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England, Half English


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Audio CD, March 5, 2002
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Biography

He was born Steven William Bragg in Essex around the time Tommy Steele was climbing the singles charts with Happy Guitar and the Soviet Union was launching Sputnik 2 into space. Today, on the verge of the release of his eleventh and best album, Mr. Love & Justice, he is known as Billy Bragg by his loyalists worldwide yet he is still called Steven by his Mother and still referred to as the ... Read more in Amazon's Billy Bragg Store

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 5, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Elektra / Wea
  • ASIN: B00005YX35
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #635,230 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. St. Monday
2. Jane Allen
3. Distant Shore
4. England, Half English
5. NPWA
6. Some Days I See The Point
7. Baby Farouk
8. Take Down The Union Jack
9. Another Kind Of Judy
10. He'll Go Down
11. Dreadbelly
12. Tears Of My Tracks

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

'England, Half-English', is his first album of all-original songs in over five years, features Billy and his touring band The Blokes continuing that spirit of rollicking collaboration. As always, Billy deftly mixes the personal and the political on a doze

Amazon.com

In the afterglow of the remarkable Mermaid Avenue, the dean of British agit-rock turns in a new set of collaborations, this time with running mates Ben Mandelson, Lu Edmonds, Martyn Barker, Simon Edwards, and Ian McLagan. While the Blokes' arrangements find the earthy adventurousness--dabbling in a bit of neo-ska, gospel soul, and polyrhythmic world beats--that defined the Mermaid sessions, Bragg's songwriting often sputters through overly didactic and barely clever slams on multinational capitalism, British nationalism, and working-class exploitation. Bragg has railed against it all before--and with considerably more wit. The new romantic songs, especially the bouncy "Another Kind of Judy" and the gorgeous immigrant's reverie "Distant Shore," find the sharp and sweet catchiness of Bragg's best work, but the rest of the album rarely does. --Roy Kasten

Customer Reviews

Sorry this is a negative review but this is the only one of his many records that I haven't enjoyed.
Simon Carne
Other songs like "Baby Farouk", "Distant Shore", and "Tears of My Tracks", bring you to remember some of his older albums quite fondly.
uffda_bill
It's not his previous work, but then, don't expect Billy Bragg to stand still - he evolves; hopefully, his audience does too.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By uffda_bill on March 24, 2002
Format: Audio CD
First, let me say, I have been a huge fan of Billy's since 1990. I have attended concerts, bought T-shirts, and played his music full blast on many a day.
The album contains a few gems, a few mediocre songs, and a few that are painful to hear. Being a HUGE fan of the British Isles, I found the song "Take Down the Union Jack" to inspire a bit of melancholy and a bit of acceptance...the Isles have changed.
Other songs like "Baby Farouk", "Distant Shore", and "Tears of My Tracks", bring you to remember some of his older albums quite fondly.
This album is fairly decent, but is missing something. Compared to William Bloke this is one notch below. This album most directly corresponds to Don't Try This at Home...
So, if you are a Billy Bragg fan, you should buy this album (if only for Take Down the Union Jack). If you have never listened to Billy before, then I suggest you go pick up Back to Basics or William Bloke before hand.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John C Washburne on March 20, 2002
Format: Audio CD
To put my cards on the table, I'm a huge Billy Bragg fan. However the moments of genius are getting fewer and further between. This record is solid but unspectacular, with a few exceptions. "Distant Shore" is classic, heartfelt Billy Bragg, and the acoustic guitar work is gorgeous. "Another Kind of Judy" is this record's "Sexuality", and "Jane Allen" is a lot of fun. "Baby Faroukh" is a standout as well. Other than than that it's pretty average. "NPWA" is just awful musically. The lyrics are cool, but to me it's unlistenable. Bragg's live shows are still a killer, though, and I'm planning on being front and center when he comes to the States.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ben on March 11, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Barreling out of the success of the Mermaid Avenue collections, a popular Woody Guthrie-written collaboration with Wilco, Billy Bragg went into the studio with producer Grant Showbiz and his touring band The Blokes to put out a rollicking good and fun album that shows his changing style.
Billy shows an almost Beatles-esque style on his first track, entitled St. Monday, which speaks in a joking manner of the workplace hours in an office.
No Power Without Accountability, the fifth track on the album, shines with a Springsteen-like flavour that makes you almost believe that Max Weinberg is in the back of the studio wailing away on the set to drum out the steady snare beat which is so unaccustomed in Billy Bragg albums.
The highlight of the album comes with "Take Down the Union Jack", a different kind of song that many die-hard Bragg-fans have been missing. From the first words of this anti-nationalist anthem, Billy Bragg is accompanied by just his guitar, alone against the world, and one is reminded of his old days.
It made me remember a picture of him that I have, taken from the back, where he is standing alone in front of a crowd at Wembley Stadium, with his guitar slung behind him like the last lone socialist soldier.
And being the only person under 40 that can pull off talking about Socialism without coming off self-conscious, he may be the last of his breed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 17, 2004
Format: Audio CD
"England Half-English" is the latest plot point on Billy Bragg's biographical music chart. I think it's essential to understand where he's coming from when reviewing a Bragg Album. In listening to Billy's work over the years, I've felt like I've almost been participating in his life, such is the honesty and depth of feeling that goes into his music. That doesn't mean that all of the songs are equally good, of course. But the man has clearly, and publicly, evolved, from angry, caustic punk bard on his first 2 or 3 albums, through the relationship vicissitudes of "Worker's Playtime", the experimentation of "Don't Try This At Home", and the clearly maturer husband and father of "William Bloke". On this album he is once more looking outward, not so much at broad political theory, but at the state of the nation (England, natch).
"Distant Shore" is a beautiful plangent song about asylum-seekers, one of the most turbulent (and overheated) issues in the UK right now, from the simple perspective of a man wishing to have some kind of decent existence. "England Half-English" is thematically-linked, being a decisive refutation of white nationalist claims to being the sole owners of "English" identity. It's also got a great beat and cool instrumentation. In "Take Down the Union Jack", Billy revisits the issue of empire once more, this time urging some sort of redefinition of what it means to be English in this age. And it's another gorgeous melody. The final song in this vein is "Baby Farouk". It's not a direct comment on England, but I think it can easily be understood as an appeal to inclusion and tolerance in English society.
For me the above four songs alone are well worth the price of admission.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ethan on April 24, 2002
Format: Audio CD
The first time I listened to "Don't Try This at Home" I was disappointed. It was not what I had been expecting or hoping for. I put it away for a while, listened to it again, and realized that there were many lovely songs on it. The same thing happened with "William Bloke", even more so since I was negatively influenced by some critical reviews. Now it's one of my favorite albums.
Bragg has come a long way since the raw solo guitar of "Brewing Up with Billy Bragg." He continues to expand and explore musically on "English, Half English." Again, the first listening was disappointing. But I've learned by now to stick with Bragg and it grows on me with each listen. This outing certainly takes Bragg even further down the road musically. "Dreadbelly" is an odd song - even reading the lyric sheet I can't figure out what it's about - that has a nice ska lilt. The song "Englan, Half English" is half spoken/chanted half sung. The music is a style I'm not familiar with. Half English Music Hall half Reggae/raga?
Bragg's political concerns are a bit more inwardly focused on this album. Rather than broad strokes about socialism v. capitalism, for the most part he is concerned with the current state of England and the nature and meaning of being English. Some of the references are therefore may be a bit obscure for most American listeners. When Bragg sings on "Take Down the Union Jack" "Gilbert and George are taking the piss aren't they" I really don't know what he means. I'm hoping I get some clue on one of the Bragg web sites.
While lacking a love song of the quality of "February 14th" (instead there is a song about wrongly being viewed as unfaithful) there is a nice range among the songs: from an anti-globalization anthem to an account of his depression after selling his LP collection.
In sum, buy this album, give it a few listens, and just remember that once again we're dealing with a brand new Billy Bragg.
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