Exactly ten years after Dire Straits' first compilation, Money for Nothing, appeared in the stores, their second, Sultans of Swing: The Very Best of Dire Straits, was released. A decade is a significant span of time, and the average band would have produced enough material for an entirely different collection, one that shared no similarities with its predecessor. Dire Straits is not the average band, however, and during those ten years, they released exactly two albums -- 1991's On Every Street, their first studio album since Brothers in Arms in 1985, and 1993's On the Night, a live album culled from tapes of the record's supporting tour. Not quite enough new material for a new greatest-hits album, but it had been years since Dire Straits had released an album of any sort (a compilation of BBC sessions snuck into the stores in 1995) -- hence the birth of Sultans of Swing. Unsurprisingly, it covers much of the same ground as Money for Nothing, containing all the essentials ("Sultans of Swing," "Romeo and Juliet," "Tunnel of Love," "Private Investigations," "Twisting by the Pool," "Money for Nothing," "Brothers in Arms," "Walk of Life"), with the exception of "Telegraph Road," which was left on the earlier compilation. A live "Love Over Gold," "Lady Writer," and "So Far Away" replace "Down to the Waterline," "Where Do You Think You're Going," and a live "Portobello Belle," which is really just a trade-off, since they're all equal in quality. Then there are the three hits from On Every Street ("Calling Elvis," "Heavy Fuel," "On Every Street"), all of which are pleasant re-creations of the Brothers in Arms sound; a live version of "Your Latest Trick" from On the Night, and, inexplicably, Mark Knopfler's "Wild Theme (Theme from Local Hero)." Fine tunes all, but none of them are reason enough to replace Money for Nothing with Sultans of Swing. But for casual fans or curious listeners looking for an introduction/sampler, it's the better choice, simply because it covers more ground and contains more music while remaining quite listenable and entertaining.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine