Sound — 8
Dire Straits in general are not about Mark Knopfler's voice and singing abilities. We listen to their music because of the voice of Knopfler's guitar. But in spite of the somewhat poor singing skills, Konpfler's voice fits almost perfectly with the great bluesy feel of the album. Listening to this album takes you on a musical journey that will surely engage you as a guitarist and even as a songwriter. The clean, fluid sound of the 1961 Fender Strat is probably early Dire Straits' trademark and is a blessing for the ears of those who like truly lyrical guitar playing. There were other guitars used for recording on tracks such as "Water of Love," "Setting Me Up" and "Wild West End" but the star of this album is definitely the Stratocaster. National steel guitar from "Wild West End" tune will become famous in their third album. For "Water of Love" Knopfler uses a cheap custom Gibson guitar as he says in a guitar interview. The overall quality of music is excellent and many of the songs are musical and lyrical gems. Objectively the sound quality is not very good, but somehow it fits the overall feel of the album which is somehow genuine, and sometimes rugged and obscure.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics are something that makes this album what it is - a true gem. Lyrics on tracks like "Six Bladed Knife," "Lions" and of course "Sultans of Swing" are something else. Even Dylan was impressed and in the songwriting world I think that means something. There are tracks which are straightforward like "Down to the Waterline" and "Setting Me Up" and there are tracks that require a few listens in order to appreciate them. The countless images that "Lions" can invoke, recognizing yourselves in "Sultans of Swing" in some ways and the pain that comes from your own "Six Bladed Knife" are things make this album worth a couple of listens.
Overall Impression — 8
The highlight of this album is of course the "Sultans of Swing" but that shouldn't distract you from the other eight gems that await to be heard. This review is probably not as objective as it should be but I just hope that some new listener would at least be encouraged by it to listen to the album. If you don't like that's perfectly fine but I don't think that anyone can deny the musical and lyrical genius of this album. Dire Straits' debut may not have achieved mainstream success as some of their later works, but maybe it isn't supposed to. After all often are the shiniest diamonds buried deeper than the others.