REVIEW: Unreleased Joe Strummer Songs Stand Out on ‘Joe Strummer 001’




By DAN MACINTOSH

Mick Jones is one fine singer and songwriter, but Joe Strummer will forever be the true voice of The Clash. He sang with such rough-edged vulnerability, he was obviously the main reason thoughtful folks called The Clash ‘the only band that matters,’ back during its heyday.

Joe Strummer 001 isn’t a Clash album, but is, instead, a massive collection of songs from Strummer’s career, both before and after The Clash. It comes in multiple formats, and includes previously unreleased Strummer tracks, including an early demo for “This Is England,” which was also the best thing about the otherwise forgettable Cut the Crap album. That ill-fated recording was a work the ‘band’ tracked after drummer Topper Headon and Jones had been fired from the group. It was the group’s last asthmatic gasp before calling it a day. 

Joe Strummer in NYC – Courtesy photo

Album highlights include the raving “Johnny Appleseed,” from The Mescaleros’ Global A Go-Go, and a duet with Johnny Cash on Bob Marley’s sobering “Redemption Song.” Like Cash, Strummer quickly evolved from a loose cannon rock & roller, to a far more eclectic artist. Sadly, both men left us far too soon. “Over the Border” is a reggae/rock featuring rocker another musical legend, Jimmy Cliff. 

Additionally, this release includes a couple of outtakes from Sid & Nancy, that eye-opening cinematic dramatization of Sid Vicious’ life. One is a blues, called ”Crying on 23rd,” while “2 Bullets” is a country-ish tune featuring pedal steel guitar, Pearl Harbour on lead vocals and Mick Jones playing guitar. It marked the first time Strummer and Jones had recorded together since Combat Rock. The project includes “Love Kills,” which may have been Strummer’s finest post-Clash recording. 

Proving his ability to make almost any style sound perfectly natural, “Pouring Rain” is an acoustic folk song that prominently features Steve Warbeck’s accordion. “The Cool Possible” is a swinging, jazzy demo spotlighting James MacNally’s spry acoustic piano. Strummer was no true jazz vocalist, but whenever he wanted to play the hipster – as he did here – he was always perfectly cast.

Much like recent archival releases of Prince’s music, Strummer – in death – has nothing left to prove. His groundbreaking work with The Clash is legendary. These songs, perhaps more than anything else, reveal just how much he still had to give. If you already love Strummer, you’ll love him even more after wading through this welcome release.