Category: Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg – Life’s a Riot with Spy vs. Spy

ARTIST: Billy Bragg                    220px-Life's_a_riot

TITLE: Life’s a Riot with Spy vs. Spy



SINGLES: It’s kind of an EP in length, though it made the LP charts in the UK.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Milkman of Human Kindness, A New England

LINEUP: Billy Bragg

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First seven song collection from Billy Bragg, alone with his guitar and voice.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Billy Bragg had a failed career as a punk rocker in Riff Raff, and dropped out of the British Army, before busking around London and playing small concerts with just him and his electric guitar. He alternated love songs and political rants and grew a fan base. After some intrigue behind the scenes, this became a hit in the UK.

These seven songs don’t lack for a lack of instrumentation. Bragg’s guitar and voice make up for that in passion and heart. The songs are fully formed – at times sentimental – at times angry. He’s a pure heart in the music business and it shows here, and his lyrical game was on point from the beginning.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was mastered at 45 RPM, and John Peel first played a track at the wrong speed. Oops.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, outtakes and demos that double the length.

 GRADE A-: Two of the tracks are all timers, and the rest aren’t that bad, once you get used to the solo guitar and voice.

Billy Bragg & Wilco – Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions

ARTIST: Billy Bragg & Wilco  220px-Billy_Bragg_and_Wilco_-_Mermaid_Avenue_-_The_Complete_Sessions
TITLE: Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions
YEAR RELEASED: Compilation
CHART ACTION: Volume 1: #34 US, #90 UK; Volume 2: #61 US, #88 UK
SINGLES: Way Down Yonder in the Minor Key (#118 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you have these, yes, because you played these CDs a lot.
LINEUP: Billy Bragg, Jay Bennett, Ken Coomer, Bob Egan, John Stirratt, Jeff Tweedy, Corey Harris, Natalie Merchant, Peter Yanowitz, Eliza Carthy
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A box set of the the first two Mermaid Avenue volumes, plus outtakes. All you need from these historic sessions.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It was a one-of-a-kind project. Woody Guthrie had scads of poems and writings that weren’t put to music except for some cryptic notations on some of the notebooks. Guthrie’s daughter, wanted these put to music and recorded, but in a contemporary style and not as an imitation of her father.220px-Billy_Bragg_Mermaid_Avenue

Nora Guthrie contacted Billy Bragg, who contacted Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, and they came together and set about on the undertaking. Drafting some extra help, including Natalie Merchant, on some tracks. They compiled several cuts of the lyrics best fit (and deemed most complete) for adaptation, and released two full CD’s of their work.

There was other material in the can, and so for Guthrie’s 100th birthday, Nora Guthrie and the artists compiled a total collection of the albums with an extra disc of outtakes. 220px-Mermaid2

It’s wonderful. Bragg and Wilco put so much heart and soul into the lyrics and music. It makes Woody Guthrie come to life once again. I’d definitely recommend this to any fan of anyone involved: Guthrie, Bragg, Wilco, or even folk and folk rock in general.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There’s a documentary called Man in the Sand about this collaboration.


GRADE: A: You can slot this right next to your Bragg, Wilco or Guthrie collections and it would fit right in.