Friday, April 29, 2022

Frank Zappa 46: Broadway The Hard Way

In 1988, Frank Zappa assembled a band that was arguably his most accomplished for what was supposed to be a lengthy worldwide tour. The 12-person band, including a full horn section, made it through an East Coast leg and a few months in Europe with a repertoire in the dozens before a petty mutiny imploded the project, and that was that.

Naturally, Frank had recorded all the gigs, and used his suddenly free time to compile a few albums from the gigs that had actually been played. Broadway The Hard Way was the first of these, and concentrated heavily on the new songs that had debuted. Considering the timeframe, the lyrical content and subsequent asides focused on two pet peeves: the activities of the Reagan administration and the hypocritical hijinks of such televangelists as Jimmy Swaggart.

The album originally appeared two ways—a two-sided program on LP and cassette, and an extended, rejigged sequence on CD. Both started with the same three songs, all new. “Elvis Has Just Left The Building” is sung by new guitarist Mike Keneally this side of a Johnny Cash impression, punctuated by accents from Ike Willis and a pretty good imitation of Sam Kinison screaming. “Planet Of The Baritone Women” is misogyny directed at Wall Street in an old European style, whereas “Any Kind Of Pain” almost approaches adult contemporary in its sax solos and chorus; Frank takes a solo here.

On the LP and cassette, the balance of side one was filled by “Jesus Thinks You’re A Jerk”, which was the last song before intermission. This is a highly intricate song in structure and harmony, mostly dealing with televangelists Jim Bakker (who went to prison for embezzlement) and Pat Robertson (who was running for president that year) but touching on the NRA and the KKK along the way. A fan named Eric Buxton, who’d been following the tour, is brought up to read a Twilight Zone-style monologue before the music becomes more adult contemporary again.

Side two of the LP and cassette begin with Frank explaining the concept of a form of prison food called “confinement loaf”, which is referred to throughout “Dickie’s Such An Asshole”, which follows, and elsewhere on the album. However, the CD omits this detail, so it goes straight from “Any Kind Of Pain” to “Dickie’s Such An Asshole”, matching the LP and cassette sequence again.

So anyway, “Dickie’s Such An Asshole” dated from the Roxy era when the Watergate hearings were threatening to take down Nixon; clearly Frank saw parallels between that scandal and the Iran-Contra affair from the year before. “When The Lie’s So Big” continues to lambaste Republicans, with clever inserts and quotes from the horn section, then “Rhymin’ Man” turns its ridicule to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was also running for president that year. This time the Johnny Cash voice is more overt. “Promiscuous” is rapped by Ike Willis about then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (whom Frank felt resembled Cap’n Crunch via his uniform and facial hair) and the theme from the TV show The Untouchables allows Ike to do a Robert Stack impression while skewering figures in Iran-Contra.

The LP and cassette end there, but the CD has another half an hour of music. “Why Don’t You Like Me?” rearranges “Tell Me You Love Me” with new words about Michael Jackson, sung by Robert Martin in a bad impersonation. “Bacon Fat” is an old R&B tune with new lyrics about confinement loaf, while the jazz instrumental “Stolen Moments” becomes a prelude for special guest Sting to come onstage and sing “Murder By Numbers” (which, he explains, was denounced by Jimmy Swaggart). “Jezebel Boy” asks why vice squads don’t round up male prostitutes with the zeal they apply to females. After some entertaining sound effects, it’s a thematic switch to “Outside Now”, and Frank gets to solo again, as he does also on “Hot-Plate Heaven At The Green Hotel”. That leads thematically to a rewrite of “What Kind Of Girl?” focusing on Swaggart’s reported adventures with prostitutes. There’s a quote from “Strawberry Fields Forever” halfway through, which is this album’s only nod to an extended “Beatles Medley” played throughout the tour, with further parody lyrics devoted to the torrid subject. The CD ends with “Jesus Thinks You’re A Jerk”, complete with the intermission announcement and exhortation to vote.

Considering that most of the songs are cobbled together from multiple performances—sometimes as few as two but usually five or as many as ten, and back and forth within a track—it’s a testament to Frank’s editing skill that Broadway The Hard Way flows like a single show. Further performances would appear in the You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore series, as well as on two double-CD sets we’ll get to, but then there was a twenty-year wait before Zappa ’88: The Last U.S. Show presented the band’s final performance in Frank’s homeland, complete with the Beatle rewrites. Even there, the references are as dated as his pink shirt and jacket.

Frank Zappa Broadway The Hard Way (1988)—3
1989 Rykodisc CD: same as 1988, plus 8 extra tracks

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Elton John 19: 21 At 33

He was still selling out concert halls and arenas, but Elton John was obsessed with his chart placings. (He still is to this day.) 21 At 33 was something of an attempt at a comeback, even going so far to include Bernie Taupin and some old bandmates in the mix. But it’s still a mix, and not quite a blend.

“Chasing The Crown” is an excellent opener, with all the rock elements we’ve been missing, and lyrics by Bernie. The female choir fits, but it turns out that blazing guitar is courtesy of Steve Lukather, proving why he banked so much doing sessions. “Little Jeannie” was the hit single, with some “Daniel” echoes in the instrumentation; these days the drum machine in the second verse is a clever touch alongside the real thing. Gary Osborne wrote the lyrics for that one, and the next track is Elton’s first collaboration with Tom Robinson, who’d achieved notoriety a few years before with “Glad To Be Gay”. “Sartorial Eloquence” is a posh way of saying “gee but you clean up nice”, which wasn’t more successful as a hit single under the title “Don’t Ya Wanna Play This Game No More?” Bernie returns on “Two Rooms At The End Of The World”, which would describe and celebrate their tried-and-true writing method. Unfortunately, the track is just too punchy, and while he’d use this blueprint more successfully in the future, the horn and other singers engulf Elton’s parts.

Bernie’s also responsible for “White Lady White Powder”, which was hardly a subtle metaphor even then. The simple piano is soon joined by Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson and turns into something of a retread of “Phildelphia Freedom” without the strings. To underscore their intimacy with the song’s message, three of the Eagles add harmonies. Having seemingly packed his nostrils to the limit, “Dear God” is a limp prayer via Gary Osborne; the music deserves better. (This time the choir includes Bruce Johnston, Toni Tennille and two other veterans from The Wall, plus Peter Noone, of all people.) Tom Robinson also contributed “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again”, here given an arrangement too close to that of “Little Jeannie”, and a sax solo from the guy who used to play with Billy Joel. The genre shifts again on “Take Me Back”, which would do better if it was more overt country, especially given Byron Berline’s double fiddle solo. Finally, “Give Me The Love” is a disco-tinged collaboration with Judie Tzuke, whom we’ve never heard of either, but she was signed to his record label, so there.

While starting mostly strong, 21 At 33 fails as an album, though it’s certainly better than the missteps of 1979. Given his work ethic, he wasn’t about to take any time off. The album title was more of a score than a milestone anyway: he turned 33 years old while making the album, which would be his 21st. (This may seem confusing taking our series into account, but his arithmetic included everything we’ve reviewed thus far, plus Lady Samantha, a UK-only collection of B-sides and rarities issued initially only on 8-track and cassette that we’ll get to in another context.)

Elton John 21 At 33 (1980)—

Friday, April 22, 2022

Grateful Dead 16: Shakedown Street

Their record company wanted more product, so the Dead decamped to their rehearsal space to deliver what would become Shakedown Street. Still required to use a name producer, they went the somewhat safe route with Little Feat’s Lowell George, who’d be dead within the year.

There is something of a gumbo feel to their laid-back cover of the Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin’”; this was one of Pigpen’s showcases back in the day, but it’s handled here by Bob Weir. It’s also splattered with timbale-style percussion, which continues on “France”, wherein Donna Godchaux duets with Weir on music he wrote with Mickey Hart to a Robert Hunter lyric. It’s got way too much steel drums, but some nice acoustic soloing, which only whets listeners’ appetites for Jerry Garcia to do something. Unfortunately he does so with the heavily discofied title track, the chorus and hooks of which still bear an uncomfortable similarity to “Stayin’ Alive”. This wouldn’t keep the tune from becoming a live staple, however. “Serengetti”, a track consisting solely of Mickey and Bill Kreutzmann’s percussion, is a more successful experiment, and a nice distraction. However, “Fire On The Mountain” uses the same two-chord template—maybe because Mickey wrote the music?—as “Franklin’s Tower”, but a hair slower. It, too, would become a favorite onstage.

Side two starts strong with “I Need A Miracle”—a rather ordinary sentiment, but the track has power. “From The Heart Of Me” is Donna’s final spotlight with the band, and while it’s a little chirpy, it’s a nice song, perhaps too quirky to be an adult contemporary hit. Historians shouldn’t be misled by “Stagger Lee”—rather than work up a new arrangement of this chestnut, Robert Hunter wrote all new words to tell the story, including the previously unknown fact that “she shot him in the balls.” Ideas remained thin, however, as “All New Minglewood Blues” is a slowed-down retread of a song from their first album. But “If I Had The World To Give” is a very tender Garcia-Hunter tune, and a nice benediction.

Despite its shortcomings, Shakedown Street isn’t a “bad” album, but it’s not great. The most popular songs continue to sell it to those who embrace them. (Bonus tracks on the eventual expanded CD include a version of “Good Lovin’” with Lowell George singing lead, alongside three songs from the band’s legendary appearance in Egypt in front of the Sphinx, including a 13-minute slog through “Fire On The Mountain”.)

Grateful Dead Shakedown Street (1978)—3
2006 expanded CD: same as 1978, plus 5 extra tracks

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Jeff Beck 16: Jeff

Determined as ever to follow his own muse, the turn-of-the-century flurry of activity from Jeff Beck culminated with the simply titled Jeff, which followed on from its predecessors in a full-blown embrace of electronica. To his credit, these experiments work, except when they don’t.

It helps that his collaborators include such pioneers as Andy Garcia and David Torn, who dominate “So What” and “Plan B” respectively, but then vocals start to get in the way. “Pork-U-Pine” doesn’t need any input from Saffron of Republica, while “Seasons” should have been left as an orchestral mood piece. By this time we lose patience for “Trouble Man”, built on a pounding drum loop; “Grease Monkey” and “Hot Rod Honeymoon”, both produced by Apollo 440, lean on automotive effects, though the latter has some cute Beach Boys references.

“Line Dancing With Monkeys” is a terrific song title, though the finished product doesn’t suggest any of that. Tony Hymas turns up on “J.B.’s Blues”, which is more moody than bluesy, whereas as “Pay Me No Mind (Jeff Beck Remix)” is almost entirely the work of Me One, from the outfit who once exhorted us to pump up the jam. “My Thing” brings back the woman who yelled all over the Apollo 440 tracks for a rather generic track. Just to completely throw us off, the set closes with a supposedly traditional melody called “Bulgaria” that segues into “Why Lord Oh Why”, another Tony Hymas composition, with the whole suite orchestrated by a guy who once did the same for Black Sabbath.

More than the others, Jeff is recommended if you like techno, but it’s not strictly a guitar showcase. Approach with caution.

Jeff Beck Jeff (2003)—3

Friday, April 15, 2022

Queen 4: A Night At The Opera

This is approximately where the legend of Queen really begins. Calling the album A Night At The Opera hints at the bombast contained within. Throughout, they deliver.

Furious classical piano arpeggios compete with sinister guitar effects before a tempo change and a sudden choral hit announces “Death On Two Legs”. Subtitled “Dedicated To…”, it’s a nasty riposte to a former manager that’s directly deflated by the Rudy Vallee crooning of “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon”, playing right into Freddie’s camp. While brief, it leaves room for Brian May’s guitar solo, which sports his signature sound. Roger Taylor again provides unintentional comic relief, this time with the unfortunately sincere “I’m In Love With My Car”. Despite having been used humorously in the closing credits of countless TV shows and films, “You’re My Best Friend” remains a sweet tribute, and above all, catchy as all get-out. (Plus, John Deacon gets his share of the lucrative royalties.) The misleading folkie strum of “‘39” belies the lyrics, which are right out of science fiction; much more typical of the band is the cock rock of “Sweet Lady”. Lest anything the earlier vaudeville tease was just that, “Seaside Rendezvous” is even more produced and even sillier.

They haven’t completely left their prog influences behind, as demonstrated by the content and construction of “The Prophet’s Song”. While impressive, the indulgence of the intricate and echoed a cappella midsection is tempered by their resisting to name it, as Rush and other contemporaries would have done. The harp-like guitar effects at the close of the song nicely meld with the opening of “Love Of My Life”, a gorgeous ballad that also shows off Freddie’s piano prowess. Vaudeville returns yet again, this time courtesy of Brian, for “Good Company”. Though not brief, it’s a stark contrast to what comes next. Even before Wayne’s World wore out its fifteen minutes, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was always worth the listen, and it remains one of the most impressively intricate songs of its time. (Its use of the stereo spectrum is particularly expert.) What could possibly follow that? A Queen-style arrangement of “God Save The Queen”, of course.

Anyone who buys A Night At The Opera on the basis of “Bohemian Rhapsody” or even “You’re My Best Friend” will not be disappointed, particularly since there’s more to the album than those. It’s an excellent gateway to the band. (Two remixes were added to 1991’s expanded reissue; these were ignored for the version twenty years later, which instead offered the contemporary re-recording of “Keep Yourself Alive”, later live versions of “Love Of My Life” (from Live Killers) and “’39”, and new isolated mixes of “You’re My Best Friend”, “I’m In Love With My Car”, and the “operatic” middle section of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to highlight the vocals.)

Queen A Night At The Opera (1975)—
1991 Hollywood reissue: same as 1975, plus 2 extra tracks
2011 remaster: same as 1975, plus 6 extra tracks

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Mark Knopfler 11: Tracker

The listener’s contract with a favorite artist is that we must follow their trail, even if the artist doesn’t excite us as much anymore. We know what to expect from a Mark Knopfler album, but we keep listening in case something wows us. It’s happened with other people, but Tracker fills his end of the bargain by being competent.

“Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes” threatens jazz before being overtaken by Irish folk, and as has become usual, the lyrics—this time a reverie about a time long past—don’t meld with the backing. A much more effective reminiscence is “Basil”, which details his early job at a newspaper in the company of a poet who clearly wished he was elsewhere. “River Towns” is slow and ordinary, except that the saxophone reminds us of Clarence Clemons at his most restrained; think “Secret Garden”. A highlight is “Skydiver”, which clops along for a while, but manages to soar when the extra harmony from Ruth Moody kicks in, and especially when the chords change slightly towards the end. “Mighty Man” fades in like a foggy Irish ballad, and sports Chieftains-style chanting on the chorus, but the incessantly handclap rhythm of “Broken Bones” will make you feel as if your own palms hurt. Besides, the pseudo-funk arrangement wasn’t much better on “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)”.

Ms. Moody features again on “Long Cool Girl”, one of his stronger love songs, but “Lights Of Taormina” sounds like we’ve heard it before. That said, we do smile when he rhymes the title with “if anyone has seen her.” “Silver Eagle” is a lulling reverie from a musician on the road that manages to build despite its simplicity. “Beryl” pays tribute to another obscure writer, but the cheesy organ seems an extremely odd touch, and while the rockin’ beat is a nice change, it merely takes up space. It’s a particularly strange palate-cleanser before “Wherever I Go”, a gorgeous duet with Ms. Moody with unnecessary sax solos.

As had become common, an hour-long album wasn’t enough to contain all his creativity, so various bonus tracks appeared in a variety of territories and permutations. These include the bluegrass-tinged “.38 Special”, the truck driver’s monologue in “My Heart Has Never Changed”, the traditional-sounding “Heart Of Oak” and “Time Will End All Sorrow” (both superior to many songs on the album), and “Oklahoma Ponies”, which begins with a welcome blast of feedback. The best is “Terminal Of Tribute To”, one of the more intricate songs he’s done in years, and a caustic portrait of a never-was—worse than a has-been—stuck on the cover band treadmill. Could this be a snipe at former Dire Straits bandmates on the tribute band circuit, as one of our intrepid correspondents has pointed out? Either way, this definitely should have made the main album.

What can we say about this album that we haven’t said already? Tracker is not offensive, and it would be a lot better if he cut some of the tracks. Quantity is not always quality, but at last he’s got a level that’s maintained. If anything, we’re going to keep our ears out for Ruth Moody, so thanks for that.

Mark Knopfler Tracker (2015)—3

Friday, April 8, 2022

Elvis Costello 36: The Boy Named If

Considering how many genres he’s spanned in his career—particularly in the 21st century—PR folks have an easy time of it whenever Elvis Costello releases “his most rocking album since” whatever the last one was that fit that description. In the case of The Boy Named If, this is not hype. The album crashes out of the speakers from the first moment, and more or less stays at that volume. Due to the nature of the post-Covid world, and the worldwide residences of individual Imposters, the album was pieced together via the mixing stage from at least five different recording locations. Yet incredibly, it sounds live and dynamic, a testament to the intuition and interplay of the performers, as well as the engineers.

With a nearly dissonant riff that keeps the song off balance, “Farewell, OK” is all spit and spite, a kiss-off like he’s often done. The title track limps into place like that of When I Was Cruel, but this is a better song as well as performance, with lots of input from Steve Nieve’s keyboards. While we’re talking throwbacks, “Penelope Halfpenny” recalls “Georgie And Her Rival”; his voice even sounds 30 years younger. “The Difference” threatens to be one of the character studies on Momofuku but emerges as a lost Brutal Youth track, right down to the violent revenge in the lyrics. “What If I Can’t Give You Anything But Love?” expertly condenses the rustic Americana and propulsion of The Delivery Man, with some wonderfully chaotic fretwork. After all that onslaught, “Paint The Rose Red Blue” provides some welcome, not exactly useless beauty, but again, the violence in the lyrics isn’t focused, despite the strong melody. “Mistook Me For A Friend” kicks the pretty mood away with more verbose anger and throwback sound.

“My Most Beautiful Mistake” isn’t the first time he’s used a film set as a setting and metaphor; this one is notable for the harmonies and more prominent input from one Nicole Atkins. One of our correspondents pointed out the bass riff of “Magnificent Hurt” being identical to that of Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop”; as with “Farewell, OK” Elvis’s dissonant riffing against the key keeps the song fresh. “The Man You Love To Hate” is a noisy burlesque number, then Pete Thomas beats a busy tattoo on the busy samba of “The Death Of Magic Thinking”. “Trick Out The Truth” spews out a litany of rhymes and arcane references to describe a nightmare that’s more odd than scary, while crickets contribute to the tempo. “Mr. Crescent” also threatens to be another obscure portrait, but the song, a quietly strummed benediction, is much better than most of his similar titles.

The Boy Named If is basically the rock album Elvis Costello didn’t make for the better part of fifteen years, devoid of extraneous collaborators and dramatic works in progress. With Sebastian Krys he’s found a collaborator in the booth who can navigate his styles and whims. The Imposters continue to be valuable interpreters, and his voice is as sharp and melodic as ever, as if he’s been stuck in a time warp. It’s a welcome return. (Elvis also continues to save money on design by painting his own album covers. For those who had to have more, a limited edition package contained even more canvas daubs along with short stories to accompany each song that are as impenetrable as the lyrics. Then, by year’s end a companion album of sorts called The Boy Named If (Alive At Memphis Magnetic) was released digitally, including tracks and covers recorded during live rehearsals, plus a remix of “Magnificent Hurt” by a Japanese duo.)

Elvis Costello & The Imposters The Boy Named If (2022)—

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Nilsson 3: Aerial Ballet

Harry Nilsson’s third album followed on closely from the last one; it’s very polite, with plenty of overly cute touches and vocal gymnastics. Aerial Ballet is an apt title, as it consists of high-wire feats designed to stun and amaze. There’s even a tapdancing routine that frames the album.

Removed from the album so as not to compete with the Monkees’ version but since restored, “Daddy’s Song” follows the same template as “1941” from the last album (“I loved my daddy but he left and now I’m sad”). It’s said that the initials of “Good Old Desk” make it an ode to a certain deity, which goes way over our heads, but while we’d like to hear the piano chords removed from the rest of the arrangement, when the strings come in, they’re lovely. “Don’t Leave Me” has some lovely dynamics between the verse and the chorus, but the scat sections, again, grate. While he hadn’t hit such a level of fame yet, “Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song” is an astute diatribe about the fickleness of it all that dissolves into yet another scat detour. “Little Cowboy” is supposed to be a lullaby, but the clippety-clop effect sounds like parody, and when you factor in the horns, good luck getting the kid to sleep. “Together” finally blends words and music well for a good track, and no scatting!

Up till now the album has focused on his own songwriting, but side two starts with the classic “Everybody’s Talkin’”, two years before its use in Midnight Cowboy and originally written by folkie Fred Neil. It’s followed by the next best song on the album, “I Said Goodbye To Me”, at least until the lyrics are echoed, literally, by a spoken track, but then we’re subjected to a reprise of “Little Cowboy” dominated by virtuosic whistling. “Mr. Tinker” (who was a tailor, ho ho) is another character study that’s mostly notable for a vocal hook that foreshadows “One”, which comes after. While not as overwrought (or as effective) as the hit Three Dog Night version, its arrangement more closely follows the busy-signal mode that inspired the track. “The Wailing Of The Willow” is more Bacharach bossa nova, pleasant and not offensive, whereas “Bath” is one of the happiest songs about a having a hangover, yet still thinks a variation on “doo-wacka-doo” comprises an actual chorus.

Aerial Ballet tries very hard to impress, but he’s still an acquired taste. It’s telling that for such a short album, it seems a lot longer.

Nilsson Aerial Ballet (1968)—

Friday, April 1, 2022

Clash 4: Black Market Clash

Thanks to the differences between UK and US releases, plus a number of songs exclusive to singles and EPs, the Clash had amassed a pile of unalbumized tracks that Epic Records was only happy to compile. Black Market Clash appeared in the short-lived 10-inch “Nu-Disk” format, but still ran almost as long as each of their first two albums had (in the UK anyway).

With its familiar slashing chords, “Capital Radio One” was especially rare, having been included on a giveaway single. Mick Jones sings “The Prisoner” a B-side from the Give ‘Em Enough Rope era, with muddy production to match. “Pressure Drop” is an extremely enjoyable cover of the Toots and the Maytals song, which makes for an odd transition back to the angry punk of “Cheat” from the UK version of the first album. The relatively early B-side “City Of The Dead” sports prominent organ and an unexpected smooth sax part by the soon-to-be-ubiquitous Gary Barnacle, who also features on the otherwise unreleased cover of “Time Is Tight”, the Booker T. & the MG’s tune. (At the time, many listeners would recognize this from the Blues Brothers’ cover.)

Side two provides a glimpse into the band’s descent into reggae culture, which would be even more overt on their next album. “Bankrobber” was the band’s newest single in the UK, featuring production work by Jamaican pioneer Mikey Dread; here it appears in an extended mix with a “Robber Dub” coda. More successful is “Armagideon Time”, a cover of a fairly recent reggae hit that had been the B-side of “London Calling” overseas. Here it’s followed by “Justice Tonight/Kick It Over” a dub version of the song running seven minutes.

As with most grab-bags, Black Market Clash is a little disjointed, but the songs make it worth it. In the digital era, the band had already been anthologized on a two-record set as well as a box set, so a simple CD transfer of the album wouldn’t have sufficed. Rather, Super Black Market Clash (clever!) presented a vast expansion of the original, for a more comprehensive (though not complete) rarities collection. To cut down on duplication from those other compilations, “Capitol Radio One”, “Cheat”, “Bankrobber”, and “Armagideon Time” were dropped. Meanwhile, “Pressure Drop” was a different mix, “Justice Tonight/Kick It Over” was extended another two minutes, and “Robber Dub” was also more complete. (The set was also issued on vinyl as three 10-inch discs—clever again!—with four extra songs from the UK version of the debut filling up the first side: “Protex Blue”, “Deny”, “48 Hours”, and the reinsertion of “Cheat”.)

The new set opens with “1977”, the classic B-side of their first single with its bold declaration of “no Elvis, Beatles, or Rolling Stones.” “Listen” was previously sampled on that “Capital Radio” single, used as the bed of an interview; here’s it’s the full track but still instrumental. “Jail Guitar Doors” is repeated from the US version of the first album, followed by some of the repeats from the original set. Then there’s “1–2 Crush On You”, a surprising homage to sixties pop, with its allusions to “Wooly Bully” and “Twist And Shout”. Three songs from 1979’s The Cost Of Living E.P. follow: the misleadingly tuneful “Groovy Times” with its harmonica and acoustic guitar touches; the mildly soul-influenced “Gates Of The West”; and the “Capital Radio Two” re-recording. Sadly, the advertisement for the EP, which originally closed side two, is absent.

Following the lengthy dub tracks from the original set, the set moves to collecting material that postdated it, and since most of those are also dub versions, the sequencing is logical. These include “The Cool Out” (a danceable dub version of “The Call Up”), “The Magnificent Dance” (which piles completely arrhythmic bongos on the disco track for “The Magnificent Seven”), “Radio Clash” (the nearly identical B-side version of that single), and “Mustapha Dance” (an enjoyable rejig of “Rock The Casbah”). In between, “Stop The World” was a rare B-side with little musical quality, while “First Night Back In London” and “Cool Confusion” were outtakes from the double album that was shaved down for Combat Rock and “Long Time Jerk” also dates from the that period.

Where Black Market Clash made a nice stopgap in 1980, Super Black Market Clash becomes more of an afterthought. But listeners already following the band’s catalog knew that Clash B-sides were just as good as their album tracks. Clearly this band had plenty to say, and most of it was worth hearing.

The Clash Black Market Clash (1980)—
The Clash
Super Black Market Clash (1993)—