Friday, 15 July 2016

"Sound System" by THE CLASH (2013 Sony Multi-Disc/Memorabilia Box Set) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Something About England…"

I'll openly admit to a wee tremble when this beauty got handed over by a relieved postman - his arms reverting back to normalcy. This thing is big and heavy and yet I love every mad over-the-top inch of it. There's a ton of info to get through so let's do the Armagideon Times, Badges and Dog Tags...

Released September 2013 and featuring full involvement with the band - "Sound System" by THE CLASH is a multiple CD, DVD and Memorabilia Box Set on Sony 88725460002 (Barcode 887254600022) and features the following:

A beautiful and thoughtfully put together Box Set shaped like a Ghetto Blaster Radio (270 x 420 x 100mm) - and once you open the flip-top lid - it reveals each item has been carefully placed inside in a numerical order - their exact placing within laid out in detail in the 'Service Manual'. Here are the contents - numbered 1 to 22 (1 to 8 housed in hard card book sleeves – the music is 1 to 6):

1. The Clash CD (Newly Remastered by Tim Young and The Clash)
2. Give 'Em Enough Rope CD (Newly Remastered)
3. London Calling 2CD (Newly Remastered)
4. Sandinista! 3CD (Newly Remastered) [1 to 4 on the left side]
5. Combat Rock CD (Newly Remastered)
6. The Clash Extras 3CD (Newly Remastered)

7. The Clash DVD (Newly Remastered)
8. Service Manual (Hardback Book Sleeve Like The CDs) [5 to 8 on the right side]
9. Flightcase: 5 Badges and Dog Tags [centred between-and-dividing 1 to 8 CDs]
10. Flightcase: 3 DIY Stickers: 85 x 140mm [behind 1 to 4 CDs]
11. Flightcase: The Clash Paperback Book ("The Future Is Unwritten" - blank inside) [behind CDs 5 to 8]
12. The Clash Folder (contains 13 to 18 below)
13. The Armagideon Times Special Edition (36 Pages)
(Features written contributions from The Baker, Robin Banks, John Cooper Clarke, Johnny Green, Ray Jordan, Don Letts, Alex Michon, Chris Salewicz, Pennie Smith and Kosmo Vinyl. There are also essays from each member of the band - JOE STRUMMER, MICK ONES, PAUL SIMONON and TOPPER HEADON)
14. The Armagideon Times  (Reprinted Fanzine - 24 Pages)
15. The Armagideon Times 2 (Reprinted fanzine  - 24 Pages)
16. Bumper Sticker 88 x 297mm
17. Bumper Sticker 88 x 297mm
18. The Clash Vintage Sticker Set: 180 x 280mm (9 peelable stickers on one sheet)
19. Riser (Black & Yellow Card at the base of the box)
20. Poster Tube (Looks Like A Large Cigarette with a 'Clash' Filter Area)
21. Poster (15" x 15")
22. The Box Itself (inside Divider Has Number 22 on it)

Disc 1 - "The Clash" - 35:20 minutes:
1. Janie Jones
2. Remote Control
3. I'm So Bored With The U.S.A.
4. White Riot
5. Hate & War
6. What's My Name
7. Deny
8. London's Burning [Side 2]
9. Career Opportunities
10. Cheat
11. Protex Blue
12. Police & Thieves
13. 48 Hours
14. Garageland
Tracks 1 to 14 are their UK debut LP "The Clash" released April 1977 on CBS Records S CBS 82000 and August 1979 on Epic Records JE 36060 in the USA (with a Free 7" single containing "Groovy Times" and "Gates Of The West"). To sequence the USA 15-track version of their debut LP in remastered form - use the following tracks off Disc 1 and CD1 in the "Extras" 3-disc set [3/1] = Track 3 on Disc 1 etc:

1. Clash City Rockers [Track 8 - Disc 1 of 6 "Extras"]
2. I'm So Bored With The U.S.A. [3/1]
3. Remote Control [2/1]
4. Complete Control [Track 6 - Disc 1 of 6 "Extras"]
5. White Riot [4/1]
6. White Man In Hammersmith Palais [Track 10 - Disc 1 of 6 "Extras"]
7. London's Burning [8/1]
8. I Fought The Law [Track 15 - Disc 1 of 6 "Extras"]
9. Janie Jones [1/1] - Side 2
10. Career Opportunities [9/1]
11. What's My Name [6/1]
12. Hate & War [5/1]
13. Police & Thieves [12/1]
14. Jail Guitar Doors [Track 9 - Disc 1 of 6 "Extras"]
15. Garageland [14/1]
16. Groovy Times [Track 16 - Disc 1 of 6 "Extras"]
17. Gates Of The West [Track 17 - Disc 1 of 6 "Extras"]

Disc 2 - "Give 'Em Enough Rope" - 37:02 minutes:
1. Safe European Home
2. English Civil War
3. Tommy Gun
4. Julie's Been Working For The Drug Squad
5. Last Gang In Town
6. Guns On The Roof [Side 2]
7. Drug-Stabbing Time
8. Stay Free
9. Cheapskates
10. All The Young Punks (New Boots And Contracts)
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 2nd album "Give 'Em Enough Rope" - released October 1978 in the UK on CBS Records S CBS 82431 and February 1979 in the USA on Epic JE 35543

Disc 3 - "London Calling"
CD1 (33:37 minutes):
1. London Calling
2. Brand New Cadillac
3. Jimmy Jazz
4. Hateful
5. Rudie Can't Fail
6. Spanish Bombs [Side 2]
7. The Right Profile
8. Lost In The Supermarket
9. Clampdown
10. The Guns Of Brixton

CD2 (31:36 minutes):
1. Wrong 'Em Boyo [Side 3]
2. Death Or Glory
3. Koka Kola
4. The Card Cheat
5. Lover's Rock [Side 4]
6. Four Horsemen
7. I'm Not Down
8. Revolution Rock
9. Train In Vain
All 19-tracks are their 3rd album release - the double-LP "London Calling" released December 1979 in the UK on CBS Records CLASH 3. The track "Train In Vain" on the end of Side 2 was not listed on the sleeve of original copies even though it was on the album (the run-out groove gave you the name of the track). Released January 1980 in the USA on Epic E2 36328 as a 2LP set - initial copies were the same regarding "Train In Vain".

Disc 4 - "Sandinista!"
CD1 (45:42 minutes):
1. The Magnificent Seven [Side 1]
2. Hitsville U.K.
3. Junco Partner
4. Ivan Meets G.I. Joe
5. The Leader
6. Something About England
7. Rebel Waltz [Side 2]
8. Look Here
9. The Crooked Beat
10. Somebody Got Murdered
11. One More Time
12. One More Dub

CD2 (51:31 minutes)
1. Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice) [Side 3]
2. Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)
3. Corner Soul
4. Let's Go Crazy
5. If Music Could Talk
6. The Sound Of Sinners
7. Police On My Back [Side 4]
8. Midnight Log
9. The Equaliser
10. The Call Up
11. Washington Bullets
12. Broadway

CD 3 (47:32 minutes):
13. Lose This Skin [Side 5]
14. Charlie Don't Surf
15. Mensforth Hill
16. Junkie Slip
17. Kingston Advice
18. The Street Parade
19. Version City [Side 6]
20. Living In Fame
21. Silicone On Sapphire
22. Version Pardner
23. Career Opportunities
24. Shepherds Delight
All 36-tracks are the 3LP set "Sandinista!" - released December 1980 in the UK on CBS Records FSLN 1 and Epic E3X 37037 in the USA

Disc 5 - "Combat Rock" - 46:21 minutes:
1. Know Your Rights
2. Car Jamming
3. Should I Stay Or Should I Go
4. Rock The Casbah
5. Red Angel Dragnet
6. Straight To Hell
7. Overpowered By Funk [Side 2]
8. Atom Tan
9. Sean Flynn
10. Ghetto Defendant
11. Inoculated City
12. Death Is A Star
Tracks 1 to 12 are the album "Combat Rock" - released May 1982 in the UK on CBS Records FMLN 2 and Epic FE 37689 in the USA

"Sound System Extras" (6)
CD1 (75:25 minutes):
1. White Riot (Single Version)
2. 1977 (B-side)
3. Listen (Capitol Radio EP) / Interviews (Capitol Radio EP) - 11:08 minutes
4. Capitol Radio (Capitol Radio EP)
5. London's Burning (Live B-side Remote Control)
6. Complete Control (Single Version)
7. City Of The Dead (B-side)
8. Clash City Rockers (Original Single Version)
9. Jail Guitar Doors (B-side)
10. White Man In Hammersmith Palais (A-side)
11. The Prisoner (B-side)
12. 1-2 Crush On You (B-side Tommy Gun)
13. Time Is Tight (Black Market Clash 10" LP)
14. Pressure Drop (B-side English Civil War)
15. I Fought The Law (Cost Of Living EP)
16. Groovy Times (Cost Of Living EP)
17. Gates Of The West (Cost Of Living EP)
18. Capitol Radio (Cost Of Living EP)
19. Armagideon Time (B-side London Calling)
20. Bank Robber (A-side)
21. Rockers Galore On A UK Tour (B-side)

CD2 (75:45 minutes):
1. Magnificent Dance (12" (Available On Singles Box Set)
2. Midnight To Stevens (Outtake)
3. Radio One (B-side Hitsville UK)
4. Stop The World (B-side The Call Up)
5. The Cool Out (US 12" B-side The Call Up)
6. This Is Radio Clash (A-side)
7. This Is Radio Clash (B-side 7" - Different Lyrics)
8. First Night Back In London (B-side Know Your Rights)
9. Rock The Casbah (Bob Clearmountain 12" Mix)
10. Long Time Jerk (B-side Rock The Casbah)
11. The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too (Outtake)
12. Idle In Kangaroo Court (Outtake listed as Kill Time)
13. Ghetto Defendant (Extended Version - Unedited - 6:14 minutes)
14. Cool Confusion (B-side Should I Stay Or Should I Go)
15. Sean Flynn (Extended 'Marcus Music' Version - 7:24 minutes)
16. Straight To Hell (Unedited Version from Clash On Broadway)

CD3 (35:16 minutes)
Extracts from The Clash's first-ever recording session at Beaconsfield Film School 1976 - Recorded by Julian Temple
1. I'm So Bored With The U.S.A.
2. London's Burning
3. White Riot
4. 1977
Polydor Demos - The Clash's second recording session January 1977
5. Janie Jones
6. Career Opportunities
7. London's Burning
8. 1977
9.White Riot
Live At The Lyceum, London 28th December 1979
10. City Of The Dead
11. Jail Guitar Doors
12. English Civil War
13. Stay Free
14. Cheapskates
15. I Fought The Law

DVD, Region 0:
"Julien Temple Archive" - 6:20 minutes
"White Riot Promo Film" - 7:20 minutes
Promo and Interviews with Tony Parsons
White Riot
London's Burning
"Sussex University 1977" - 8:25 minutes
I'm So Bored With The U.S.A.
Hate & War
Career Opportunities
Remote Control
"Don Letts Super 8 Medley" - 11:40 minutes
White Riot
Janie Jones
City Of The Dead
Clash City Rockers
White Man In Hammersmith Palais
"Clash On Broadway" - 19:50 minutes
London Calling
This Is Radio Clash
The Magnificent Seven
Guns Of Brixton
Safe European Home
"Promo Videos"
Tommy Gun
London Calling
Bank Robber
Clampdown (Live)
Train In Vain (Live)
The Call Up
Rock The Casbah
Should I Stay Or Should I Go (Live At Shea Stadium)
Career Opportunities (Live At Shea Stadium)

The detachable card list on the rear falls away easily so I simply store it inside with the 'folder' in the rear pouch. Quite apart from the sheer visual and tactile whack of this thing - the big news for fans is brand new remasters from first generation tapes by TIM YOUNG in conjunction with the band at Metropolis Studios in London. We should talk about the REMASTERS because they're fabulous. Tim Young's notes in the "Extras" 3-disc set explain that "Rope" has had the first generation tapes used for the first time to his knowledge - so I immediately went to my favourite track "Guns On The Roof" - and WOW is the only appropriate response. It sounds just incredible with all that guitar power you always thought was buried in the mix somewhere now to the fore. "Drug-Stabbing Time" and "Stay Free" are even better - leaping out of your speakers with renewed venom.

"London Calling" is like a different animal ("Jimmy Jazz", "Death Or Glory" and "Train In Vain" are unbelievably good with "Train" running out longer by about five seconds) - but to my ears "Sandinista!" feels the least improved. It's definitely clearer on the bass and rhythm section ("The Magnificent Seven" and "The Call Up" and Timon Dogg'svocal on "Lose This Skin") but the differences are not as stark as the first 3 LPs - they're just subtler. Despite the sprawl of "Sandinista!" - I've always loved it precisely because its like "The White Album" or "Exile On Main St." or "Physical Graffiti" - you can dip into it and still seemingly find something new every time. The choral brass arrangements at the beginning of "Somewhere In England" is now gorgeous while the game-machine noises on "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" are even more manic. "Somebody Got Murdered" and their take on Eddy Grant's "Police On My Back" are much improved - ballsy as they should be. Back to "London Calling" and I'm impressed with "Lost In The Supermarket" and "Brand New Cadillac" - comparing them against my 1999 versions - there's more going on with the high hats, drums and bass. And that Rock 'n' Roll guitar as "Brand New Cadillac" begins punches way above its former weight now. I also love the way each of the CDs has their original vinyl bits reproduced - the "Armagideon Times" for "Sandinista!", the inner sleeves of "London Calling" made into one fold-out lyric poster - the inner and poster of "Combat Rock" combined in the same way - and all the CDs are black like vinyl LPs. The driving backbeat behind "Combat Rock's" Side 2 standout "Overpowered By Funk" is a little improved but I can't say I hear much difference in "Should I Stay Or Should I Go".

I own the Singles Box Set on CD so I compared the remasters and again the "Extras" versions are far superior - that guitar into on "Clash City Rocker" and distant Strummer vocal are better - and the balls of "I Fought The Law" is truly fantastic (a cover of an old Bobby Fuller Four hit). And my favorite B-side ever - their genius take on Willie Williams reggae tune "Armagideon Time" sounds like its going to do your speakers harm. That amazing bass and percussive beginning of "The Magnificent Dance" (the 12" remix) has jaw-dropping sound quality as does the US 12" B-side "The Cool Out" (an instrumental version of "The Call Up") - both with meaty rhythm sections. The early Polydor demos show a band getting there and the expert Glyn Johns produced that amateur feel out of the first album. I'm not sure I like them having loved the originals for all these years. Other disappointments include the outtakes on Disc 2 like "The Beautiful People..." and "Kangaroo Court" which are wholly dismissible and "Sean Flynn" has huge hiss levels on it. But I'm glad to see that Metropolis again mastered the DVD because the picture quality on the Don Letts and Clash On Broadway segments is brill (you get a sense of their danger live).

To sum up - "The Last Gang In Town" and "The Only Band That Ever Mattered" - there's been an awful lot of knob written about The Clash across the years (what about the Ramones, The Pistols or even Television) - and "Sound System" conveniently exorcises out the infamous and horrible end of "Cut The Crap" in 1985. You could also argue that you'd be better off just spending twenty quid on the simpler "5 Studio Albums Box Set" released in tandem with this - but I'd say if ever a band deserved this kind of over-the-top celebration - then England's heroes The Clash are the boys. And when you think of how EMI has consistently cheaped-out Stranglers fans with card sleeves and little else - thank God Sony stumped up. I love the care and attention that went into "Sound System". So there you have it - all those old bits spangly new again and presented to us in a fabulous setting.

Tim Young has described remastering The Clash's six years of output as a 'labour of love'. Well - while the future may indeed be unwritten - I suspect his brilliant work here (in conjunction with surviving members of the band) will be written about for decades to come. Well done and 'Career Opportunities' to all involved...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc