Is it really 30 years? I've always thought this came out in 1984 ..... I remember trundling back to my grotty bedsit in Hastings with this album (EP? Whatever!) clutched in my hand and listening to its 16 minutes over and over again! I'd heard Billy Bragg on radio 1 in the evenings - Peel, of course! - and loved the stripped down sound he produced. There's something about the spartan nature of just the voice and guitar, it allows the songs to really stand out.
It seems pointless trying to pick out one or two songs and say, "These are the best", because for me its short running time has meant that it's become almost like one piece of music, but I'll highlight "A New England" as it's probably the best known of the tracks (more for the Kirsty McColl cover than for Billy's original) and "Man In The Iron Mask", simply because I can't believe it wasn't a big hit for somebody (I seem to remember Paul Young recorded it and stuck it on the b-side of a single).
For me, this is THE sound of Billy Bragg. I like the music he produced latterly but the sound of just him and the guitar (and the occasional trumpet!!) on his first few recordings will always BE Billy Bragg for me!
A great little collection, now sounding better than ever! The added bonus of the recently recorded live versions are interesting but not as essential as the original recordings .... I think I might have been more impressed if he'd kept to the original running order, but it does demonstrate that the the ol' bloke's still got it!