Must I Paint You a Picture: Essential Billy Bragg
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Media Type: CD
Title: MUST I PAINT YOU A PICTURE? ESSENTIAL BILLY BRAGG
Street Release Date: 10/28/2003
At any rate, though Bragg has always been chiefly characterised as a political songwriter, his best work has always been that which deals with the politics of the personal: there are few more acute summations of the eternal failure of the male and female to make sense to each other than his "How can you lie there and think of England when you don't even know who's in the team?" Bragg's superb love songs and love-gone-wrong songs are well represented here, from the angry, naive scratchings of "The Milkman of Human Kindness" to such older, if no wiser, musings as "Moving the Goalposts" and "Sulk". Curiously, his older, politically motivated songs now feel like they've reacquired an urgency they lacked during a 1990s largely devoid of stark ideological boundaries, when they sounded rather like quaint period pieces. The so-called war on terror and the increasing discomfort about global trade both have ready made soundtracks in "Between the Wars" and "There is Power in a Union". --Andrew Mueller
Top Customer Reviews
For those unfamiliar with Billy Bragg, his music may be best summarized as "acoustic punk", but he has experimented with numerous styles over the course of his twenty year career. This three CD set collects them all, in a rough chronological order. Disc one begins in Thatcherite Britain: you can picture Billy sitting in a smoke-filled pub belting out coarse folk tunes and love songs with tender quirky lyrics; we then follow him outside into the middle of the poll tax riots, with socialist anthems and rich ballads that tell stories of heartache and broken dreams. Disc two starts at a time in Bragg's career I'd rather forget, the Britpop period, but thankfully the salvation of the later 1990s soon follows. Here he returns to familiar themes - disillusionment with the state of the world, left wing Utopianism, and, of course, love - but the music is more sophisticated and polished. There's even a few Woody Guthrie covers thrown in for fun (and to remind us of his politics). Disc three is made up of remixes and rarities I've only ever heard live or bootleg, which is why I'm going to break down and buy the album!
Regardless of your politics, it's hard not to be moved by songs like "Levi Stubbs' Tears" or "The Space Race Is Over", or to reminisce about relationships gone sour over tracks like "The Price I Pay". Billy Bragg is truly a prolific artist, with a poet's soul and a bleeding heart, and this collection of his work is, as the title says, ESSENTIAL.
Besides all that, Bragg can write a damn fetching tune. For all the rhetoric, he can turn around and write something as emotionally honest as "Somedays I See The Point," one of the greatest songs ever written. His early resetting of "Just Walk Away Renee" is shear (you'll get it) genius. There is a lot to consider here and it is all worth the investment of your time. WILCO, The Blokes, his solo stuff: all are delivered with a sense of commitment. The third disc presents some rarities, including a cut from a radio show in Philadelphia that misrepresents its xenophilic title by content. Nonetheless, Bragg is just brilliant with his "Rhyme or Reason." It's irrelevant whether you embrace his politics.Read more ›
The first disc is more bare-bones than the other two (and my favorite) featuring Bragg's characteristically clever songwriting and sparse musical accompaniment. This is of course, not without exception, most notable the fuller sounding "Great Leap Forwards", among several others.
The second disc is a slight departure from the aforementioned sound, without deviating completely from Bragg's traditional style. More instruments, more production. My personal favorite from this one is "Way Over Yonder In the Minor Key", which features backing vocals from a woman who sounds uncannily like Natalie Merchant to me...however, I could easily be mistaken.
The third disc is the shortest, however, nonetheless amazing as well.
I constantly find myself reaching for this cd, and the only disappointment I have is that Billy Bragg is such an underrated artist here in America.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
great collection, bonus disc was a surprise. title track is my favorite song of his.Published 2 months ago by John Porter
Had heard of Billy Bragg but thought he was only a political-social commentator. He is but he has a wider range. This was a good sample of his range.Published 23 months ago by Thalia Johnson
I like Billy Bragg, but too many average songs to even try to listen to the whole thing, even on a road tripPublished on March 27, 2014 by Dave Gellerman
Just saw Billy Bragg live recently. The last time I saw him was over 20 years ago, so we have both aged a bit. Read morePublished on March 30, 2013 by Gabriel Grey
I have friends who tell me politics and agit prop are so old fashioned. What have the billy Bragg's achieved? Read morePublished on August 29, 2012 by "Belgo Geordie"
I love Billy Bragg's lefty politics, his rough, un-taught voice and his tremendous guitar playing, but most I just love his courage. Read morePublished on August 22, 2006 by William H. Fisher
Now there's a way for people unfmailiar with Billy get an overview of his music from above. I've loved his lyrical abilities and evocative music that fuses both a folkie... Read morePublished on June 18, 2006 by Chai
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