One of the strangest curiosities of the band's career, Live at Chelmsford Top Security Prison is perhaps best appreciated as an anecdote instead of a recording. Dave Goodman, the band's early soundman who throughout the '80s ended up providing a flood of early and obscure tapes of the band, tells the story in the liner notes about how a show was indeed booked for the group at said prison in 1976. By all accounts it was a bit of a harrowing experience though not without its bizarre humor, and Goodman's tale, though brief, makes for good reading for any fan of the group. But the recording itself? Another story, thanks to Goodman's confused idea of what would make for a worthy release. The core tape itself would have been vaguely interesting enough on its own -- it's better than many bootlegs, worse than others, features Glen Matlock still in the lineup, rocks out well enough. Johnny Rotten is fine fettle though, as noted below, he's not audible much on the tracks themselves, which favor Steve Jones' guitars first and foremost and which go through a typical enough set list for the time for nearly an hour's length. The longer take on "Satellite" is okay enough though there's not much difference otherwise between more familiar versions and the recordings here. However, Goodman proceeds to turn the tape into a freakshow with some ridiculous overdubbing between the songs featuring random crowd and violence noise along with an incredibly poor Rotten imitator goading the "prisoners" on between songs -- as well as often singing on top of the real Rotten himself! The result is a head-shaking mess that plays on the revolutionary/anarchy side of the punk image to no avail. Unless you really need every release imaginable, this album is readily ignorable.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett