Friday, June 12, 2009

FDF Volume 2: Issue 143 Billy Bragg - Talking with the Taxman about Poetry

By: March

Album - Talking with the Taxman About Poetry
Artist - Billy Bragg
Key Players - Billy Bragg - vocals and guitars. Many other guests I will try to mention as we break down songs.
Produced By - John Porter + Kenny Jones

Release Date - September 1986

What caused me to blow off the dust?
- I have been meaning to go back to one of his records and give it the old "once over" for this blog. Been reading/hearing about him a little more as of late, so figured it was time.

- This is the third release (second full length album) from Billy Bragg. On his prior releases it was just Bragg, but on this he incorporated more musicians such as Johnny Marr. The album would spawn two singles in the UK, neither would chart very well but that never kept Bragg from writing, recording and touring.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The album opens with a lone acoustic guitar on "Greetings to the New Brunette". There is no mistaking the accent, that Bragg doesn't hide at all..ever. The song is a mid tempo, yet fun track, a great lead off track. Sweet harmonies at the end with Kristy MacColl as the song wraps up that is also accompanied by a great slide guitar solo. A cover tune (originally done by The Count Bishops) "Train Train" follows, and is a more aggressive track with electric guitar and some flashes of violin/fiddle. The song is sung at an aggressive clip and Bragg really strums the guitar chords hard at times. "The Marriage" has horn section intro, funky electric guitar sound and Bragg seems playful with his vocal delivery. The horn portions blurt out and fill the song just perfectly, never over doing it. Bragg sucks you in with is lyrical content and you really will notice that he articulates his words. There is no confusion as to "what did he say?". The horns really add a great touch and really fill out the track. "Ideology" begins with a lone electric guitar and Bragg begins the vocal track on a strong note. He is in fine form, never straining yet setting the urgency level rather high. One of the first singles from the record "Levi Stubbs' Tears" follows. Again, a lone electric guitar and Bragg is the theme. He gets a lot of "clank" from the guitar on this riffs. In listening its sort of an odd choice for a "single" as it doesn't have an overall "hook" to it to lure the listener in. It is not a bad track, just a curious choice. The piano is the instrument of choice on "Honey, I'm a Big Boy Now". An old west saloon style sounding piano with Bragg singing along. This is the second longest track on the record and its only 4:05 long. A traditional track "There Is Power in a Union" gets a little make over from Bragg. The electric guitar is slung like a gun on his hip and he has some great harmonies along with him. Like many political "fight songs" it has a sting to it, but also is worthy of a sing along. Bragg really shines on "Help Save the Youth of America" my personal favorite on the record. I always wanted to lean how to sing/play guitar and do this at an open mic. His accent makes this song so fun and just calls many things to mind about the "Youth of America". "help save them from themselves" it might have been written in the mid 1980's but 99% of it stands true today. I have a vinyl 12 inch single of this song, and the b'side is a live version of this that he SLAYS. I need to get a USB turntable damn it. We are a little less rushed on "Wishing the Days Away". The song gets you to think, about wishing your days away. How each day you want it to be the next etc. Its Bragg, and acoustic and some other mandolins etc to fill things out, splashed with some strings, before a tight, yet simple guitar solo swoops over the mid section of the song. MacColl and Marr return on "The Passion". Marr has a nice vibrato on his guitar and its nice to hear the mix of electric and acoustic guitars across this record. MacColl is not up too high in the mix on the chorus, but the guitar from Marr is "right there". Great stuff. "The Warmest Room" is one of the first tracks that feels like a full band is playing as there are a lot of additional instruments. The listener is used to guitar mostly, but here we have some nice organ fills and then the acoustic guitar bursts to remind us what, and who, we are listening to. The album closes with the longest track "The Home Front". Another track with some horns at the intro before Bragg comes in. The song is a full sounding track but in listening on headphones and doing other things I was not pulled into the track. Its not a bad track, but gone is a little of that "urgency" we've gotten used to by this point.

Where are they now? Bragg remains very active to this day. He is still writing, recording and touring. He most recent studio album Mr. Love & Justice, was released in March 2008. Bragg has been involved in politics since he began his musical career and continues to offer songs to charity records, and performs at festivals etc for various "causes" close to his heart.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - The one and only time I have seen Billy Bragg in concerts was (hoo boy) opening for Barenaked Ladies at Harborlights in Boston on July 11, 1995. It was a long time coming and it was a great fun set. He even came back out to do his "hit" at the time "Sexuality" with the BNL guys. I recall sitting sort of stunned he had ignored the song in his set. He has been through town many more times but I just haven't gotten my act together..I really should shouldn't I?

FDF Overall Take - While most causal fans would be happy with his "Sexuality" single this is a pretty great record. Braggs work with Wilco (FDF Looks at Summerteeth) on the Mermaid Avenue record(s) has also turned some heads. Some of his early cds (this one included) has gotten a re-issue/expanded version put out. Casual fans, would probably be pleased with this best of collection "Must I Paint You a Picture?"

Billy has an official page a blog, a myspace page and, a twitter page.

Also, I found this cool blog where the author gives this same record the once over like we do here on FDF. Well done, just wanted to share that link here.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

the mp3s have been removed.

There is Power In a Union
The Warmest Room
Help Save the Youth of America

All the tracks were taken from "Talking w/the Taxman about Poetry" which you can buy

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


At 2:07 PM, Blogger Mike R said...

One of my favorite albums evah! Greetings to the New Brunette and Ideology are my top two. I saw Billy at Bridgewater State College circa 1988. Alone on stage with an electric guitar and tiny little amp. It was AWESOME.

By the way, I love me some FDF!

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Mike R said...

I meant to close that comment with "Whoops there goes another pint of beer!"

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Travis Erwin said...

Hey, Finally a Forgotten Disc that I've actually hear.

At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

Billy Bragg was (and still is) great!

I've always been partial to Worker's Playtime, which contains the great "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward" and "Life with the Lions" (which has what may be my favorite opening line ever: "I hate the arsehole I become every time I'm with you...").

At 10:08 AM, Blogger shafferty said...

I left that show at Harborlights early because I couldn't stand the Barenaked Ladies. I didn't know he came back out. Too funny. Do you remember who opened? I recall it was someone with a totally different style than BB or BNL.


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