Post-Clash Strummer was a prolific writer still and whilst he might not have always got it right or reached the heights of his former band he was still the icon and when he needed to could turn in a tune or two and when he was playing live he was still the captivating legend he always was… Its taken a few years for someone to go through his post Clash catalogue and by the look and sounds of it Ignition has done a fine job in preserving this material and uncovering some pretty decent finds as well along the way not just to satisfy the completists but to maybe open Strummers work up to a new audience who have no clue what he did after The Clash ended.
With several formats available from the super duper everything fanboy edition to the digital download the one thing you do get no matter what edition you invest in is new songs that have been lovingly preserved here.
The collection begins way back in ’75 and takes us right up to his untimely passing in 2002 (has it really been 16 years?) Everything you’ll hear has been remastered by Grammy award-winning producer Peter J Moore in Toronto Canada and in notes he said that Strummer had hidden tracks on cassettes sometimes twenty minutes after the original recordings had ended. With the deluxe set, you get Vinyl, CD Cassette and a hardback book, 7” single bells and whistles which is a must own for the serious Clash / Strummer fanboy.
Let’s get down to some of the nitty-gritty. On the CD the quality of the recordings is what you’ll first notice – whilst its effectively demoed on primitive equipment back in the mid 70’s the restoration work is exceptional and ‘Letsagetabitarockin’ is a 101Ers stomper and has the classic Strummer sneer as he spits out the lyrics.
You also get ‘Love Kills’ from the Sid and Nancy soundtrack with its 80’s drumming. Also, you have another soundtrack tune in the shape of ‘Tennessee Rain’ again from an Alex Cox flick ‘Walker’ which features a plethora of musicians as Joe kicks back for some folk driven campfire blues.
‘Trash City’ is the third film soundtrack song by Joe and was featured in 1988’s ‘Permanent Record’ and features Joe with The Latino Rockers. This one is lifted for the 7” version that most people won’t have heard and then we start to venture into fanboy territory with 7” single B sides like ‘15th Brigade’. There are twenty tracks on the CD disc one most are culled from obscure film soundtracks and singles. ‘Ride Your Donkey’ is selected from the difficult to find ‘Earthquake Weather’.
I’d forgotten Strummer featured with Isaac Hayes on a track for Chef Aid a South Park Movie that came out in 98 but ‘It’s A Rockin World’ is the sound of a track that someone like Strummer could write in his sleep.
A favourite and high point from his solo career was the excellent ‘Rock Art And The X-Ray Style’ and the albums finest song is ‘Yalla Yalla’ one that always stood out live for me and the Richard Norris E Bow always takes me back.
With a couple of Mescaleros numbers firstly ‘Johnny Appleseed’ from ‘Global A Go-Go’ and then ‘Black Hawk Downs’ ‘Minstrel Boy’ tickled me with the sleeve notes that Scott Shields just sat there staring into space which is a good place to be as any I would have thought? Then its a few star-studded duets firstly the Johnny Cash take on ‘Redemption Song’ which was easily one of the highlights of the Cash series of releases on Def Jam but I love the feel of the Jimmy Cliff track ‘Over The Border’ that has a pair of exceptional vocal performances so full of passion and it seems right to finish the first disc with the rockin’ ‘Coma Girl’ from ‘Streetcore’ and ‘Silver & Gold/Before I Grow Too Old’ from the same recording.
Disc two is pretty much more of the same and it also begins with the same two songs as disc one but with vital differences that are what these recordings are all about. With the first being an acoustic demo with just Strummer on guitar and vocals and then ‘Czechoslovak Song/ Where Is England?’ which is rescued from ½ inch tape and has Simonon on bass and is exceptional yet haunting with the reverb echoing throughout the track spine-tingling for sure. Presumably from the same recordings, there is the previously unreleased ‘Pouring Rain’ that is the same line up of Strummer, Simonon and Pete Howard.
To continue the uncovering of lost treasures ‘Blues On The River’ is a solo offering of vocal and guitar that is seeing the light of day for the first time and as we get into the meat of disc two I think disc one was softening up the fanboys for the plethora of unreleased material on disc two as the mid 80’s turned up some exceptional songs that could and would have been lost forever. One that will have Clash fans purring is the bluesy jam of ‘Crying On 23rd that features a certain Mick Jones on guitar and one time Johnny Thunders drummer Chris Musto its followed by another ¼ inch tape find featuring Jones, Musto Pearl Harbour, and B.J. Cole as well on ‘2 Bullets’ that was from the Alex Cox film ‘Sid & Nancy but ‘When Pigs Fly’ is another unreleased until now recording taken from Rockfield in South Wales that saw Strummer turn his hand to producing and it also sees the sets only real double up when ‘Pouring Rain’ gets the Rockfield treatment and with Accordion certainly has that authentic Celtic feel and the same must be said for ‘Rose Of Erin’ also used in the film ‘When Pigs Fly’.
As we head reluctantly into the final throws of disc two ‘The Cool Impossible’ has Strummer turning his hand to some Jazzy notes – with a shuffle on the brushes and the familiar Strummer strains it seems strange to think that these have only now surfaced. Penultimately 2002 sees Strummer record the previously unreleased ‘London Is Burning’ with the Mescaleros and with a sneer and more than a bark its classic Strummer. Which only leaves ‘U.S North’ to close off this solo career compilation and it seems fitting that this Mick Jones produced track put the full stop on an incredible career from someone taken way to early when he had so much to give and someone that has been sorely missed especially in some tough times when a spokesman – poet-activist – songwriter was needed Rest In Peace Joe, we love you, man, whilst his body turned to dust his soul and spirit will live forever.