Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vintage Vinyl Spotlight: The Clash -- London Calling UK vinyl

Nearly thirty years ago, The Clash released their third record, London Calling. Far more than a typical punk rock expression of rage and discontent, London Calling conveyed political and social messages through well-crafted, intelligent songwriting mated to a multitude of flavors. Ska, reggae, rockabilly, as well as punk influences are to be found on the record. Not surprisingjy, London Calling is consistently found at or near the top of most best album lists.

London Calling U.K. back cover

Released by CBS in the U.K. on December 14, 1979, and several weeks later by Epic in the U.S., London Calling came as a specially priced 2 LP set in a non-gatefold unipack cover. U.K. copies can be distinguished by "Clash 3" appearing on the cover's spine, as well as on the white-colored record label. In addition to the eighteen listed tracks, both the U.S. and U.K. releases contained a final "hidden" track, Train in Vain, which ironically went on to become the only U.S. hit from the album.

While London Calling never achieved commercial success comprable to their later 1982 effort, Combat Rock, it remains a fan favorite to this day, and a title most any record collector would want in his collection.

London Calling U.K. CBS label

The original London Calling U.S. Epic vinyl never sounded very good. Heavy on the highs and upper mids, and almost totally lacking any significant bottom end, the Epic vinyl sounds as if the original tapes never made it across the Atlantic.

The U.K. CBS vinyl, on the other hand, sounds fantastic. Smoother, punchier, with a nice bottom end, the U.K. vinyl fills in the lower mids and bottom end absent from the U.S. release. Vocals sound fulller, guitars punchier, and bass lines stronger. Despite the smoother sound, the recording retains its punk attitude and never sounds polite. The fuller lower mids really add character to the vocals; the lead vocal, for example, in Spanish Bombs has a richness absent from the Epic vinyl. The bassline in the title track propels the song forward with an authority that simply isn't heard on other versions of the record.

If you are a fan of this record, the U.K. CBS vinyl really is essential. Copies show up fairly regularly on Ebay, both from U.K. as well as U.S. sellers. Pick one up and hear the album for the first time all over again.

Highly Recommended


Sir Lime and the Coconut said...

Most definitely agree. “London Calling” is timeless music. It is also a very well recorded and engineered album. As well regarded as it is for its music, and rightfully so, I have always been a bit dumbfounded as to why “London Calling” has not received more or any recognition at all for its sonics.

I have too many versions of “London Calling” to mention; both on LP and CD. The UK version of the LP is THE version to have regardless of format. I have listened to this album thousands of times and there are sounds that only reveal themselves on the UK vinyl. Some are subtle and some are not so subtle, but only on the UK vinyl.

I was glad to see this version of the LP receive a proper review and I just had to add a few thoughts.


jimhb said...

Thanks for the excellent review. I will now search out the euro vinyl.

Can you please review the recent Cure 180 GM remasters on vinyl? I really want to know if the $35 price for the double vinyl is worth it!

Thanks again!

Álvaro Martín Gómez said...

Thank you for your review. I'm looking for opinions on the reissue of this album by the Music On Vinyl (MOV) label. This label consistently receives good reviews and I'm very happy with my copy of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "One More From The Road" by MOV, but since the original issue of "London Calling" always receives nothing but praise, I'd like to know how the MOV release stacks up against the original. Thank you again!

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