Joe Strummer’s time with The Clash was so full of gritty and enduring gravitas that everything in its wake seems to many, unfortunately and quite mistakenly, like an afterthought.  Strummer, as singer-songwriter and guitarist for the revolutionary quartet that exacted, along with the Sex Pistols, the biggest bite of the mid-1970s punk movement was also the scene’s most cerebral and artistic, and least provincial, spokesperson for punk’s creative and cultural alteration of rock-and-roll.  Naturally it follows that Strummer’s artistry would continue to evolve.  And, indeed, it did.  Just not immediately. 

Over a decade since The Clash’s disbanding, at the turn of the 21st century, and with a new band- The Mescaleros- Strummer turned out some of the more exceptional work of his illustrious career, Clash days included.  Across three albums in three years- the last, Streetcore, issued posthumously- Strummer was as provocative, musically adventurous, and focused as he’d ever been.  In this four-disc set that collects the three proper Mescalero records, remastered, and a disc of demos, outtakes, and singles, the frenzied grooves, snarling vocals, and elliptical lyricism that made these years so special are presented as one glorious package demanding a proper reassessment of their clout.

Credit, in part, belongs to Dhani Harrison, the project’s creative director, helming the current incarnation of his late father’s record label, Dark Horse.  In a second effort to shed light on Strummer’s “other” work, Harrison and his Dark Horse team have delivered a conscientious and complete collection.  The accompanying booklet is a true gift; loaded with detailed analysis of each album, as well as a bevy of photos, and copies of handwritten lyrics and sketches, that embody the artist at work.

Sonically, the albums are crystalline in performance, delivering clearly the global groove machine that was The Mescaleros.  Strummer was pushing himself forward, with only a few tracks among the 46 that suggest a peek back to his Clash tenure; “Coma Girl” is the closest, and it’s a gem.  Really, though, the progressive steps that Strummer took in these three years- the awakening roar of the world-wise lion- suggest he was just getting started before his untimely passing in 2002; one more reason to be thankful for this beautiful tribute to his lasting legacy and final work.