Billy Bragg – Must I Paint You A Picture? The Essential Billy Bragg

Two-CD retrospective from Barking's finest. Initial copies include limited edition CD of rarities

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In 1983, Bragg’s debut Life’s A Riot With Spy Versus Spy was the sole radical in a Top 30 stuffed with Eliminators and Fantastics. Politicised by Thatcher, his dodgy-voice-and-guitar assault?a self-styled ‘one-man Clash’?captured the disaffection of British youth with an articulate humanity lacking in the punk bands that inspired him. With politics personal and national, girl anthems “A New England” and “A Lover Sings” were as moving as “Between The Wars” and “The World Turned Upside Down” (all included here). After the ’87 Red Wedge tours, mid-period Bragg railed against social injustice, while his sound blossomed into fuller textures (“Cindy Of 1,000 Lives”). By the late-’90s Wilco collaborations?”Ingrid Bergman”, “Flying Saucer”?he’d injected a soulful maturity into his voice. Of note here, too, is the bonus disc, tearing up Love’s “Seven And Seven Is” and topped by brilliant Ted Hawkins duet “Cold And Bitter Tears”.

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