The Clash - The Essential Clash

Some would argue that if you only wanted two Clash discs in your collection, you should skip this 40-track overview and pick up The Clash and London Calling instead. No matter how transcendent those two albums are -- and they are among the very greatest popular music of the 20th century -- that overlooks the fact that the group had many, many great songs not on either album, including "Safe European Home," "Stay Free," "Bankrobber," "Rock the Casbah," "Straight to Hell," "This Is Radio Clash," and "Should I Stay or Should I Go," to begin with. That's where this 2003 compilation comes in. It fills in many of the gaps between those two records, while summarizing The Clash and London Calling well, providing a first-rate overview of the greatest punk band. It's not quite perfect, however: some great singles and B-sides fall through the cracks (notably "Gates of the West," "Jail Guitar Doors," "The Call Up," "Armagedion Time," "The Prisoner," "Protex Blue") and the Sandinista! selections feel nearly as haphazard as the album itself. Nevertheless, this does provide the best, most extensive and logical overview of the band yet assembled, and it's worthwhile not just as an introduction, but as a terrific listen.

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