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Even with the flood of tribute albums besieging the marketplace in recent years -- some worthy, most redundant -- an homage to an album like the Clash´s Sandinista! seems an especially arduous undertaking. After all, the original LP was mind-numbingly schizophrenic, sprawling across three records, six sides, and a full three-dozen tracks. Dunno about you, but for my money, I´d redo London Calling, a much easier choice for a Clash covers attempt. Still, the new tribute album The Sandinista! Project works somewhat well, especially considering the liberties taken by the artists involved. Although the more reliable rockers -- Joe Grushecky, the Smithereens, and Willie Nile in particular -- find a good fit with the Clash´s edgy imprint, many of the other participants take their assignments to bizarre extremes. One can only imagine how the Clash might view some of these odd reworkings, from the banjo-fueled bluegrass on ¨Something About England¨ by the Coal Porters to the down-home adaptation of ¨Juan Meets G.I. Joe¨ from Jason Ringenberg and Kristi Rose. Other songs skew even further -- for example, the jazzy piano version of ¨Look Here¨ by Jim Duffy, the fanciful folk view of ¨Rebel Waltz¨ by Ruby on the Vine, the gospel call of Bill Lloyd´s ¨The Sound of Sinners.¨ And that´s not to mention the stuff that´s just plain weird, because there´s plenty of that too. Chalk it up to the extreme lineup, and give credit to the Clash for making Sandinista! so goddamned subversive to start with.
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Lee Zimmerman

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