Although the title is a clever play on `Preaching to the Converted' it is the sub-title `Minding the Gaps' that tells the most about this compilation. Originally targeted at Billy's American audience by collecting together a wealth of his back catalogue that had not been released there it was released in England as a set of songs that had never been made available on CD.
The album opens strongly with a electric guitar driven re-recording of `Greetings to the New Brunette' with Johnny Marr , whilst we are still reeling from that `Sulk' and `Accident Waiting to Happen' allows the 1991 backing band `The Red Stars' to plug in and kicks off. Before we have time to catch our breath Marr is back with `The Boy Done Good' a back handed compliment to Tony Blair on his landslide election victory.
The pace does eventually slow down and the remainder of the album although noticeable as b-sides does have some genuine classics such as `Bad Penny', `Rule Nor Reason' and Dick Gaughan's `Think Again'. Other un-collected classics as the original version of `Day's Like These' and Billy's version of the Beatles `She's Leaving Home' which was taken from a NME charity compilation and hit number one, mainly due to `Wet Wet Wet' singing the c/w `With a Little Help from my Friends'.
My own favourite is `Walk Away Renee' which rather than be a straight cover of `The Temptations' classic is a genuinely funny beat poem spoken over the refrain, priceless.
Although 'Reaching....' is a collection of old songs and reworked tunes, this record stands out as one of Billy's best yet. Having progressed from his early days of punk with Riff Raff, his now long-established urbane folk sound is not only reminiscent of Dylan, but also crosses the line into new-wave sounds for the millenium. Every song is a hit, and the reworked 'Shirley' is a masterpiece in itself, featuring Johnny Marr on guitar. If you like billy Bragg, buy this record, if you don't like Billy Bragg, buy this record.