Dire Straits' minimalist interpretation of pub rock had already crystallized by the time they released their eponymous debut. Driven by Mark Knopfler's spare, tasteful guitar lines and his husky warbling, the album is a set of bluesy rockers. And while the bar band mentality of pub-rock is at the core of Dire Straits -- even the group's ...
Dire Straits' minimalist interpretation of pub rock had already crystallized by the time they released their eponymous debut. Driven by Mark Knopfler's spare, tasteful guitar lines and his husky warbling, the album is a set of bluesy rockers. And while the bar band mentality of pub-rock is at the core of Dire Straits -- even the group's breakthrough single, "Sultans of Swing," offered a lament for a neglected pub rock band -- their music is already beyond the simple boogies and shuffles of their forefathers, occasionally dipping into jazz and country. Knopfler also shows an inclination toward Dylanesque imagery, which enhances the smoky, low-key atmosphere of the album. While a few of the songs fall flat, the album is remarkably accomplished for a debut, and Dire Straits had difficulty surpassing it throughout their career. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
Mark Knopfler ranks among the best guitarists in the world, along with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Cropper, Peter Green and others, far too many to mention. His status as a composer (for soundtracks, as well), producer, sideman and guest musician has grown over the years. The only difference with the other guitarists is that his rise to stardom started when he was 29 years old, in 1977, more than a decade after all the other guitarists had made it big. And it started with this very record, in the middle of the punk era.
Music critics in the U.K. didn?t get it at first, and ignored it. It had to be a major hit in the U.S.A., first, before they recognized the value of the record. Then trying to label it somehow, in order to sell it, they compared the virtues of the music with the ones found in a Bob Dylan and a J.J. Cale album. Although the similarities do exist and, after all, it is a great compliment to compare you with such established musicians, the point is that none of them had the authenticity of Knopfler's guitar playing. His playing made him a household name from the very beginning (Steely Dan, Bob Dylan, Mavis Staple asked for his guitar work, before the release of Dire straits' second album) and eventually a guitar hero, in an era that dismissed all such heroes.
Of course the luck factor for a music band is very important, even if they are always ready, and they were pretty lucky in a sense. Their demo tape was sent to the late Charlie Gillett, a radio producer, who was so amazed by a song that he played it over and over during his radio hour. The executives/scouts of the record industry had their ears open and it was only a matter of time for one of the major labels to sign them.
The song in question was no other than "Sultans of swing", which is such a classic that needs no other introduction. The rest of the songs are marvelous showcases of sincere songwriting and brilliant musicianship. "Down to the waterline", the opener of the album is another classic, showcasing the abilities of the band, for upbeat songs. The rest of the album is filled with slower paced songs (with the exception of ?Southbound again?), that gave many reasons to the critics, to label them a ?pub? band.
Stories of people in dire straits - the financial state they were in, was terrible and thus they didn?t have to look any further for a name- (?Southbound again?), people in love and despair (?Six blade Knife?, ?Setting me up?, ?Water of love?), the problems of finding your way through the world with jobs and arts (?In the gallery?) and last but not least scenes of everyday life (?Wild West End?, ?Lions?) .All these lyrics were crafted so carefully and narrated with such fluency that they work even without the music.
But it was the same case, with the similarities with Dylan and J.J. Cale, when critics called them a ?pub? band.Critics failed to see that all the similarities with types of music and musicians were totally superficial. The key element that everybody heard but refused to admit was the unique guitar work. Finger picking was never so inspired in rock. Even Eric Clapton, in his autobiography admitted, upon listening to Mark Knopfler, that he feared his star would eclipse.
Only ?Sultans of swing? have remained in Dire straits? live playlist in 1994, but somehow it is the only fitting song that has changed and expanded, in order to be the centerpiece of their live act. The rest, are songs that are best appreciated in the peace and quiet of your own place.
A true masterpiece.