The Boston Tapes (Viva Zapata VZ006)
The Orpheum Theater, Boston, Massachusetts, USA on 7th and 8th September 1982.
1. London Calling (3.22), 2. Janie Jones (2.16), 3. The Call Up (4.51), 4. Brand New Cadillac (1.56), 5. Somebody Got Murdered (3.45), 6. I Fought The Law (2.38), 7. Clampdown (4.27), 8. Armagideon Time (5.03), 9. Should I Stay or Should I Go (2.50), 10. I’m So Bored With the USA (2.28), 11. Straight to Hell (6.33), 12. Clash City Rockers (3.27), 13. Garageland (3.09)
This is a single silver disc CD from the French VIVA ZAPATA label, housed in a glorious trifold sleeve with excellent photos of the band from their dressing-up-as-rock-warlords era (1982). The sound quality of this recording is absolutely outstanding, as close to an official release as you could possibly want. Uber obsessives may niggle at Terry Chimes’ cymbals, which sound a tiny bit crisp and saturated in places, but that’s really a minor niggle, the sound here is awesome.
THE BOSTON TAPES is a mixture of songs from two consecutive shows The Clash performed at the Orpheum Theater in Boston on 7th and 8th September 1982. As far as the performance goes, the band are in top form, really tight and focused, although it’s not a performance that will set the world on fire. Strummer is in fine voice, no wandering out of key here, and he rants and spits during “Clampdown” like a true punk rocker, but it sometimes sounds a bit uninspired. Perhaps they were tired, or maybe the inter-band tensions were playing their part.
“Straight To Hell” sounds great, Strummer sings it beautifully, but it’s almost identical to the recorded album version with no surprises. “Armagiddeon Time” is excellent, with Terry Chimes’ drumming really giving the song some bite. The vocals from Joe and Mick are really upfront and forceful throughout, and Mick’s guitar sounds great. Everything is perfectly balanced and the mix is top notch. I would have liked to hear more from this excellent source, maybe a two-disc set, as it felt like the whole CD was over too quickly. At any rate, this is a must-have title for any fan of The Clash.
No, I stand completely by my review. The sound quality is AWESOME. Mid-range sounds are perfectly clear and bright, and Mick’s vocals are up front. Having heard many other Clash boots, I can honestly say that the singing on this CD is bang on, no wandering off key or out of tune (eg. Bonds Casino) and no messed-up lyrics either, apart from the intro to “Clampdown” which Joe ALWAYS messed-up. Granted, there are some feedback squeals, but not many, and they do not intrude upon or spoil the performance (eg. Joe Strummer live in OSAKA). If anything, the odd feedback squeal reminds you that punk is raw and live, not polished and perfect, adding to the energy and excitement of the show. This isn’t Genesis, THIS IS THE CLASH…!!!
Now then, let’s clear something up here. Mick Jones and Paul Simonon were at each other’s throats at this time. They hardly spoke to each other and tensions were high. There was also pressure to get rid of Mick at this time from the band’s manager, Bernie Rhodes. Ironic really, when you consider that Bernie and Mick were friends from before The Clash. Joe was caught in the middle of all this, and as the band’s “spokesman” he was elected to sack Mick from the band.
I mentioned the inter-band tensions in my original review. Why does Banjo Man repeat my point…?
I also mentioned that the delivery is sometimes (but not always) uninspired in my original review. Again, why does Banjo Man repeat my point…?
I can’t understand why Banjo Man strongly disagrees with my review, as he repeats most of my points in his reply…?!?! As for the sound quality, we surely can’t have been listening to the same CD, as the quality of my disc is outstanding. Guitar and vocals both up front. Powereful drumming from Terry, far better than his playing with The Clash at the Global Music Festival in Kingston (also in 1982).
Sad to say, I have to disagree, and disagree strongly with this review. By the time this concert took place, the band was starting to fray. Topper Headon was out after his drug problems became too much and Terry (“Tory Crimes”) Chimes had been recruited to resume the drum kit. Mick and Joe were starting to pull apart, and would not make it to the end of the year as a team. The seams are showing here and they are not helped by the CD’s sound quality which is not great. Drums and to a lesser extent bass predominate; this is OK for a reggae sound, like “Armagideon Time”, but not on the other numbers. The mid-range sound is almost non-existent, so for example, the searing guitar riffs on “Brand New Cadillac” which made the recorded version so great are almost inaudible. Mick’s vocals almost disappear into the mix and are there a number of feedback squeals. Granted, no one listens to the Clash for great vocal technique, but the disk gives us numerous flats by both Mick and Joe, raising the question whether they could hear their monitors. And while that could be excused if there were drive and passion behind the singing, it’s not really the case, especially on “I’m So Bored With the USA” where Joe seems confused and gets the verses backwards. The Clash was a terrific band, and Viva Zapata’s Amsterdam concert disk shows why. Unfortunately, the Boston concert does not represent them well.