- The Clash: Joe Strummer, Mick Jones (vocals, guitar); Paul Simonon (vocals, bass); Nicky "Topper" Headon, Tory Crimes, Pete Howard (drums).
- Producers include: Mickey Foote, The Clash, Sandy Pearlman, Guy Stevens, Jose Unidos.
- Compilation producer: Bruce Dickinson.
- Recorded between 1977 & 1985.
- Personnel: Mick Jones , Micky Jones, Joe Strummer (vocals, guitar); Nick Sheppard, Vince White (guitar); Nicky "Topper" Headon, Tory Crimes (drums).
- Recording information: 1977-1985.
- Photographers: Kate Simon ; Bob Gruen; Pennie Smith; Paul Slattery.
- It's somehow fitting that the first Clash collection to be released in the wake of frontman Joe Strummer's December 2002 death should be the closest anyone's ever come to a truly definitive non-box-set anthology. The two discs essentially work chronologically, starting out with a dose of old-school UK punk from the days when the Clash were messengers of political fury and icon-shattering rock & roll fire (the raging "White Riot" and gloriously snotty "I'm So Bored with the U.S.A."). We can hear the incorporation of reggae rhythms with "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" and Junior Murvin's street-fighting tale "Police & Thieves," and the beginnings of the Clash's infatuation with American music on the Bobby Fuller cover "I Fought the Law."
- Disc two finds the band truly at the peak of its powers, featuring tracks from LONDON CALLING and SANDINISTA, where both the lyricism and the stylistic palette were brought to a new level (the punk-rap of "The Magnificent Seven," the Caribbean lilt of "Rudie Can't Fail"). It's to this compilation's strong credit that it not only includes a healthy portion from the most "difficult" Clash album (SANDINISTA), but some vital tracks from the odd-ends collection BLACK MARKET CLASH (the dubbed-out Robin Hood tale "Bankrobber," the snarling "Capital Radio One"), making THE ESSENTIAL CLASH much more than a greatest-hits collection.
Spin (6/03, p.104) - "...These two discs are a pretty hot crib sheet....The first 11 cuts are a shuffle mix of highlights from the U.S. and U.K. versions of 1977's incendiary THE CLASH, and if they don't inspire you to punch holes in the plaster, you're too well-adjusted..."
Uncut (5/03, p.114) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...They never lost sight of Britain's strange mix of supermarket torpor and multicultural high energy..."