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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For those who aren't sure if they'll like this....
When I saw Billy Bragg on tour recently he described himself as a 'Marmite artist', ie, you either love him or hate him. I don't know that is necessarily true. My husband somewhat reluctantly bought this for me for Christmas a few years ago after I'd requested it on the strength of the handful of Bragg songs that I knew from my teens (Sexuality, New England, Waiting for...
Published on 31 May 2008 by Queen of the High Teas

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Best of Bragg? - No way Jose!!
This purports to be the Essential - presumably meaning the best of Billy Bragg. It's a great record - I have all his albums and I love his work - but I don't think it collects his best.
There are only three tracks from his best record, "Brewing Up" and the other earlier albums are also given short shrift: no "life With the Lions " or "The Short Answer". And no...
Published on 14 Feb 2004 by Geoff Batchelor


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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For those who aren't sure if they'll like this...., 31 May 2008
This review is from: Must I Paint You a Picture?: The Essential Billy Bragg (Audio CD)
When I saw Billy Bragg on tour recently he described himself as a 'Marmite artist', ie, you either love him or hate him. I don't know that is necessarily true. My husband somewhat reluctantly bought this for me for Christmas a few years ago after I'd requested it on the strength of the handful of Bragg songs that I knew from my teens (Sexuality, New England, Waiting for the Great Leap Forward).
Neither myself or my hubby really knew enough about BB from those few songs to understand what an amazing artist he really is. I reckon that there are a few people out there who are in that same position and this review, like the album, is for you. This is a great place to start on your Bragg conversion because it will give you a taste of the diversity of Billy's career. There can't be many artists who could compile an album containing elements of folk, pop, country, punk and even disco (When Will I See You Again!) OK, if you're not particularly political or left-leaning (like my hubby) then there might be some songs here that won't float your boat, but seriously, don't let that put you off. Some of these songs will break your heart (Tank Park Salute, Brickbat). Some will make you laugh (The Saturday Boy, A Lover Sings). Some will rouse you(The World Turned Upside Down, Between The Wars). Most will make you think and remember.
By his own admission, he ain't the greatest singer in the world, nor the greatest guitarist (although I think he's seriously underrated in that department.) Nevertheless, there is something about Billy and his songs which just makes you like and believe him. He's passionate, clever, honest, really funny and utterly without pretension.
Since buying this album we've both gone on to be massive BB converts. If you're still not sure whether you'll like BB, at this price you can surely afford the gamble. You never know, you too might end up wishing you'd done it years ago! For those who are already know you love Billy, this will become a much played favourite compilation. Before you know it, you'll be singing your heart out in a faux Cockney accent.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost all the Billy you'll ever need, 6 Oct 2003
It must be hard work compiling a compilation album - finding that balance between the "hits" and the "best of" tracks that were never released as singles. By calling this set "The Essential Billy Bragg", we really do get the best of both worlds - the well known tracks: "A New England", "Between the Wars", "Sexuality", "Take Down the Union Jack", together with an inspired choice of fan favourites from the albums. Being a fan of Billy since the early days, I could list lots of songs I'd have liked to see included, but accept that the selection is must be limited. There are two strange ommissions though: nothing from the "Internationale" mini album (the title track or "The Marching Song of the Covert Battalions" would have sat there quite nicely), and we're missing Billy's No. 1 single (the double A-side of Wet Wet Wet's version of "A Little Help from my Friends" was Billy's version of "She's Leaving Home"). Still, great collection, nice new remastered sound, and an interesting collection of rare tracks on the bonus CD (shame we didn't get the extended version of "Must I Paint you a Picture" though). Recommended for the beginners - and then get the albums I recommend ALL of the them!!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He's got a new spell, 22 Oct 2003
By 
Mr J A Hitchen (Warrington, Cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Although having enjoyed Billy's work over the years and admired his commitment to social justice I never really considered myself a "fan". This retrospective was bought as I thought it was time to have some of his work in my cd collection - and frankly it was a bargain. Why did I not buy his albums earlier! It was suprising how much I remembered. It's great to get a cd thinking your a beginner and finding out you're actually a fan. Even if you're only remotely interested buy it now.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Magnificent Delivery Man of Human Love, 8 Oct 2003
By A Customer
I will endeavour to be brief. When I slapped this on the CD player last night I was transported immediately back to the bedroom of my teenage years. Billy will not be pleased to learn that I wallowed in nostalgia. Now, I own all these songs already, but I confess I had not listened to some of the earliest albums - LIFES A RIOT... for instance - for some time. Hearing again the bittersweet beauty, the tangled tenderness, the raw romance...ah...I don't mind telling you it brought me to my knees with all the power of the day I first listened.
There is something very, very wonderful and very, very important about Billy Bragg. It is not his political commitment, although that is undeniable. It is something rather more recondite, something that you may wish to call humanity. Whatever it is it vibrates through every track on this wonderful retrospective. From the spine-tingling early love songs, through the Great Leap Forward, through Woody Guthrie, this is the record of one of the great singer-songwriters. Listen to the words and you'll wonder how you ever lived without a bit of Billy. And, while I may disagree with some of the things he says, I am mighty glad that he is there saying them anyway. So should you be. Very few people have the courage.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A game of three halves!, 11 May 2004
By 
Peter Fenelon - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
50 tracks for nine quid - hard to argue with the sheer value of this set, and when the quality and scope are taken into account it's pretty much unmissable. Really does cover Bragg's ascent from wailing solo artist to accompolished, quirky popster - and shows that he never sold out his political principles on the way.
Each disc has its own atmosphere though, and it's best to consider them individually.
For me, Disc 1 is the star. It's the Billy Bragg I spent my late teens listening to - angry, ironic, lyrics, stripped-down music and an almost visceral reaction to the debris of the Thatcher years. This disc draws heavily on the first three albums and the 'Between The Wars' EP, adding a few welcome extras.
Disc 2 is the poppier, perhaps less confrontational Bragg of the nineties and beyond. Certainly a more accomplished artist, with a finer grasp of pop sensibilities and a wider appeal, but to me something of the raw edge was lost. This disc shows Bragg's mainstream acceptance as something of a pop oddity, and has some astonishingly good songs that the old-style Bragg fans who tuned out after "Talking With The Taxman About Poetry" may have missed first time round.
Disc 3 is really a typical bonus/rarities extra - a completist might buy the set for this, the rest of us will probably find it moderately interesting but the stunning "When will I See You Again" apart it isn't exactly essential.
Can't really give it five stars, because MY definitive Bragg set would essentially be the first three albums and the Between The Wars EP, but it's a very high four.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Round-Up Of Older Bragging, 17 July 2011
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This review is from: Must I Paint You a Picture?: The Essential Billy Bragg (Audio CD)
Billy Bragg's politics can put people off his music,(not me - I'm with him, or at least nearby). Even if you are a Daily Mail reader you will enjoy tracks like 'Greeting To The new Brunette'. He's a poet in the Guthrie tradition. So get this anthology, please.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Summation, 8 Oct 2003
This album is truly superb and a perfect summation of Billy's career to date.Maybe i'm a bit biased because i've been a fan since those heady days when his debut mini-album (Life's A Riot ....) came out and have bought most of his stuff since then , but i really can't recommend this wonderful collection any higher.Long term fans will love it of course (but probably have the traditional quibble over track-listing ,i.e. surely Honey I'm A Big Boy Now and Ideology are better than Help Save The Youth Of America, but that's just nit-picking!) and any newcomers will find that it's worth the money for The Saturday Boy alone.Just buy it if you've got an ounce of soul in yer body.Incidentally , the box set released in 2006 is good but i was very let - down by the booklet which has no essay or notes of any merit instead choosing to reprint the lyrics which have been on all previous CD issues . Bah !! What a wasted opportunity . Still , minor moan over , Billy still rules !
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have for any serious music fan, 6 Feb 2004
By 
E M Neild (Edinburgh, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I am 25 and I had never listened to Billy before buying this album. His lyrics are truly moving and a real breathe of fresh air to my collection. 'Tank Park Salute' will, from now on, always figure in my evolving top 5 most beautiful songs. It will move anyone who has loved and lost someone. I wish I could thank Billy personally for producing such powerful music. This is a stunning collection and should figure in every household.
(other artists I like include: John Martyn, David Gray, James Taylor and De La Soul!)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great overview of a unique artist, 22 Oct 2003
By A Customer
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After a luke warm review of his last album I thought it only fair to redress the balance with a five star review of this excellent retrospective.
Bragg was, and still is, unique. Who do you compare him with? Well, you can't. Still seen as perhaps a political singer songwriter, I wonder whether it is his personal songs that outshine and will outlast his political ones. But I guess that really doesn't matter.
Certainly for me Billy Bragg helped me get through my difficult late teenage years and a little beyond, with the balance of pro-socialist and relationship songs: I was a sad, angry and confused young man. I guess he still helps me now.
Superb tunes and wonderfully witty and insightful lyrics (up there with Morrissey and David Gedge) mean that Billy Bragg will last a long long time.
Bravo!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Best of Bragg? - No way Jose!!, 14 Feb 2004
By 
Geoff Batchelor (Baildon, W Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This purports to be the Essential - presumably meaning the best of Billy Bragg. It's a great record - I have all his albums and I love his work - but I don't think it collects his best.
There are only three tracks from his best record, "Brewing Up" and the other earlier albums are also given short shrift: no "life With the Lions " or "The Short Answer". And no "Little Time Bomb"!
A fair selection from "Don't Try This At Home", but then too much from succeeding CDs, which aren't as good, and a lot of which are Woody Guthrie songs. Ok to listen to, but essential Billy Bragg - I think not.
I don't think you should do a Billy Bragg compilation without stuff like "It Says Here", "From A Vauxhall Velox" or "The Myth of Trust"
The best 2 CD introduction to Billy Bragg is "Back to Basics" and "Don't Try This At Home"; then you will want to buy all the rest.
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