There aren’t that many albums I have a vivid memory of the 1st time I listened to; while this sort of memories is often associated with special events in people’s lives, other times – the most relevant in musical terms – is when they seem to touch a virgin spot in your musical universe; For sure these are always subjective experiences, but doesn’t the Magic of Music lies precisely on the non-rational excitement of primary feelings?
Pseudo scientific analysis aside, among such fond memories I include Santana’s “Abraxas” or Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “Birds of Fire” but also Dire Straits 1st album; in an era when the airwaves were choking with the soapy polished Dance-floor fuel of Disco, the 3 chords primary rage of Punk and the funny smelling vibrantless pomposity of Genesis, Floyd and such Rock dinosaurs, the Dire Straits were a true breath of (very) clean air – I remember thinking it sounded somehow like J.J.Cale, with a certain Dylan quality, and of course could not guess what it was in the blindfold test my friend made me on that winter day in 1978.
“Sultans of Swing” would soon replace “Stairway to Heaven” or “Smoke on the Water” as the most messed up with song in guitar stores, and on the ensuing years (and up to this day) as the Straits most well known and Radio played track (to the point of saturation, helas!), unfairly throwing to a secondary plan a perfect batch of songs from an LP with no major flaws (except perhaps a too even, more or less mid tempo pace)
Charged with the sensual, plectrum-free virtuoso guitar playing of Mark Knopfler, tasty rhythmic figures, licks, solos and a basket full of tricks popping all over and duly supported by a rhythm trio that could create the exact dynamics to excite the front man to the point of giving the best of himself, with its hushed Soulful vocals and the correct dose of backing harmonies, from the phasing drenched wake-up call of “Down to the Waterline” to the glassy slides and swells of “Lions”, through many irresistible grooves such as “Southbound Again”, Country-fied twin guitar pulse (“Setting me Up”), rolling Funky tinged B-Series vibes (“Six Blade Knife”), sprinkling notes and tones (“In the Gallery”) with acoustic flavours (“Wild West End”) or neck hair raising dobro playing (“Water of Love”) and of course with the swinging glory of “Sultans of…” this is an album no one has the right to ignore!