cream of the crate: cd review #29 – joe strummer & the mescaleros: global a go go

cream of the crate: cd review #29 – joe strummer & the mescaleros: global a go go
CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]
 

 

This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

"It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear something that didn't make you feel like smashing up the kitchen and strangling the cat." - [Joe Strummer]

Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews.  
The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as CD Reviews 1 - 50
and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency with the published CD reviews.

 

This is number twenty nine in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of CD’s in my personal collection.

The series is called, “Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.

Unlike the seventy eight vinyl Lp’s and Cd’s that I have reviewed, this Cd is a recent addition to my collection, having only purchased it this year.

The CD by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros is titled Global a Go Go and was originally released in 2001 on the Hellcat label (LC02576).

cream of the crate: cd review #29 – joe strummer & the mescaleros: global a go go
CD Label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

This is a 2012 re-mastered version that was released to celebrate what would have been Joe’s 60th birthday.

The story of Joe Strummer (real name John Mellor) is the story of a young man with real talent, who was a co-founder of the brilliant UK group, The Clash.

His talents really lay in his songwriting and his vocal delivery, but he was no slouch with a guitar and hence, he was given the nickname of JoeStrummer“.

Apart from being as described an icon of the punk movement, personally I believe his work with the Clash and certainly the work he was involved in post Clash with groups such as with The Pogues, the Latino Rockabilly War and most certainly the Mescaleros. show a consistency of talent.

As well as his music talent he was writing scores for television and film, working on radio and acting, all leading to the inevitable conclusion that he was a most gifted man.

Sadly Joe passed away suddenly in December 2002 from an undiagnosed heart condition and the music world were left to ponder just how much more he may have contributed to his music legacy.

But, this is not a memorial to Joe Strummer, but rather a review of the second album recorded by Joe with the Mescaleros, albeit a reissue.

Joe and the Mescaleros only released two albums while he was alive, those being Rock Art and the X-Ray Style (1999) and Global a Go Go (2001).

cream of the crate: cd review #29 – joe strummer & the mescaleros: global a go go
Rock Art Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]


Posthumous releases were Streetcore (2003), which was the last album he was working on prior to his death, and the mp3 downloadable album The Hellcat Years.

That last album consisting of the entire remastered catalog of music that was recorded by Strummer & the Mescaleros during their tenure with Hellcat Records from 1999 to 2003.

Finally there was Live at Acton Town Hall, a live recording released as a limited edition vinyl Lp. Incidentally I came across one copy which was being offered for around $135.00 plus postage.

cream of the crate: cd review #29 – joe strummer & the mescaleros: global a go go
Streetcore Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

So all in all if we put aside his work with The Clash, there isn’t an enormous legacy of his work and yet what there is, is quality.

In regard to this special 60th birthday edition, we find that we are presented with almost eighty minutes of fantastic music, and for my part, that pretty much equates to it being a double album.

This should satisfy both those buyers who want quality as well as those that want quantity!

Track Listing on Global A Go-Go

1. Johnny Appleseed
2. Cool ‘N’ Out
3. Global a Go Go
4. Bhindi Bhagee
5. Gamma Ray
6. Mega bottle Ride
7. Shaktar Donetsk
8. Mondo Bongo
9. Bummed Out City
10. At The Border, Guy
11. Minstrel Boy
12. Bhindi Bhagee (Live From The Acton Concert)
*

* This track was not included on the original 2001 release.

 

cream of the crate: cd review #29 – joe strummer & the mescaleros: global a go go
Rear of the CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

Like many ‘special’ Cd’s the accompanying booklet leaves a bit to be desired.

Once again I raise the question, of why oh why do some companies insist on releasing printed material which is ok, but not great?

I understand (sometimes) that this is the way if it is an ‘el-cheapo’ re-run of a compilation of second rate material.

However, Joe Strummer was an important figure in music development, and post- the Clash. What remains after his death is all too small a selection, so what IS left, deserves better treatment.

Look some people may think I’ve gone overboard on this matter, sure it is on gloss paper, and, it has 7 double sided pages and a good cover and excellent back cover.

However, the greater bulk of the booklet is taken up with the printed words to the songs contained on the CD.

This is a good thing, but except for one page of liner notes that I will refer to in detail later, that’s it!

No other pictures of the group, no listing of live gigs, and nothing on the musicians themselves.

Booklet cover

 

This is the best of all the three releases of Joe’s work, although there are whispers of another posthumous release, and the reasons are easy to enunciate.

This is a piece of refined music, call it art if you like. The textures supplied by electronic instruments are subtle, but non-the-less beautiful.

It has a great mixture of what called almost be called, ‘folk-rock’, check out Johnny Appleseed, and yet, it also has some pure unadulterated dance tracks.

I think Strummer was the outstanding lyricist in the Clash, and after departing the group he had further refined his ability.

As another reviewer once commented when discussing Strummers lyrics, and using Johnny Appleseed as an example,”If you’re after getting the honey, then don’t go killing all the bees“, as being one of the all time great lines along with, “He who fucks the nuns, will later be joining the church.”[London Calling].

What Strummer is able to do, is to mix rhythmic couplets with what is almost platitudes, yet the end result which could have been a sickly mess, is in fact damn brilliance!

It also helps when the music you write not just supports the lyrics, but helps bring them alive.

In Bhindi Bhagee, he writes, Well I was walking down the highroad,
and this guy stops me,
He’d just got in from New Zealand,
and he was looking for mushy peas
I said, No, we hadn’t really got them round here,
I said, But we do got….
Balti, Bhindi,strictly Hindi,
Dall, halal, and I’m walking down the road,
…….
We got Akee, Lassi, Somali waccy tobaccy,
I’m sure back home you know what Tikka’s all about….”

 

cream of the crate: cd review #29 – joe strummer & the mescaleros: global a go go
The inner RHS & LHS of the Cd – [CLICK to enlarge]

This track along with the others on the album really sum up where Joe and his music was.

He had a world wide appreciation of music which is reflected not only in his compositions, like Shaktar Donetsk and the track from which the album takes its name, Global A Go-Go. 

He not only was able to enunciate the things that were important to him, especially on this piece of work, he was able to do it with passion and in such a way that he could support the causes that were close to him.

Yet he never did it in a prothletising way, and because of this, he converted far more people to those causes.

He was also more than ably supported by the Mescaleros.

While a number of muso’s can claim to have been in the Mescaleros, it seems obvious that the four (it can be argued five) who made up the group on this CD should be acknowledged.

These were:

Scott Shields on bass;

Martin Slattery on keyboards;

Tymon Dogg (Stephen Murray) on Violin, Guitar Piano & Harmonium;

Pablo Cook on percussion and,

Richard Flack who was employed to use effects and instruments.

Together they were shaped into a group that were fantastic in providing the sound he required.

This is largely because they are such excellent muso’s are able to do this yet deliberately leave a little ‘roughness’ around the edges, so that the music never becomes a parody of itself.

Now to the first track on the album which self selects.

It is without doubt not just my favourite track on this album, but one of my favourite Strummer compositions, being Johnny Appleseed.

It is very much a track where Joe acknowledges his desire for us to be even more aware of the dangers to our ecology.

I actually heard the track for the first time on what was one of the weirdest television series ever produced, so weird in fact that a second series was never made.

It was used in the HBO series called, John From Cincinatti which was fantastic because it was so very different, and the choice of Johnny Appleseed for the theme, was brilliant.

Lord, there goes Johnny Appleseed
He might pass by in the hour of need
There’s a lot of souls
Ain’t drinking from no well locked in a factory

Hey – look there goes
Hey – look there goes
If you’re after getting the honey – hey
Then you don’t go killing all the bees

Lord, there goes Martin Luther King
Notice how the door closes when the chimes of freedom ring
I hear what you’re saying, I hear what he’s saying
*Is what was true now no longer so

Hey – I hear what you’re saying
Hey – I hear what he’s saying
If you’re after getting the honey – hey
Then you don’t go killing all the bees

What the people are saying
And we know every road – go, go
What the people are saying
There ain’t no berries on the trees

Let the summertime sun
Fall on the apple – fall on the apple

Lord, there goes a Buick forty-nine
Black sheep of the angels riding, riding down the line
We think there is a soul, we don’t know
That soul is hard to find

Hey – down along the road
Hey – down along the road
If you’re after getting the honey
Then you don’t go killing all the bees

Hey – it’s what the people are saying
It’s what the people are saying
Hey – there ain’t no berries on the trees
Hey – that’s what the people are saying, no berries on the trees
You’re checking out the honey, baby
You had to go killin’ all the bees

Johnny Appleseed

The next track to discuss is track #2, Cool ‘n’ Out.

It’s indeed  a rockin’ piece with some excellent guitar work, and it has a wonderful opening that lulls the listener in before hitting it’s straps. Oh, and if you do expect Joe to tell you what it’s all about – his answer is, “let someone else tell you what it’s all about

Cool ‘n’ Out

Mondo Bongo could easily have been my favourite track. This sits in a groove so smooth that butter wouldn’t stick.

The tempo is beautiful, and the Mescaleros sit in so easily with Joe coming out with the type of lyrics I spoke of earlier, “Latino caribo, Mondo Bongo, The flower looks good in your hair, Latino Caribo, Mondo Bongo, Nobody says it was fair…..

Cop the great violin work, and the oh so groovy percussion, the harmonium, and the guitar – man alive, this is a great track!

Mondo Bongo

Honestly, each track deserves mention and Minstral Boy special mention.

It is a 17 minute masterpiece, bu,t I cannot go past the final track, Bhindi Bhagee (LIve) to finish this review.

More often than not the studio versions of a track are considered the better versions, because there is the opportunity to ‘smooth’ out the wrinkles, to record in perfect conditions, and often, to be able to splice several versions together to provide one ‘ace’ version.

There is a studio version of this track provided, but the live version ‘shits’ on it!

Live from the legendary “Acton Concert” it captures not just the heart of the guys, but the soul and the power of the live performance.

Hell, I don’t know the lyrics, but I wanted to sing along, and the blend of the acoustic and electric instruments is su-bloody-perb!

I provided some of the lyrics earlier, and here are a few more.

So anyway, I told him I was in a band
He said, “Oh yeah, oh yeah, what’s your music like?”
I said, “It’s um, um, well, it’s kinda like
You know, it’s got a bit of, um, you know”


Ragga, bhangra, two step tanga
Mini-cab radio, music on the go
Um, surfbeat, backbeat, frontbeat, backseat
There’s a bunch of players and they’re really letting go
watch, “The Future is Unwritte

We got, Brit pop, hip-hop, rockabilly, lindy hop
Gaelic heavy metal fans, fighting in the road
Ah, Sunday boozers, for chewing gum users

They got a crazy DJ and she’s really letting go

Oh, welcome stranger
Welcome stranger to the humble 
neighbourhoods


I think I have made it quite clear that I am totally taken by this album.

I can’t believe that if you are a fan of great music, and not the follower of the ‘pap’ of today, you wouldn’t love this album.

Joe Strummer gave so much, and while his legacy is relatively small, it shrieks “quality”.

His death was so unexpected, and if you want to get an idea of how humble the man was, despite his amazing talent, then do watch the film, The Future is Unwritten,
particularly the beach scenes, very poignant!

There is one picture in the booklet worthy of mention. It is the rear of the booklet, and it shows the solitary figure of Joe Strummer, guitar over shoulder, looking backward. It is almost as if he is saying “goodbye” to us.

Well, goodbye it is Joe, but your legacy whilst not large in quantity, is very large in quality!

The album is readily available, and I encourage you to get this, the special 60th Anniversary version of the album, Global A Go-Go.


VIDEOS:

The following videos were located on youtube.

 

Global A Go-Go

 

Mega Bottle Ride

 

Bummed Out City


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

Click to open the following CD reviews:

#1. The Fugs: The Fugs First Album

#2. Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

#3. Bob Dylan – Biograph

#4. Robin Trower – Essential

#5. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under Compilation

#6. Various Artists – The Big Ol’ Box of New Orleans

#7. Hugh Masekela – African Breeze: 80’s

#8. The Last Poets – The Very Best of the Last Poets

#9. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Down By The Riversiide

#10. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under: Vol. 2

#11. The Beatles – On Air: Live at BBC Vol.2

#12. The Rolling Stones – Singles Collection: The London Years

#13. Compilation: Girl Groups Of The Sixties

#14. The Byrds – There Is A Season [Boxed Set]

#15. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under: Volume 4

#16. Howling Wolf – The London Sessions

#17. The Who – Thirty Years of Maximum R&B

#18. Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive

#19. Various Artists – Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965 – 1970

#20. Various Artists: 60’s Down Under – Volume 4

#21. 2nu – Ponderous

#22. The Great Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds [Boxed Set]

#23. The Sue Records Story: New York City – The Sound of Soul

#24. Various Artists – The Encyclopedia of Boogie Woogie

#25. Cam-Pact – Psychedelic Pop ‘n Soul: 1967 – 1969

#26. The Clash – The Singles

#27. Arthur Brown – Fire: The Story of Arthur Brown

#28. Various Artists – Red Hot & Blue: Col Porter Tribute