The Essential Clash
Famously dubbed "the only band that matters," the Clash proved it with every note. This 40-song, two-disc collection likewise delivers on its promise, culling the best moments from the career of the 2003 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. Beefier than the 1988 collection, The Story of the Clash, Vol. 1, and with its tracks selected by Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and the late Joe Strummer and arranged chronologically, The Essential Clash finds the group evolving from petrol bombthrowing punks -- hitting with pinpoint precision on such spiky missives as "White Riot" and "London's Burning" -- into adroit explorers of the world music underbrush. Along the way, they never lost their knack for honing a political point to razor sharpness, as evidenced by "Clampdown" and the raucous "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" revision "English Civil War," or the ability to tweak the work of their shared icons into fascinating new shapes, particularly their take on Junior Murvin's reggae classic "Police and Thieves." The second disc, which delves deep into the sprawling caverns that made up Sandinista!, hits on the band's prescient hip-hop fascination ("The Magnificent Seven") as well as their surprising way with old-fashioned balladry ("Somebody Got Murdered"). Complemented by new liner notes from Mojo magazine's Pat Gilbert, Essential is a near-perfect distillation of one of the most pure essences in rock history.