on 2 February 2007
11 songs, only 3 about politics and a whopping great 8 about love. It isn't hard to guess what was going on in Billy's life around the time of this album. He even names the culprit in 'The Short Answer' - "Between Marx and marzipan in the dictionary, there was Mary."
Billy articulates the whole range of feelings we experience when involved in a passionate love affair, from initial infatuation ('She's Got A New Spell') to ardent declarations ('Must I Paint You A Picture?') and on through wounded defiance ('The Price I Pay') and sad resignation ('Valentine's Day Is Over'). After all the anguish, though, he still can't help but state that you're 'The Only One.'
The political songs seem almost incidental by comparison but very fine they are too. 'Tender Comrade', a moving song about 2 male soldiers falling in love, is sung a capella by Bragg. 'Rotting On Remand' is a plea for more humane treatment of prisoners. And 'The Great Leap Forwards', an unusually structured song that gathers in pace and volume, is acutely aware of the dilemmas of the singer-songwriter with its self-deprecating line, "Mixing pop and politics, he asks me what the use is/ I offer him embarrassment and my usual excuses."
Another 'leap forwards' for the bard of Barking.
on 8 July 2004
'Workers Playtime' is regarded by some as an 'in-between' album, fitting between the ground breaking 'Talking With the Taxman..' and the near pop-perfect 'Don't Try This At Home'. Bill (in my opinion) was always a better writer of bitter-sweet love ditties than political comment and this album concentrates mainly on the former, providing a more downbeat and subtle work compared to '..Taxman..'. Songs such as 'Must I Paint You a Picture', 'Valentine's Day is Over' are prime examples. Musically the accompanyment is more of a disappointment: although it shows signs of Bill's future experiments with country styles, it seems at times directionless, as if he wasn't sure whether to go the whole hog with a backing band and drummer and as such is not as polished as 'Don't Try This...'. Subsequently, the best numbers are the ones with the most sparse backing. This minor quibble though should be looked at in the context of what went before and what was to come. As such, it remains an unsung gem in the Billy Bragg collection which you should definitely get hold of, but if you're new to the Bard of Barking, not before 'Taxman..' and 'Don't Try This..'. And while we're at it, 'Back to Basics'. Failing this, buy the box set if you must, but you'll miss out on the brilliant 'The Short Answer' ("While you and I sat down to tea/I remember you said to me/that no amount of poetry could mend this broken heart/but you can put the Hoover round if you want to make a start")
on 17 January 2001
This is the album that really got me into Billy. Strong songs, excellent lyrics. He got a really good band around him and produced a more melodic and sophisticated sound than before while still retaining the passion and commitment.
Must I Paint You a Picture, and Great Leap Forward are stand out tracks - but (with the possible exception of Tender Comrade) there isn't a duff song on here.
on 11 August 2013
This is an excellent introduction to Billy Bragg if you haven't listened to him before. He is an acquired taste but one worth cultivating. His songs are sharp and tuneful, they will stay in your head, and he sings better than most would ever dream of giving him credit for. Most of his songs are about love and loss but a few are political and they make their points with pith and humour. Waiting for the Great Leap Forward is a fine example of his politically conscious songs.
If you haven't heard him before, give him a go. If you have but tuned out, try and tune him back in. A singer songwriter with something interesting to say and who challenges your world or relationship views is worth a listen I'd say.
on 22 March 2008
On Billy Bragg's previous album `Talking to the Taxman about Poetry' he had moved away from the sparse percussive guitar of his early `Urban' folk music using the occasional acoustic and also guest musicians playing piano, bass and even percussion, here things move on again with majority of the songs now being garnished with accompaniment up to and including drums. It was a staggering move towards `Pop' music and with the subject matter made for an absolute classic LP.
Although never one to enjoy other people's misfortunes it has to be said that Bragg's then relationship coming to an end was one of the best things to ever happen to my record collection. The majority of the songs here are amongst the better songs to cover the ending of the affair like a less pretentious `Blood on the Tracks'. All the songs of this cycle are as perfect as their titles would suggest: `She's got a New Spell', `Must I Paint You a Picture', `The Price I Pay', `Little Time Bomb', `Life with the Lions' ant `The Only One' all give us part of the story and the magnificent `The Short Answer' tells us the whole story in glorious monochrome.
`Valentine's Day is Over' works as a wonderful part of the song cycle with its emotive tale of Domestic violence. `Tender Comrade' is a vocal only refrain which is probably the only song collected here I don't like. `Rotting on Remand' is a rousing dirge which I think suffers from being the one time Bragg's politics are confused, an innocent man requiring rehabilitating.
The greatest song is the closing piece `Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards' which is an accurate self parody proving that although it is easy to take the mick out of a `Pop and Politics' merchant no-body sends up Billy Bragg like Billy Bragg. The arrangement is also priceless building from a single guitar to full combo sound, drums, backing singers et al.
The Demo's collected on the Bonus disk add very little to the original album and although I was bursting with excitement to hear Billy Bragg performing The Jam's `That's Entertainment' it did end up being a bit of a disappointment.
on 20 February 2014
buy it, listen to it, love it. This is the third time I've bought this album...tape, CD (wore it out!), and now again. Couldn't imagine my collection without it.
on 25 October 2015
Possibly the best of all his albums. Others have classic songs interspersed throughout, but this is perfect from start to finish. If there was one BB album I couldn't be without then this would be it. It's like an English version of Springsteen's 'Tunnel of Love' or Dylan's 'Blood on the Tracks'.
Most tracks are augmented by a fuller sound, but it's not over produced. The lyrics are great as you would expect with great story telling at there heart.
Great Leap Forward is near perfection and a great closing track.
on 18 November 2000
This album is classic Billy, while not as stark as his earlier work the more elaborate arrangements work. This album goes from beautiful love songs to attacks on society and capitalism and back again seamlessly. besides the classic Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards there is the fun of She's Got a New Spell and the emotion of Valentine's Day and the stark Tender Comrade. All in all, probably Billy's best album, despite the passage of time the subjects remain valid. Buy this album if you have'nt got it already.
on 8 January 2014
Worth the admission price for 'Waiting for the great leap forwards' alone. But there are a number of other great tracks on here too which previous reviewers have covered in detail, far more eloquently than I can. Both my wife and I love this album, we'd recommend it to anyone interested in Billy Bragg.
on 31 March 2015
Classic album from Billy Bragg. One of my all time favourites. Several of the tracks are still on his live set list and for good reason. Whether it's politics or the politics of love Billy has way of making you sing along.