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Must I Paint You a Picture?: The Essential Billy Bragg
     

Must I Paint You a Picture?: The Essential Billy Bragg

by Billy Bragg
 

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Befitting his populist nature, singer-songwriter Billy Bragg employed an exercise in pure democracy in compiling this career retrospective -- polling fans on his web site to choose the tracks on the two-disc collection. As might be expected, the material is roughly divided between political screeds and heart-tugging ballads. While Bragg is better known as a sloganeer,

Overview

Befitting his populist nature, singer-songwriter Billy Bragg employed an exercise in pure democracy in compiling this career retrospective -- polling fans on his web site to choose the tracks on the two-disc collection. As might be expected, the material is roughly divided between political screeds and heart-tugging ballads. While Bragg is better known as a sloganeer, he's quite effective in the latter mode, as evidenced by the still-touching-after-all-these-years "Levi Stubbs's Tears" and the homespun "A New England," which elevates love above all things political. On the topical tunes, Bragg proves his mettle equally when making his points with relative subtlety ("Help Save the Youth of America") or taking off the gloves entirely, as he does on "There Is Power in a Union" and "All You Fascists Are Bound to Lose." While a good bit of Must I Paint You a Picture? captures Bragg in stark acoustic relief, there's also ample evidence of his ability to groove when the mood strikes -- as on the sinuous "Sexuality." Alternately crafty and guileless, wry and utterly up-front, the set is a perfect distillation of Bragg's ever-changing moods.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
In 1983, Billy Bragg was a guy with a cheap electric guitar, a rough but passionate voice, and a knack for writing and singing straight from the heart whether he was discussing leftist political concerns or the mysterious interactions between men and women. The guy has a band and the political issues that have caught his attention are trickier 20 years later, but he's still enchanted and puzzled by love, and hasn't stopped writing worthwhile songs about it. Must I Paint You a Picture? The Essential Billy Bragg is a two-disc, 40-song compilation that does an admirable job of capturing the hills and valleys of Bragg's recording career, opening up with "A New England" from his debut EP, Life's a Riot With Spy vs. Spy, and closing with a cut from 2002's England, Half English. A spin through this set suggests that Bragg's best (or at least most affecting) work arrived in the early stages of his career, as disc one (which follows Bragg through Worker's Playtime) is a decidedly more solid and absorbing listen than disc two (the material from the disappointing William Bloke in particular weighs down the collection's second act), and his love songs have stood the test of time a shade better than his political material (the miners' strike may be over, but broken hearts are timeless). But there are plenty of gems to be found throughout this collection, and Must I Paint You a Picture? serves as a potent reminder that in the grand tradition of Bob Dylan, even Bragg's lesser albums contain a handful of truly memorable songs worth hearing; if this isn't the ideal Billy Bragg collection, it's an excellent introduction, a solid career overview, and a lovely reminder of how much he has to say about the heart and the mind. Initial pressings come with a ten-song bonus disc that adds several hard to find selections, including Bragg's Anglophile rewrite of "Route 66," a telling duet with the late Ted Hawkins, and a bootleg remix that merges Bragg with the Hives.
New York Times - Neil Strauss
[A] strong collection of his raw, thickly accented folk and rock.
Tracks - Laura Sinagra
Revisiting [his songs] is a reminder that, for all his union-stumping sympathies... Bragg's always had a special genius for parsing the politics of love.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/28/2003
Label:
Elektra / Wea
UPC:
0081227399320
catalogNumber:
73993

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Billy Bragg   Primary Artist
Kirsty MacColl   Musician,Guest Appearance
Michelle Shocked   Musician,Guest Appearance
Ian McLagan   Guest Appearance,Group Member
Martyn Barker   Guest Appearance,Group Member
Martin Belmont   Musician,Guest Appearance
Jay Bennett   Guest Appearance,Group Member
Lorraine Bowen   Musician,Guest Appearance
Peter Buck   Musician,Guest Appearance
Andy Carlson   Musician,Guest Appearance
Ken Coomer   Guest Appearance,Group Member
Ken Craddock   Musician,Guest Appearance
Terry Disley   Musician,Guest Appearance
Terry Edwards   Musician
Mike Henry   Musician,Guest Appearance
Andy Hobson   Musician,Guest Appearance
J.F.T. Hood   Musician,Guest Appearance
John Keane   Musician,Guest Appearance
Jody Linscott   Musician,Guest Appearance
Lu Edmonds   Guest Appearance,Group Member
Ben Mandelson   Guest Appearance,Group Member
Tony Maronie   Musician,Guest Appearance
Johnny Marr   Musician,Guest Appearance
Chucho Merchán   Musician,Guest Appearance
Natalie Merchant   Musician,Guest Appearance
Simon Moreton   Musician,Guest Appearance
Julia Palmer   Musician,Guest Appearance
John Porter   Musician,Guest Appearance
Michael Stipe   Musician,Guest Appearance
John Stirratt   Guest Appearance,Group Member
Bruce Thomas   Musician
Cara Tivey   Musician,Guest Appearance
Jeff Tweedy   Guest Appearance,Group Member
Amanda Vincent   Musician,Guest Appearance
Mickey Waller   Musician
Wiggy   Musician,Guest Appearance
Dave Woodhead   Musician,Guest Appearance
Peter Yanowitz   Musician,Guest Appearance
Wilco   Group,Guest Appearance
Danny Thompson   Musician
Eliza Carthy   Musician,Guest Appearance
Rob Allum   Musician,Guest Appearance
Jayne Creamer   Musician,Guest Appearance
Nigel Frydman   Musician,Guest Appearance
Kaya Jenner   Musician,Guest Appearance
Porky   Musician,Guest Appearance
Chris Morgan   Musician,Guest Appearance
Caroline Hall   Musician,Guest Appearance
Fionn Ó Lochlainn   Musician,Guest Appearance
Anthea Clarke   Musician,Guest Appearance
Hives   Group,Musician,Guest Appearance
Elizabeth Steen   Musician,Guest Appearance
Diedre Cooper   Musician,Guest Appearance
Simon Edwards   Guest Appearance,Group Member

Technical Credits

Ted Hawkins   Composer
Woody Guthrie   Composer
Billy Bragg   Composer,Producer
John Cale   Composer
Mick Jagger   Composer
Bobby Troup   Composer
Gary Smith   Producer
Leon Rosselson   Composer
Michael Brown   Composer
Joe Boyd   Producer
Jerry Boys   Engineer
Peter Buck   Composer
Edward DeBono   Producer
Kenny Gamble   Composer
Martin Hayles   Engineer
Leon Huff   Composer
John Keane   Engineer
Ronnie Lane   Composer
Arthur Lee   Composer
Johnny Marr   Composer,Producer
Owen Morris   Engineer
Andy Peake   Engineer
John Porter   Producer
Keith Richards   Composer
Grant Showbiz   Producer,Engineer
Cara Tivey   Composer
Victor Van Vugt   Engineer
Wiggy   Producer
Wilco   Producer
Tony Sansone   Composer
Andrew Collins   Foreword
Traditional   Composer
Kenny Jones   Producer,Engineer
Billy Bragg & the Blokes   Composer
Michael Boddy   Engineer
Oliver Hitch   Producer,Engineer
Bob Calilli   Composer

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