Billy Bragg – Must I Paint You A Picture (The Essential Billy Bragg)

The Bard of Barking is celebrating his 20 years of making music with three packed CDs – a full fifty tracks – encompassing his entire career to date. The first disc consists of older works, starting with what is probably his most well know song ‘A New England’ and taking in classic Bragg tracks like ‘Levi Stubb’s Tears’ and ‘Between The Wars’. This is Billy at his rawest and (al)most angry as he performs. He is mostly alone with his guitar and his gruff edged tenderness that makes so many of these songs so strong. By the time we reach ‘The Warmest Room’ and ‘Must I Paint You A Picture?’ his style evolves gaining flavours of northern soul and blues.

The second CD kicks off with the more pop-rock sounds of the amusingly bizarre ‘Sexuality’, updated but still undeniably Billy. There are more diverse influences all through this CD as styles from 80’s synth and country folk are blended into the mix. What is also very noticeable is the subtle change in his voice that makes tracks like ‘Accident Waiting To Happen’, which could have been quite gravelly from an earlier Billy, rendered in tuneful eloquence. For ‘Ingrid Bergman’, ‘Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key’ and ‘My Flying Saucer’ Wilco adds a richness to the mix that makes yet another highlight in this collection. Finally, The Blokes create a looser sound taking in some ska and rock and roll along with a little jazz to create the current but surely not the last incarnation of Billy Bragg.

The last CD consists of rarities like the reworking of ‘Get Your Kicks On Route 66’ as ‘A13, Trunk Road To The Sea’ along with covers and collaborations. It further shows how versatile Billy is and has been over the years. It is a great way to top off a brilliant collection.

Label : Cooking Vinyl

Release Date : 6 October 2003

Website :

Tracklisting – CD1

  • A New England
  • The Man In The Iron Mask
  • The Milkman Of Human Kindness
  • To Have And To Have Not
  • A Lover Sings
  • St. Swithin’s Day
  • The Saturday Boy
  • Between The Wars
  • The World Turned Upside Down
  • Levi Stubb’s Tears
  • Walk Away Renee
  • Greetings To The New Brunette
  • There Is Power In A Union
  • Help Save The Youth Of America
  • The Warmest Room
  • Must I Paint You A Picture?
  • She’s Got A New Spell
  • The Price I Pay
  • Valentine’s Day Is Over
  • Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards

  • Tracklisting – CD2

  • Sexuality
  • Cindy Of 1000 Lives
  • Moving The Goalposts
  • Tank Park Salute
  • You Woke Up My Neighbourhood
  • Accident Waiting To Happen (Red Stars Version)
  • Sulk
  • Upfield
  • The Fourteenth Of February
  • Brickbat
  • The Space Race Is Over
  • The Boy Done Good
  • Ingrid Bergman *
  • Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key *
  • My Flying Saucer *
  • All You Fascists Bound To Lose (Blokes Version) **
  • NPWA **
  • St. Monday **
  • Somedays I See The Point **
  • Take Down The Union Jack (Band Version) **
  • Tracklisting – CD3

  • A13. Trunk Road To The Sea
  • Fear Is A Mans Best Friend
  • Cold And Bitter Tears
  • Seven And Seven Is
  • When Will I See You Again?
  • Rule Nor Reason
  • Debris
  • Dry Bed
  • She Smiled Sweetly
  • Take Down The Union Jack (King Normal and The Rug Remix)

  • * Billy Bragg And Wilco

    ** Billy Bragg and the Blokes

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