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Rhino Opens the Vault and We are the Big Winners! Two Fantastic Vinyl Box Sets from Dire Straits and Lindsey Buckingham

07-06-2024 | By Robert S. Youman | Issue 134

Dire Straits Live 1978-1992

Let me get right to the point! The sound quality of each and every reissue in this box set is absolutely magnificent! There are many reasons, but three are extremely important. All of the vinyl was mastered by Andy Walter at Abbey Road and cut by Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Mastering. Great job Andy and Bernie! All of the vinyl was pressed at Optimal Media in Germany. In my copy of the box set, every one of the twelve LPs was extremely flat and very quiet—not a bad batting average for such a large compilation. Great job Optimal!

Andy and Bernie have truly knocked it out of the ballpark with all of these titles! The results are consistent and easy to hear. The transparency is amazing. The weight and slam in the mids and the bass are a revelation. The sound stage reaches into the sky and extends well beyond the speakers in every direction. Knopfler literally explodes into the audience, as both his vocals and guitar are front and center, and clearly defined like never before.

You are virtually there at every concert, and believe me, you will be rocking on every tune in your listening chair! Sorry for all the drama, but as you can tell, I am very pleased with this box set. If you are a big Dire Straits fan, this is an absolute must have addition to your collection. Even if not, you should strongly consider the purchase based on the performances and sound quality alone.

Live At The BBC (1978)

Recorded at the BBC Studios in 1978 and released in 1995, Live At The BBC was originally recorded for the BBC Live In Concert Series, which was attracting many of the blossoming British rock groups of the time. Though "Sultans of Swing" and "Tunnel of Love" are on the set list, this is a time stamp that clearly presents Dire Straits in early form. A few of the songs from their 1978 debut album entitled What’s The Matter Baby?, are also included. You can tell that the group had plenty of aspiration and a strong foundation to work from, but it would have been hard to predict what would come next as the musicians and the music obviously continued to evolve. Sound quality is excellent, as many of the BBC recordings were well done back in the day. I do not have an original pressing for comparison, but again, this is an important milestone to understand the evolution and history behind Dire Straits.

Live At The Rainbow (1979)

Live at the Rainbow was totally new to me, even though now with the addition of this box set, I am somewhat of a completest when it comes to collecting Dire Straits on vinyl. This is the very first vinyl pressing of this 1979 recording. Apparently there is some form of rare CD floating around out there, but I do not have a copy for comparison. Live At The Rainbow was a fantastic surprise, as I might even claim it as the best performance of all the concerts in the box set. In support of the Communiqué album at the London’s Rainbow Theater, ticket prices were said to range from £2.50 to £4 each. Such a deal! Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy) and Tony De Meur (The Fabulous Poodles) were also in the band at that time, making it an even more unique if not impressive ensemble. Sound quality is right up there with the other recordings, maybe even slightly hotter and more dynamic if that’s even possible. My favorite track is "Once Upon A Time In The West", which is also included on several of the other albums. Knopfler just seems even more engaged and connected to the audience on this performance. For me, Live At The Rainbow turned out to be the icing on the cake!

Alchemy, Dire Straits Live (1984)

For many, this is the bench mark for Dire Straits in concert. Released in 1984 on two LPs, I have a White Label Promo Quiex II original pressing. It sounds superb, but this reissue blows it out of the water. So much more transparency and detail! In addition to the White Label Promo, I also have the original CD. I found the CD to be slightly bright and flat, so this reissue was a tremendous improvement over the silver disc too. Punchy and much more alive in presentation, there really is no comparison when held up to either the original LP or CD. Three songs and a third LP have been added, This includes: "Industrial Disease," "Twisting by The Pool" and "Portobello Belle." Recorded during the 1983 Love Over Gold tour at the Hammersmith Odeon Auditorium in London, Dire Straits was on a real roll at that point in time. Many consider this one of the greatest live albums ever, and I agree. My favorite track is the "Sultans of Swing," possibly their best performance of that song ever!

On The Night (1992)

I do not have the original CD, but I do have a nice copy of the original 1992 Europe LP pressing. Mixed by Neil Dorfsman and mastered by Bob Ludwig (two of the Titans of our industry), the sound quality is very good as expected. Again though, Andy and Bernie have somehow found even more information and more excitement on those tapes! Recorded in 1992 in Nîmes, Rotterdam, and Paris, the music includes more contributions from the mid to later albums of the Dire Straits discography. This makes for a nice compliment to the earlier BBC and Alchemy albums. The set has also been expanded from two LPs to four LPs, which includes the following additional tracks: "Sultans Of Swing," "Fade To Black," "When It Comes To You," "I Think I Love You Too Much," "Two Young Lovers," "Tunnel Of Love," and "Telegraph Road." There is a certain maturity in the performances, but as always, you can tell that the band is still full of youthful energy, and is still having a fantastic time!

Encores (1992)

This 45 RPM EP, as the title implies, includes four encore tracks from the On The Night tour. For comparison, I have the 2021 Record Store Day (RSD) reissue remastered by Bob Ludwig and cut by Bernie Grundman. Throw Bob and Bernie in on the process, and this pressing is tough to match. However, the flat and quiet pressing from the box set provides a distinct advantage over the noisy RSD, which even a couple of good cleanings could not resolve. Again, we have an absolute killer when it comes to sound quality and performance. The sound stage is enormous and each musician is locked in and loaded with plenty of air and dimensionality. The four tracks include "The Latest Trick," "The Bug," "Solid Rock," and "Local Hero - Wild Theme." The last is my favorite version of this song, as the additional energy and improvisation is so perfect to my ears. Yes, it’s only an EP with just four tracks, but I feel like it’s an important addition to the box set.

Presentation and Final Comments

I would give Rhino very high marks for overall presentation, right down to the quality of the pressings, with Andy Walter, Bernie Grundman, and Optimal at the helm. The box set slip cover and album jackets are of excellent quality and construction. You would be proud to display them in your collection. Rhino has included a series of frameable 12" x 12" cover art posters for each album, a very nice touch. Lastly, Rhino has added a most interesting booklet with a collage of excellent pictures and a narrative written by Paul Sexton. The narrative provides for several interviews, quotes and anecdotes from the band that are quite fascinating. In summary, this is the way a box set should be done! Rhino has clearly been paying attention and listening!


Lindsey Buckingham, 20th Century Lindsey

Many folks are very excited about this vinyl box set and they should be! Not only are we getting new reissues for Lindsey Buckingham’s first three albums and a fourth that includes rarities, as above, they are all cut by one of the true Masters, Bernie Grundman. The pièce de résistance is that third album, Out Of The Cradle. Only released in Europe on vinyl in 1992 on the Mercury label, and pressed in the Netherlands, the original pressings are extremely rare and very expensive. I just so happen to own a copy for comparison. I will talk more about Out Of The Cradle below, as I have some additional comments about each of the albums.

Law And Order (1981)

Released in 1981 on Asylum Records, Law And Order was mastered by Stephen Marcussen and Larry Emerine, and cut by Stephen Marcussen at Precision Lacquer. I have an original pressing and it sounds very detailed and dynamic, but good luck finding a clean copy. Bernie has done well here, and I was very pleased with the quality of the new cut and the choices that were made. Richer and meatier across all frequencies, the album is now much more natural and flowing, despite all the quirky studio effects that were part of Lindsey’s new modus operandi as a soloist. After the release of Tusk with Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey was on his own and was ready for, if not determined to experiment and make creativity his top priority. The need for commercial success was somewhat lower down the totem pole. All of the hours spent in his home studio greatly paid off not only with this album, but it also laid the foundation for what was yet to come for both Fleetwood Mac and his own releases. He did not play it safe here, but one could argue that tracks like "Bwana" and "Trouble" are as catchy and stimulating as anything else that he has recorded.

Go Insane (1984)

Go Insane was Lindsey Buckingham’s second album and it was released in 1984 on the Electra Records label and mastered by George Marino. I have an original pressing and it provides the listener with superb transient attack and excellent harmonic structure and tone. Bernie Grundman follows suit with not much of a sonic change and similar excellent results—not always the norm on reissues by other mastering engineers. As they say, don’t try to fix something that ain't broke. Again however, you cant beat the quiet vinyl on the new reissue, as it does make a difference. For Go Insane, Lindsey stepped up his game in the studio, and utilized a programmable drum machine, multiple synthesizers, and plenty of over dubs. His evolving writing skills and production techniques translate to some amazing hooks and undeniable sonic wizardry. Performing almost all of the instruments on his own, there is also a personal and emotional connection that seems to pour through on each and every song. "Go Insane" and "Slow Dancing" were the hit singles, as the level of sophistication and nuance continued to grow.

Out Of The Cradle (1992)

Out Of The Cradle is an absolute masterpiece! Released in 1992 on the Reprise label, even the original CD sounds outstanding. I continue to use it often as both a demonstration tool and for my own personal pleasure. The instrumental on the first track followed by "Don’t Look Down" on track two makes for an extremely powerful introduction. "Soul Drifter," "All My Sorrows," and "Surrender The Rain" are only a few of the many highlights on this album. Lindsey is in peak form, and all that time spent in the studio on his prior efforts truly pays off here. Amazingly creative and inspirational!

Lets talk about the elephant in the room. As discussed above, Out Of The Cradle has basically been unavailable on vinyl since its original release in 1992. Many are waiting to see if the new reissue in this box set is worth owning, or if they should continue to seek out the one and only extremely rare 1992 pressing from the Netherlands. I can reassure you, that this new reissue is not only outstanding, but Bernie has again waved his magic wand! The results are even better than the Netherlands pressing or the CD referenced above. Stunning dynamics and additional clarity and weight in the mids and bass are real differentiators. In fact, the current asking price of the Netherland pressing on Discogs, is two to three times the price of this entire box set. Need I say more?

Rarities (2024)

The final LP is an eight song compilation that offers rare movie soundtracks and remixes. This includes tracks like "Time Bomb Town" from the movie Back to the Future (1985) and "Twisted" from the movie Twister (1996). The later is a romantic duet with Stevie Nicks, a lovely gem written by both artists. There's also a few rare remixes of "Go Insane" and "Slow Dancing" that were only issued in Europe. Like the first three reissues, this set sounds wonderful and is well worth having!

Presentation and Final Comments 

The overall quality of the box set slip cover and the outer sleeves for each album are excellent. Well-constructed with a glossy look and feel, everything should hold up well for the long term. There is no additional booklet or special inserts, but this is probably reflected in the price ($100), which seems reasonable for four vinyl LPs. I especially like the Lindsey Buckingham picture on the slip cover—a simple black and white profile with several shadows angled across his face. I feel like this is a nice contrast to what might be lurking below—a very talented and complex artist who has so much yet to offer!

My hope is that a second box set will soon be sitting near our Christmas tree or at least available by next year. Under The Skin (2006), Gift of Screws (2008), Seeds We Sow (2011), and Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie (2017) would be a much welcomed follow-up! Under The Skin was never even available on vinyl. Throw in his latest self-titled Lindsey Buckingham and we will have a real winner!



Dire Straits - Live 1978-1992 (12 LPs) $99.98

Lindsey Buckingham - 20th Century Lindsey (4 LPs) $212.48