Not wishing to dismiss some stunning album tracks and excellent B-sides, The Clash's singles were an amazingly consistent statement.
There is no filler on here. From the punk blast of "White Riot" through to the oustanding "White Man In Hammersmith Palais" the first half of this album is gritty, intelligent and essential. The latter part of this collection shows a wider influence - Motown on "Hitsville UK" and rockabilly-drone on "Know Your Rights".
So being just a singles collection it omits such gems as "Guns of Brixton" and "Straight To Hell" but this remains an excellent singles collection from one of the greatest bands that ever walked the planet.
Amazon have made a couple of major errors with their information for this listing;
The track selection shown on this page should be for the original 1991 release of "The Singles", but it's not. Instead Amazon have incorrectly used the tracklisting for a different compilation of the same name, a 2007 release (with a large star on the front cover), which added a track (This Is England). That 2007 compilation also completely randomises the running order and has a mastering which reduces the album's dynamic range substantially. Amazon have on this page also made the mistake of mixing together reviews for the 2007 and 1991 releases.
So. The correct album for this listing is the original compilation titled "The Singles", released in 1991 and with a cover image showing Joe Strummer throwing a guitar. And that's the version reviewed here.
Now, as Clash compilations go this one is almost faultless. It's a straightforward collection of the band's UK singles from 1977 to 1982, flowing in chronological order from White Riot (the version used on the original single, a completely different recording to that which appeared on the band's debut LP) and concluding with Should I Stay Or Should I Go.
My sole complaint is the inclusion of Hitsville UK, a track which sounds like a 1980's Phil Collins B-side, completely out of keeping with the solidly classic nature of the surrounding material. It would have been very easy for the record company to quietly neglect to include this track and I doubt anyone would have noticed, certainly not casual listeners. Hitsville UK was such a low-key and low-charting release that I even know of Clash fans who are unaware it was a single. A preferable and more recognisable alternative for inclusion would have been Capitol Radio, which was released as a free single thus still counts as a single.
That gripe aside, 'The Singles' is the only greatest hits compilation of The Clash which anyone really needs to own. If you're a Clash-beginner it has all the tracks you'll know from the radio and some adverts on TV. If you're already a fan it's nice way to get the singles in one place and in the correct order.
Tracklist; White Riot, Remote Control, Complete Control, Clash City Rockers, Whiteman In Hammersmith Palais, Tommy Gun, English Civil War, I Fought The Law, London Calling, Train In Vain, Bankrobber, The Call Up, Hitsville UK, The Magnifcent Seven, This Is Radio Clash, Know Your Rights, Rock The Casbah, Should I Stay Or Should I Go.
If you're interested enough to read this, I needn't tell you how wonderful The Clash were, "on vinyl" and live. This is a wonderful box set, very thoughtfully put together and produced. Personally I can take or leave the booklet - "stars" recollections of the first time they heard The Clash etc etc pale into comparison with my own personal memories of way back in 1977 !!! Yes, truly wonderful collection of songs in beautifully re-produced original 7" single covers............. ...but **** BE WARNED ****..... Much to my frustration, the "Cost of Living" EP DOES NOT include the 50 second or so "Advert" that was tagged onto the end of "Capital Radio" originally. For all the effort that was made to produce this box set, how could this have been overlooked?? Especially as it is apparently included on the Japanese Version ??!!??
I've had the single disc version of this album since it came out (& being a clash fan was all ways a 5 star affair) but I was cynical about the necessity for a box set which on paper is the same album but packaged as a box set with original single sleeves etc. My son bought me this for Christmas & I must admit that (even though I gave him heartfelt thanks) I was sceptical about my needs or enthusiasm for the said box set. I write this review because my cynicism was unjustified (for me!) and I was blown away by some of the extras that are available. The singles have all the different mixes etc (some not available elsewhere). One such track is the original (Flexi-disc NME cover disc) of Capital Radio, which I had on the 10'' vinyl version of Black Market Clash back in the day. The energy & intensity caught my breath (as it had originally) but it is the opening lyric for me that sums up the Clash more than any other song/lyric:
'It's time for the Doctor Goebbels Show'
Awesome; political/historical statement, indictment of radio at the time, and their influence on us. Strummer wrote so many lyrics that are classic but I hadn't realised the clarity & message of Capital Radio before! and this was a song that wasn't an A side or album track! (A later recorded version is on the 'Cost of Living' EP, also within the box set)
5 Stars without doubt! (now after listening again!)