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Joe Strummer - Walker (Cover Artwork)

Joe Strummer

Joe Strummer: WalkerWalker (1987)
Virgin

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
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Contributed by: JeloneJelone
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Though he passed away seven years ago from a congenital heart defect, Joe Strummer's death continues to resonate with me. If Streetcore was any indication, the man still had more songs to write and sing, and it drives me crazy that, one day, I'll have heard his entire output and there won't be any m.
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Though he passed away seven years ago from a congenital heart defect, Joe Strummer's death continues to resonate with me. If Streetcore was any indication, the man still had more songs to write and sing, and it drives me crazy that, one day, I'll have heard his entire output and there won't be any more surprises. Until then, though, I've been doing my best to color in the margins. The first five Clash albums are all essential listening, as is B-sides collection Super Black Market Clash. I'm waiting for the day I finally cave and buy Cut the Crap, an album so bad that most people don't even know or acknowledge its existence. There are the three albums Strummer cut with the Mescaleros, which I think are just as good as the Clash's output. There are Earthquake Weather and assorted singles like "Love Kills," "The Harder They Come" and "It's a Rockin' World." My quest to stay in touch with Strummer has since led me to Walker, a pretty good Latin music soundtrack he composed for Repo Man director Alex Cox's 1987 film of the same name.

Walker, the movie, is an intentionally historically inaccurate biopic about William Walker (played by Ed Harris), an American who declared himself President of Nicaragua pretty much because he had enough money and firepower to do so. Strummer played a supporting role in the picture, perhaps thanks to his involvement with Cox in Sid and Nancy and Straight to Hell, and composed the soundtrack.

The album is an interesting listen for Strummer fans in that it downplays most of Strummer's strengths. There's no reggae, and Strummer sings for only a few of the 14 tunes. Rather, he trusted his assembled studio musicians and, with the help of violinist Dick Bright, provided rough sketches for the group to draw from. Once he handed over the demos, according to Chris Salewicz's excellent book Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer, ol' Joe would head out for breakfast in the afternoon while the band added touches to his foundation. The result is a record that, while not as immediate as, say, London Calling, is still appealing.

Walker is a much quieter record than the punk legend's other albums. It's mostly acoustic. It utilizes a lot of mandolin, banjo and brass instruments. It's free from the sterile '80s production that hampered Cut the Crap and, to a lesser extent, Earthquake Weather. The first half plays out like an extended Latino jam, ideal for warmer weather. Starting with track eight, "The Unknown Immortal," though, the band starts to change direction. For starters, Strummer actually approaches the mic on that song. Later, on "The Brooding Side of Madness," the group veers closer to orchestral music, with percussionist Stephen Mitchell pounding out a military marching rhythm. Folksy campfire sing-along "Tennessee Rain" brings Strummer back on vox, and it's arguably the most inviting of the songs.

Walker is a modest success. It was conceived to be chopped up and used by Cox however he saw fit, so the music is accordingly straightforward. It's perhaps best suited for the already converted, as there are at least 10 Strummer-related albums worth checking out prior to this, but it's still a good album and should appeal to folk music fans. If nothing else, it's the sound of Strummer finding his voice again.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
fuzzy (February 13, 2010)

I have the soundtrack for Permanent Record on Vinyl. It has songs like Trash City and it is fucking excellent.

Phantom_maggot (February 11, 2010)

Holy shit, "Burning Lights" is fucking amazing. I wish I could get an MP3 of that song. Fucking brilliant. I really miss Strummer.

MN_DrNick (February 11, 2010)

Never saw Walker until they finally gave it the Criterion treatment on DVD. It's one of my all time favorite movies now. And the soundtrack was one of the reasons it's so great. "Tennessee Rain", the Morricone influenced "Brooding Six", "Filibustero", "Tropic of Pico", and "The Unknown Immortal" are my favorite tracks. Glad to see this film and soundtrack are finally getting the long lost recognition they deserve.

GlassPipeMurder (February 10, 2010)

no problem. i've been jammin' that song for the better part of two years now.

Jelone (February 10, 2010)

Holy crap this "Burning Lights" song is awesome! Thanks for postin' that.

crackpotdemagogue (February 10, 2010)

Oh the irony of writing an album called Sandinista then writing the soundtrack for a William Walker movie.....

You've obviously never seen the movie... it doesn't champion Walker, in fact it presents him as the imperialist bastard that he was. The interesting thing about the film (and probably part of the reason for Strummer wanting to get involved) was that it was actually filmed during the American-funded Contra war (the one Chomsky always bangs on about) and was infact an anti-contra, pro-Sandinista film.

crackpotdemagogue (February 10, 2010)

according to Joe's widow, the Walker soundtrack was one of his proudest accomplishments. His cameo in the film itself is also quite a giggle!

sumwon (February 10, 2010)

Unknown Immortal is one of his best songs. Take the highlights of Walker and other Wilderness Years projects and you can come up with a pretty great mix, such as:

Shouting Streets
Ride Your Donkey
Island Hopping
Unknown Immortal
Tennessee Rain
Tropic of No Return
Burning Lights
Nothing About Nothing
Trash City
Redemption Song w/ Johnny Cash (can't exclude this)

mikeladwig (February 10, 2010)

Oh the irony of writing an album called Sandinista then writing the soundtrack for a William Walker movie.....

lifebystereo (February 10, 2010)

I refused to buy Cut the Crap for the longest time, but I finally caved and ended up really liking it. I mean, it IS still something that Joe fucking Strummer worked on.

GlassPipeMurder (February 10, 2010)
MaxEThunders (February 9, 2010)

I bought this at the end of my Strummer-related collecting as well. It is Latin music and more of a score than a soundtrack which I was expecting, I've never seen the movie either so didn't know what to expect. Overall it's pretty good, I'm going to have to listen to it a couple more times to make sure. Maybe I'll listen to it in the summer, Wisconsin winters don't translate Latin music very well. Also, Cut The Crap isn't that bad once you listen to it. And stop listening to everybody that says it sucks. It's different than other Clash albums, but that's because half of the original band is gone. It sounds like the more 80s poppish songs from Sandinista and it is still mostly written by Joe Strummer.

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