With the worlds record companies rushing to tempt us with "deluxe," "ultimate" and "utterly super-duper" revisions of the albums weve already bought seven times before, its surprising that the Clash, no strangers to the repackaging business themselves, have yet to give Combat Rock the vault-scouring treatment. It was, after all, their biggest album - and thats big on a truly global scale, as opposed to the usual cultish approval they were accustomed to; it spawned their biggest hit singles oh, and it was also partially responsible for breaking the band up, after Mick Jones original mixes were rejected by his bandmates, and either remixed, rerecorded, or altogether disposed of. All of which is very Let It Be, and of such conundrums are legends born. They didnt release it. It must be worth hearing.
But what exactly are we missing out on? Or, more pertinently, were the rest of the band correct in their summation?
Yes and no. Certainly the opening blast of "Beautiful People Are Ugly Too" (a rare Topper Headon composition) and "Kill Time" are scarcely casualties youd spend much time mourning over; the first sounds like a Godley-Creme out-take (without the redeeming features that might suggest), the second is a clattering steel drum conspiracy which goes on way too long. "Straight To Hell" it isnt. The previously unknown "Walk Talk Evil," too, makes a better secret than youd hope , an instrumental that was first conceived for Sandanista (where it would probably have worked a little better), but which really doesnt do anything in seven minutes that it couldnt have accomplished in three.
But Jones vision for "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" has a brittle punch that the smoothed out single patently lacked, and looks deeper into his BAD future than anything else on the disc; "Know Your Rights" is a shattered, shattering rant, while "Rock The Casbah" feels a lot more open, a bit more foreboding, and explosively, beautifully percussive. And so on across an album that divided Clash fans in its official form, and would have done so again if it had been left as Jones imagined it - even without playing it, did we really need another double album?
Thats disc one. Disc two dips into the album sessions for a clutch of instrumentals and alternate/edited versions, but its overall usefulness really depends on how many times you need to hear "Cool Confusion" (theres five spread across the two CDs) and "Ghetto Defendant" (four).
no denying the importance of this collection in the annals of the Clash,
nor can one resist wondering what might have happened had the record been
released in its original form. They went out, after all, on the strength
of one of the best performances they ever recorded
To Hell" again. Imagine a future that used that as its starting block!
- Dave Thompson
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