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For those who aren't sure if they'll like this....
on 31 May 2008
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.