Review : Billy Bragg - Mr. Love & Justice
GuardianIt's coming up for 25 years since Billy Bragg's solo debut EP, Life's a Riot with Spy v Spy. I was in my early teens and learning the guitar, and I was hooked by its attitude, tunes, raw vocal and solo guitar. His appearance on Top of the Pops near the bitter end of the miners' strike with 'Between the Wars' was, as his Utility label's slogan put it, 'a ration of passion'.
Six years after his last album, England, Half English, Bragg has come up trumps: Mr Love & Justice, with his band the Blokes, is his best realised work musically for ages....full text
UncutBilly Bragg is a sensitive writer, but the timbre of his voice means that his songs often sound like arguments. This isnít necessarily a criticism. I remember seeing him on a bill with Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Chrissie Hynde, and his humility was the glue that held the show together. When he sang, his voice blended the bluntness of punk with the idealism of 1960s folk.
But heís also a romantic, and his best work transcends politics. Mr Love & Justice contains both the best and worst of Bragg, and the inclusion, with early copies, of a solo version of the album, shows just how important his band The Blokes have become in softening his sound. Solo, even his kinder moments sound angry. With the band - and especially the Hammond and piano of Small Face Ian McLagan - his soul shines through. Heís never going to be Levi Stubbs, but he can evoke tenderness in a way that doesnít sound artificially-sweetened....full text
AllmusicIt's both significant and troubling that Billy Bragg's best albums since releasing Talking with the Taxman About Poetry in 1986 were the two Mermaid Avenue volumes, in which Bragg set Woody Guthrie's unpublished lyrics to new music with Wilco serving as his collaborators and backing band, suggesting that this former one-man band suddenly needed plenty of help to communicate with his audience. Bragg sounded confident and all but unbeatable on his first few albums in the '80s, but political and creative uncertainty has dominated much of his work since then. Which is why Mr. Love & Justice is a pleasant and encouraging surprise -- while hardly perfect, it's easily Bragg's best and most consistent solo effort since Don't Try This at Home, and finds him coming to terms with maturity and the changing face of the world, two bugaboos that have been dogging his muse for some time....full text
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