‘They don’t make them like that anymore,’ seems appropriate to describe not only Dire Straits, but their self-titled debut Dire Straits. Dire Straits, or more specifically Mark Knopfler in the role of vocalist, lead guitarist, and writer, created a unique sound that would resonate for decades and result in a sound that is truly timeless.
From the magical guitar strumming introduction for Down To The Waterline, you will be captivated with some of the most beautiful atmospheric music you have ever heard. In-fact one element that I truly appreciate Dire Straits for is not over playing the guitar. So many bands turn a guitar lick into an entire song and it just doesn’t work. Dire Straits by comparison gives you just enough guitar twang that you are left wanting more, not less.
Similarly, Water Of Love is the perfect mixture of rock and folk-styled music. It is truly music for relaxing on a lazy sunny afternoon with an appropriate beverage in one’s hand.
While I enjoy the entire album, Setting Me Up is one of the songs that I’m not in love with. I just feel the tempo was too fast, especially being placed in-between the two rhythmic songs Water Of Love and Six Blade Knife.
Southbound Again is just incredibly groovy and when I hear the hit song, Sultans Of Swing, I simply can’t believe this was a debut release. Not only did Dire Straits already have their sound, but they were playing better than bands that had been together for years.
While Knopfler’s vocals are exceptional throughout the entire album, I feel they are strongest on In The Gallery. His voice is perfectly refined and toned for the style of the song. I must admit that I’m also captivated with the guitar licks on this track.
The Dire Straits edition I have is the Warner Super Bit Mastering CD from 2000 (Cat No: 9 47769-2). This is how a CD should sound. Complex, detailed, and atmospheric. Most importantly it is NOT brickwalled.
While I have the 2014 vinyl re-issue in my wish list, the CD is so good that other than introducing a slightly warmer analogue sound, I don’t feel much can be improved in regards to sonic representation. That said, while the dynamic range of this release is off the charts, it is still less than the vinyl release, hence logic suggests that a slight improvement may be applicable.
For those of you interested in high resolution formats, the SACD matches the Dynamic Range of the Warner Remastered CD from 2000. I’m all for high resolution formats, but they have to introduce advantages in dynamic range and soundstage, otherwise additional 0’s and 1’s is somewhat pointless.
The 2000 Warner Remaster is done by the legendary mastering engineer Bob Ludwig. I honestly don’t think I have a bad mastering in my collection that includes the name Bob Ludwig. While this remaster claims to include the original LP art, it isn’t the exact replica that I would personally like to see. When I look at the way the Japanese market does the replica Mini-LP, that is what I expect and call original LP artwork. Nevertheless, this is a small gripe that is targeted towards the record label.
That aside, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Warner CD Remaster from 2000 as the overall mastering and production is top notch. The album has also recently been reissued on vinyl and all reviews thus far say the Universal Back To Black 2014 re-issue is the one to get. For those of you looking at get the album in high resolution digital formats, it is still available on SACD. Although as mentioned earlier, I don’t believe a significant improvement will be seen over the standard CD release.
For music streamers, the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition is the 1996 remaster that was done by Gregg Geller. It isn’t a bad mastering, but I find elements such as high-hats and cymbals to be too harsh on this edition. That said, I’m seriously clutching at straws. You’d be more than happy with the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition.
Interestingly, the Apple Music/iTunes edition is the original 1978 mastering and it sounds EPIC. I’m not joking, the Apple Music/iTunes edition isn’t Mastered for iTunes and I’m elated as this is further proof that if an album is mastered well, it need not be remastered. It also provides validity that lossless editions can sound perfect. It is all in the mastering!
The Apple Music/iTunes edition is done so well that you can even hear tape noise in the background between tracks. Some people may dislike that, but that is how it should sound. My CD release also has tape noise. It indicates that they were able to capture every element from the original source, and did not digitally remove anything which could have caused an adverse change in the tonality of the album.
That makes me wonder why record companies and artists can’t simply agree on a single master. I know it all has to do with encouraging sales of back catalogues, to collectors who have already purchased the album, but as a collector I would much prefer a value-added product, rather than a remastered one. While all the remastering editions of Dire Straits are great, were they really needed when the original was done so well?
The bottom line is, regardless of the version you get, this album is a must have for any collection.