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Billy Bragg - Must I Paint You a Picture?: The Essential Billy Bragg

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In 1983, Billy Bragg was a guy with a cheap electric guitar, a rough but passionate voice, and a knack for writing and singing straight from the heart whether he was discussing leftist political concerns or the mysterious interactions between men and women. The guy has a band and the political issues that have caught his attention are trickier 20 years later, but he's still enchanted and puzzled by love, and hasn't stopped writing worthwhile songs about it. Must I Paint You a Picture? The Essential Billy Bragg is a two-disc, 40-song compilation that does an admirable job of capturing the hills and valleys of Bragg's recording career, opening up with "A New England" from his debut EP, Life's a Riot With Spy vs. Spy, and closing with a cut from 2002's England, Half English. A spin through this set suggests that Bragg's best (or at least most affecting) work arrived in the early stages of his career, as disc one (which follows Bragg through Worker's Playtime) is a decidedly more solid and absorbing listen than disc two (the material from the disappointing William Bloke in particular weighs down the collection's second act), and his love songs have stood the test of time a shade better than his political material (the miners' strike may be over, but broken hearts are timeless). But there are plenty of gems to be found throughout this collection, and Must I Paint You a Picture? serves as a potent reminder that in the grand tradition of Bob Dylan, even Bragg's lesser albums contain a handful of truly memorable songs worth hearing; if this isn't the ideal Billy Bragg collection, it's an excellent introduction, a solid career overview, and a lovely reminder of how much he has to say about the heart and the mind. Initial pressings come with a ten-song bonus disc that adds several hard to find selections, including Bragg's Anglophile rewrite of "Route 66," a telling duet with the late Ted Hawkins, and a bootleg remix that merges Bragg with the Hives. ~ Mark Deming

Disc 1:
1) A New England - Billy Bragg (02:15)
2) The Man in the Iron Mask - Billy Bragg (02:06)
3) The Milkman of Human Kindness - Billy Bragg (02:55)
4) To Have and to Have Not - Billy Bragg (02:33)
5) A Lover Sings - Billy Bragg (03:53)
6) St. Swithin's Day - Billy Bragg (03:55)
7) The Saturday Boy - Billy Bragg (03:31)
8) Between the Wars - Billy Bragg (02:29)
9) The World Turned Upside Down - Billy Bragg (02:35)
10) Levi Stubbs' Tears - Billy Bragg (03:32)
11) Walk Away Renee - Billy Bragg (02:24)
12) Greetings to the New Brunette - Billy Bragg (03:32)
13) There Is Power in a Union - Billy Bragg (02:50)
14) Help Save the Youth of America - Billy Bragg (02:48)
15) The Warmest Room - Billy Bragg (03:58)
16) Must I Paint You a Picture? - Billy Bragg (05:31)
17) She's Got a New Spell - Billy Bragg (03:24)
18) The Price I Pay - Billy Bragg (03:34)
19) Valentine's Day Is Over - Billy Bragg (04:54)
20) Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards - Billy Bragg (04:36)

Disc 2:
1) Sexuality - Billy Bragg (03:48)
2) Cindy of a Thousand Lives - Billy Bragg (04:14)
3) Moving the Goalposts - Billy Bragg (02:34)
4) Tank Park Salute - Billy Bragg (03:29)
5) You Woke Up My Neighbourhood - Billy Bragg (03:10)
6) Accident Waiting to Happen (Red Stars Version) - Billy Bragg (03:48)
7) Sulk - Billy Bragg (03:47)
8) Upfield - Billy Bragg (04:05)
9) The Fourteenth of February - Billy Bragg (03:25)
10) Brickbat - Billy Bragg (03:13)
11) The Space Race Is Over - Billy Bragg (04:25)
12) The Boy Done Good - Billy Bragg (03:22)
13) Ingrid Bergman - Billy Bragg / Wilco (01:50)
14) Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key - Billy Bragg / Wilco (04:07)
15) My Flying Saucer - Billy Bragg / Wilco (01:46)
16) All You Fascists Bound to Lose (Blokes Version) - Blokes / Billy Bragg & the Blokes (04:11)
17) NPWA - Blokes / Billy Bragg & the Blokes (05:29)
18) St. Monday - Blokes / Billy Bragg & the Blokes (03:01)
19) Some Days I See the Point - Blokes / Billy Bragg & the Blokes (04:57)
20) Take Down the Union Jack (Band Version) - Blokes / Billy Bragg & the Blokes (03:22)

Disc 3:
1) A13, Trunk Road to the Sea - Billy Bragg (02:28)
2) Fear Is a Man's Best Friend - Billy Bragg (02:33)
3) Cold and Bitter Tears - Billy Bragg / Ted Hawkins (02:35)
4) Seven and Seven Is - Billy Bragg (02:12)
5) When Will I See You Again? - Billy Bragg (03:02)
6) Rule nor Reason - Blokes / Billy Bragg (03:33)
7) Debris - Blokes / Billy Bragg (04:10)
8) Dry Bed - Billy Bragg (01:48)
9) She Smiled Sweetly - Billy Bragg (02:52)
10) Take Down the Union Jack - Billy Bragg (02:47)

Must I Paint You a Picture?: The Essential Billy Bragg
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Must I Paint You a Picture?: The Essential Billy Bragg | Billy Bragg