The Clash album Sandinista! is a big sprawling three-record set that sounds like it could have been made by six or ten bands, which it was in some way. What happened was that the band wanted out of their contract with Columbia records. They saw that they were obligated to deliver three more records before they would be free, and someone had the smart idea to deliver all three at the same time. The sessions include all sorts of guest artists and performances by people in the Clash circle, with songs in a great many styles (some of which don’t really qualify at songs at all) and genres. The record never fails to charm, I don’t think, but some of it sounds like attention was flagging. That may be the dub influence. In the end, the only problem was that the record company counted the three-record set as one release, and so the band moved on to Combat Rock and Cut the Crap in pursuit of freedom, records that have their moments but which lack the epic generous delight of Sandinista!
Jimmy Guterman had the idea of remaking Sandinista! with different bands and artists each tackling a song, something of a tribute album, but to a record rather (despite the line on the cover) to the band. He called it the Sandinista! Project, and somehow managed to record covers of all of the umpteen songs by artists you might have heard of and other you have not. The result is delightful. I had been playing Sandinista! on my iPod last summer when I learned of TSP. Guterman released the mp3s of the tunes for free on Joe Strummer’s birthday. Soon I had both sets of songs intermingling amiably in the mix. The newer recordings often have strikingly different but completely agreeable arrangements, sometimes shifting genres or emphasis, nearly always hitting the mark the Clash set in the first place.
I bring this up now because Guterman is offering the Sandinista! Project for free download for the next few days at the link above. Highly recommended.
You can read more about the project at its blog.