Top positive review
6 people found this helpful
The seminal 1978 debut from the Sultans of Swing
on 21 August 2013
Dire Straits' eponymous first album was recorded at Basing Street studios in West London in February 1978, for a reported £12,500. Though now recognised as a strong contender for the best debut album ever from any rock/blues band, the dominance of the popular music scene at the time by the nihilistic and ultimately disposable `New Wave' meant that this recording was initially drowned out by the surrounding noise, so its reputation grew only slowly.
The original band was a classic R&B quartet: band leader-singer-songwriter-guitarist Mark Knopfler, his brother David on rhythm guitar, Mark's flatmate John Ilsley on bass and drummer Pick Withers.
The music is tight with a sound stripped down and clean; the songs distinctive and in style redolent at times of JJ Cale, the arrangements straightforward and unpretentious. Mark's Fender Strat and growling (somewhat Dylanesque) vocal dominate the action, over a capable rhythm section with a deep love of their rock/blues roots. They sound like a good pub-band on a Saturday night, with the mojo in overdrive. The whole album is a joy from beginning to end.
Lyrically the songs are a cut above your average R&B fare, with Mark's Tyneside roots evident in the themes and a laconic humour spicing the slice-of-life stories told from the perspective of an observer, very much in the style of Bob Dylan. `Sultans of Swing' later became the album's mega-hit and perennial DS stage-favourite, but originally was just one track among the rest with no plans to release as a single for radio-play.
DS went on to international success in the 1980s with five follow-up albums and a few personnel changes, the arrangements becoming more lengthy and inventive whilst remaining true to their original sound. But even their mega-selling 1985 album `Brothers in Arms' never really topped this, the sensational 1978 debut; it has an honesty and simplicity close to perfection.