Cut the Crap (1985)
Joe Strummer, on what he did after hearing the finished record:
"I just said "Well, [bleep] this" and [bleep]ed off to Spain to sit sobbing under a tree"
Best Song: Three Card Trick
Worst Song: Dirty Punk
Ouch. Yes, it's as bad as you always heard. But you see, the problem here is most certainly not the Joe Strummer's writing skills. The melodies, while nowhere near London Calling quality, aren't that far removed from Combat Rock, in all honesty. It's not like Joe just completely forgot how to write or something.
No, the problem here is one thing, and one thing only -- the production. On something like, I dunno, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, the material itself downright sucked, and that fact combined with the awful 80s production is what made that album so awful. But words cannot describe the sheer vileness oozing out of this production. It's like you told someone "Hey, man! Can you please make this album as irritatingly 80s as possible? No, I don't mean what sand music from the 80s actually sounds like, I mean what people who overly generalize 80s music as being complete and total crap picture 80s music as sounding like!", and that's exactly what happened.
Songs like "Dictator", "We Are The Clash", "Cool Under Heat", and "This is England" would all be halfway decent if not for this monstrosity of a production job. The only song that doesn't reek of horribleness is the fun reggae jaunt of "Three Card Trick". Yes, the 80s stuff is still in full force, but it isn't NEARLY as irritating here as it is everywhere else.
So...should you buy it? No. Do not. Unless you're either a completionist or a fan of mutilating your ears. Anyone else? Steer clear.
Super Black Market Clash (1993)
"Get 'cho car outta that gear!"
Best Song: Groovy Times
Worst Song: Justice Tonight / Kick It Over
As far as outtakes collections go...it's not bad. I most certainly prefer it to something like, I dunno, Metamorphosis, but I still can't say that I really like the album. There's one absolutely EXCELLENT stretch there in the middle (near the era of London Calling, unsurprisingly), but everything else is pretty much take it or leave it.
For those who don't know, this essentially works as a career retrospective for the band, including outtakes from every section of The Clash's life. You start out with your basic punk, you progress a little bit with that style, then you completely turn around and start hearing fun, horn-driven reggae, and then you arrive at the section I like to call "the section people imagine in their heads when people who hate Sandinista describe Sandinista". Y'know, repetitive, 8-minute dub reggae with not a melody (or more than a bit of vocals) in sight? Yeah, that's what this section is. That's then followed up with some slightly interesting stuff from Combat Rock.
Songs? Well, the punk stomp of "1977" and "Listen" are A-OK in my book, as is "Jail Guitar Doors", but then again...you already heard that on The Clash (US), didn't you? Oh, and "Pressure Drop", "Groovy Times", and "The Prisoner" are all near-perfect tracks that sound very LC-y. Other than that...I guess "Stop the World", "Capital Radio Two", and "Long Time Jerk" are alright. Everything else? Either mind-numbing reggae, or just plain ol' forgettable.
Like the band? Sure, go ahead and pick it up. After murdering yourself while listening to the 9-minute "Justice Tonight", you can enjoy the rest of the not-half-bad offerings on this here collection. Besides, those three tracks from the London Calling era are really quite good.
From Here to Eternity: Live (1999)
"I never felt so much a-like singin' the blues"
Best Song: Straight to Hell
Worst Song: Armagideon Time
It's fine, but it's completely inessential. None of the songs exceed the originals , and none of them (save "Straight to Hell") are different enough from the original to be interesting, to my ears. I like it fine, and it's a very enjoyable listen, but I still think...eh, I'd still rather hear the regular versions of these songs. So yeah, if you're really into The Clash, and you'd like to hear what they sounded like live...have at it. It's fun, it's energetic, but really...it's nothing special. It gets a high score, because...well, the songs are excellent, but as far as a live album goes? You can do much better.
Order of Accessibility
Kick it off with the US version of The Clash. Yeah, you heard me. I don't care what you say, it is much easier to get used to Strummer's voice when he's singing punk than when he's singing reggae, or pop, or whatever. Start with this. Then proceed to London Calling and attempt to take in the awesomeness that is that album. It may take you a bit...but it'll come. Go ahead and plunge into Sandinista! after that, followed up by Give 'Em Enough Rope. Then go for Combat Rock, or, if you're into live albums, From Here to Eternity. If you REALLY want more, take a swing at Super Black Market Clash. Leave Cut the Crap to the dogs. Thus, we get:
1) The Clash (US or UK)
2) London Calling
4) Give 'Em Enough Rope
5) Combat Rock
6) From Here to Eternity
7) Super Black Market Clash