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on 9 April 2008
Mr Bragg has previously been accused of trying to set Clause Four to music. And maybe he has at times with varying success. There should, however, be little contention about his towering songwriting abilities. Beauties such as "St Swithin's Day", the eternal "New England", the magnificent "Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards" and even some of the album tracks off the last 2 albums ("Sugar Daddy", "He'll Go Down") have showed some bite where mellowness may have set in.

"Mr Love & Justice" starts off rather well. "I Keep Faith" is not particularly arresting for anything on initial appearance but it does eventually charm you with a soulful lightness of touch and the sweet sound of Robert Wyatt's backing vocals. This stands up there with some of his finest.
Elsewhere highlights are "Sing Their Souls Back Home" which by rights could make you cringe but it somehow doesn't. "The Johnny Carcinogenic Show" works rather well tackling the calorific golden arches. "O Freedom" is Bragg at his most incisive.
However elsewhere things are either a little bland or have a wall of ugly guitar over them. The Blokes as a backing band seem to have lost their deftness and seem to clunk about like a drunk Crazy Horse.
"I Almost Killed You" passes by forgettably. The title track sounds like we've been here before. "Farm Boy" doesn't do much one way or the other.

The solo take on the songs does bring out more interest and some of the bear up well under this treatment.

Perhaps it's all a bit unfair. Life does change and you couldn't maybe expect a "Levi Stubbs Tears".
But there is a bit of blandness knocking around in the over. So whither Billy Bragg? This is not an overly arresting album but it is not without its charm. Bragg remains one of the most human and moving songwriters of the last 25 or so years. And this shows up in a handful of places on this album.

Maybe next time, when he gets round to it, he can get some fire back.
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on 27 March 2008
Although it's been six years since his last album England Half English, Billy Bragg is one artist who you can`t accuse of being lazy. Since releasing that LP, Billy has written a book The Progressive Patriot, made or appeared on countless TV and radio programmes and played numerous regular and low-key gigs and benefits around the World. And now he has brought out not just one new album buy two...

Yes the Deluxe Edition version of Mr. Love & Justice comes with two discs - the band version recorded with Billy's group The Blokes and a solo rendition of the same songs with Billy on vocals and crunchy electric guitar. Recorded after the band versions, the solo recordings will delight those from Billy's fanbase who still hanker for his one-man-and-a-guitar assault on the World in the 80s. They also of course beg the question as to which version of Bragg is best. My reply is that both the band and solo versions of the songs are worthy on this excellent album.

Not that the solo recordings are necessarily quieter than the full versions with this artist of course. Take the second song I Almost Killed You - the band version has a campfire feel whereas the solo take has loud, punky guitar like it's 1984 all over again. Both versions are excellent. Among the other highlights for me are the literal wordplay of M For Me, highly political O Freedom and Something Happened which dissects the difference between love and lust in two sentences over some of the grungiest guitar ever laid down on a Billy Bragg record.

Musically the key influences on Mr. Love & Justice are classic soul, folk and country rather than the mix of World music to celebrate multicultural Britain and rather less inspiring pub-rock on England Half English. There are though still plenty of instruments from around the World featured on the new album whose songs are much stronger than its predecessor. An excellent album then and Billy's best since 1991's Don't Try This At Home at the very least. It's worth the wait if it's this good as well as extra points for whoever had the idea of bringing out band and solo versions of the songs. Well done Billy on your best album for a long time.
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on 13 March 2008
This is a bit like meeting an old friend and catching up with their life and times. Interesting, funny, moving and going on a bit by turns, Bragg is a real person. There is more than enough here to engage with and enjoy. The Blokes are restrained and on form and the solo versions offer different perspectives on some great new songs. A couple of duds can't spoil the pleasure of spending some time with Bill again.
11 Comment| 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
`Mr Love and Justice' feels like the culmination of Billy Bragg's twenty five years as a solo performer with his song writing at it's most subtle since his 1996 album `William Bloke' and the musical accompaniment tutored from his collaborations with American band Wilco and his own backing band of multi-instrumentalists, the Blokes.

The album opens with taster single `I Keep Faith' which is the most polished song on the album and kicks things off nicely. `I Almost Killed You' suffers from the World Music arrangement and percussion but the lyric is it's saving grace. Next up `M for Me' is again lyrically inspired and has a beautiful brass driven arrangement which compliments it.

`The Beach is Free' is wonderfully rockabilly sprint which leads perfectly on to ex-trooper Bragg's take on the second gulf war, `Sing Their Souls Back Home'. `You Make Me Brave' feels like Bragg circa `Don't Try This at Home'. `Something Happened' struggles to make an impact on this record being shoehorned between two songs which are superior in tone and arrangement.

The title song, which doesn't allude to the Colin MacInnes novel of the same title, sits uncomfortably with Bragg's admiration for Woody Guthrie with its `desertion should mean disgrace' message to absentee fathers. `If You Ever Leave' is Bragg possibly as far away from the songs of teenage angst of his early career but it still resonates more than anything Brian Adams and co have ever had at number one.

`O Freedom' is reminiscent of Bragg's `The Internationale' album and gives the listener a sense of familiarity which it then snatches away with `The Johnny Carcinogenic Show' with its brilliant anti-smoking industry message. `Farm Boy' is the weakest song of the set and makes for a disappointing end to a great album.

The album comes with a second disc of Billy performing the songs solo and some of the performances with electric accompaniment are worth hearing due as they highlight how they would have been delivered had Billy recorded them twenty years ago but some of the acoustic performances are at best demo's and highlight how in future bonus will have a very different meaning than the one nestling in the oxford dictionary.
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on 9 March 2008
Mixing pop and politics...this is a great album; plus some cracking songs exploring the human heart. For example, on the song `M for Me' the topic remains the importance of relationships and compassion, as he sings the delightful couplet: ''I've got friends who are telling me they're living in clover, but lose the c for commitment and the l for love and it's over baby''.

The stand-out track on the album is `I Keep Faith', superbly backed by Robert Wyatt. The band gel far better here than on English, Half English.

This is Bragg's best since 1991's Don't Try This At Home.
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on 7 March 2008
5 stars here - he just gets better and better. Nice to have the alternative formats of recordings with and without the band. Will stand up to many, many listenings.
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on 6 March 2008
A full, rounded and satisfying album. Breezes past on 1st listening and grows in stature on each subsequent listening. Mixing pop and politics, love and living by the sea. Bragg at 50 sounds like a personally contented but very much active activist!
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on 13 March 2008
i like it, but I prefer the band side on the whole. Fav song is Sing their souls back home, magic Sprigsteenish English gospel-soul-folk. I am really pleased that Lord Bragg of Barking is backing form, I have missed him.
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on 9 March 2008
Extremely disappointing and clichéd set of songs, and not at all politically insightful (the 'best' we get is "Sing Their Souls Back Home", which is a dirge about getting 'our boys' back from overseas). Bragg should be getting angry and laying into the politicians, but he just sounds as if he accepts the world as it is. Extremely disappointing after a five-year wait.

I don't agree with the reviewer saying that the "band gels" on this one (check out one of the most excruciating guitar solos ever on "The Beach is Free"). By far the better of the two versions of the album is the Solo version.
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on 30 November 2008
what a great CD. Some great tracks with the identifying guitar sounds and then some. I loved the keep faith track. I thought it was about a disaffected teenager in a family - but it isn't! i guess we bring our own meanings and this is the glory of BB for me. Having followed for 20 years or so this CD continues to be relevant to life today and compliments in time the early years stuff. Thanks for the ongoing inspiration in confusing world times.
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