Joe Strummer had become friendly with filmmaker Alex Cox when Strummer contributed some songs to the soundtrack of Cox's movie Sid and Nancy, and Joe later tagged along for the drunken holiday in Spain that was Straight to Hell. In 1987, when Cox began filming his ambitious (perhaps too ambitious) film about the life of American mercenary William Walker, he brought Strummer along to play a small role in the film and compose the score. Strummer's music turned out to be just as ambitious as the film itself; Walker bears almost no resemblance to Strummer's work with the Clash, instead aiming for a airy fusion of several Latin musical styles (and showing a faint influence of the music of legendary film composer Ennio Morricone, though thankfully not stumbling into the clichés that have grown from his work). Strummer only sings on three cuts ("The Unknown Immortal," "Tennessee Rain," and "Tropic of No Return," which sound more like Mexican folk tunes than anything else), and while more than a few fans will wonder what Joe was thinking when he recorded this stuff, Strummer obviously took his assignment seriously and rather than forcing a period piece set in 1850 to bend to the force of his music, he pulled back the reigns on his rock influences and fashioned a series of simple but evocative pieces that conjure up the mystery and beauty of Nicaragua with commendable sense of dynamics and grace. In short, Strummer could have become a first-rate film composer if he'd stuck with it, and while Walker is something of an anomaly in his discography, it's also a lovely and engaging set of music.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming