler||rhythm guitar|
- Down To The Waterline
- Water Of Love
- Setting Me Up
- Six Blade Knife
- Southbound Again
- Sultans Of Swing
- In The Gallery
- Wild West End