"If you're after getting the honey - hey
Then you don't go killing all the bees."
Hellcat Records celebrated what would have been Joe Strummer's 60th birthday with the remastered release of his work with The Mescaleros - Global A Go-Go and Streetcore.
A punk rock reggae poet, Strummer began his career as the lightning rod in a band that had no equal during its creative peak. The Clash are significant, to say the least.
As fierce as it's ascension was, the band sputtered to a halt after personnel changes and a middling final album. In the years that followed, Strummer acted in films and contributed to film scores as well as served as a member of The Pogues.
During much of the 1990s, he was in a dispute with his former record label (but who wasn't) until late in the decade when he formed The Mescaleros with topflight session musicians. The band released an album prior to joining Hellcat Records, but hit their stride with the two records receiving the remaster treatment.
The two records were recorded between 2000 and Strummer's death in 2002, with Streetcore receiving a posthumous release. Both Global a Go-Go and Streetcore earned critical praise and were hailed as a return to form for the punk legend.
Strummer described this time in his life as his Indian Summer. He'd grown and evolved, and in his own words was more dangerous than ever because he didn't care about being famous.
The street poet was now broadcasting from the back alleys and shanty towns around the world - London, Dublin, Johannesburg, Kingston, New York - but with an intimacy that felt like he was singing in your bedroom.
Global a Go-Go launches with "Johnny Appleseed" - arguable the best track of album, but also the most straightforward. The album then forays into punk ("Cool 'N' Out), world music ("Bhindi Bhagee") and traditional folk ("Minstrel Boy"). It is an album worthy of its title, in every respect.
Streetcore is a much more personal album, perhaps because of its posthumous release following Strummer's death. A cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," the Johnny Cash inspired "Long Shadow" and the traditional "Silver and Gold" are standouts on an album that is stellar top to bottom.
As the final song on his final album, "Silver and Gold" is a beautiful statement of Strummer's life and personality.
Strummer's evolution as an artist and a man, is palpable and extremely enjoyable to witness. His work leading up to his death is so vital and inspired it is difficult not to think of the possibilities and what he could have produced in the next decade.
Very few artists remain as vital at 50, specifically those punks who railed so hard against the old establishment. So many never evolved past sneering punk, but Strummer evolved into a man who took on the establishment with a grace and dignity few rock stars can muster. He evolved into a true artist.