The problem with Dire Straits is… oh, where do we begin? There are so many reasons to dislike this band, but the odd thing is, few of them are the players’ own fault. Maybe they shouldn’t have recorded “Money For Nothing,” and encouraged MTV to go to town on it.Maybe they shouldn’t have cared so much for sonic perfection that Brothers In Arms remains the Dark Side of the Moon of the CD set. Maybe Mark Knopfler shouldn’t look more like a woodwork teacher than a rock star.But the fact is, they really were a great rock ’n’ roll band, and never so potent as in the earliest days, when they were still pounding around the Pub Rock circuit, and writing some of the best material that genre ever heard.
This collection captures the band so early into its development that even the familiar numbers have a way to go before establishing themselves as classics. Most of them, anyway. “Sultans of Swing” would probably be irresistible however the band presented it, and shows up here in two very different incarnations, a somewhat draggy “alternative version,” followed by a supremely confident “different speed” take.
By The Waterline” and “Eastbound Train” are mere ghosts of their future selves,
no matter how atmospherically virtuoso the guitar lines might be; while “Setting
Me Up” remains a neatly paced bluesy stomper that doesn’t really go anyplace,
but sounds suitably resolute as it tries. None of which really matters, though, as the 11 tracks here carry us
through a scintillating glimpse into the earliest workings of a band that would
come to dominate the next decade or so of rock, for better or (more likely) for
worse. And, hell! “Sultans of Swing” suggests they
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