Tracks from the Past: Dire Straits - Dire Straits

BY DI STAFF | JULY 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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A jam session broke out at a friend's house over the weekend and led to a discussion about the greatest guitar solos of all time.

I suggested the closing solo of Dire Strait's "Sultans Of Swing," to which a buddy responded, "Ew. I hate Dire Straits. Don't you dare mention that band to me."

With that in mind, this week's Tracks from the Past is — you guessed it — the band's self-titled début from 1978. Just for you, Conrad.

Dire Straits begins with "Down to the Waterline," an excellent example of the rapid, bluesy fingerpicking with which guitar god Mark Knopfler made his name. His ability to play ridiculously intricate lead guitar while delivering gruff, Bob Dylan-esque vocals has to be heard to be believed, and "Down to the Waterline" is a perfect introduction to the band's style.

But the album's centerpiece is its sixth track, "Sultans Of Swing."

The song is deceptively complex; David Knopfler's rhythm guitar riff can be learned in a few minutes, but his big brother's fills and solos are the stuff of legend. The track is essentially a six-minute showcase of Mark Knopfler's guitar genius, and the solo that ends the song gives me goose bumps every time I hear it — and I've heard it a lot.

Dire Straits put Knopfler on the map as one of the greatest guitarists of all time and kicked off the career of one of Britain's best blues-rock bands. "Sultans Of Swing" was featured in Guitar Hero 5 and has appeared on several best-of lists since its release 34 years ago.

But Conrad doesn't like the band. He's weird.

Turn it up.

— by Seth Roberts

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