Mr.Love & Justice - Billy Bragg Album Review
With his band The Blokes, Billy Bragg comes out of 'recording retirement' after 6 years in the wilderness.
Bragg and musical buddies Ian McLagan, Ben Mandelson, Lu Edmonds, Martyn Barker, Simon Edwards follow their inimitable raw and ready approach once again. He's also joined by guest vocalist Robert Wyatt for one song, opener Keep The Faith which sounds like something out of a Van Morrison songbook. The soulful country tinged formula is raining down all over this release. Bragg isn't one for the big impression musically, and the overall feel is a rather uncomfortable marriage with his band, to the extent, that on the limited edition issue, he's release the same tracklisting as a solo effort, which Bragg devotees will probably prefer. For me Bragg has always been a solo performer, and always will be. On I Almost Killed You there's a strong Irish musical connection, nice splashes of harmonica, accordion and echoed handclaps aplenty punctuated by edgy guitar solos. M for Me is a gentle acoustic lead ballad which is a typical Bragg composition that is sharply contrasted by the rough - edged bar band sound on the R'n'B shuffle of The Beach Is Free. On You Make Me Brave and If You Ever Leave he's reflecting on relationships, though they're limp ballads, like a man resigned to accepting how they are, or should be. Above all, there's no indication of any heartfelt emotion, instead a kind of middle aged acceptance. The last three song sound like a man who hasn't thought through the fact he's confronted with making an entire album, which after half a decade, isn't a good creative sign.
Knowing Bragg's passion for having a pop at what he considers to be an injustice, it's surprising the lack of real conviction and his forte, passion. Maybe, as he approaches the big 50, he's mellowing after all, and it's a great shame because this doesn't match anything from his effusive past. There's too much of a sing-along quality like Sing Their Souls Back Home and I Keep Faith In You.
File under: Bitterly disappointing.
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