After Elektra signed Billy Bragg to his first major-label deal and released Talking with the Taxman About Poetry in 1986, the label decided to do a clean-up job on his back catalog and compiled Back to Basics, which combined the material from Bragg's first three records – Life's a Riot with Spy vs Spy, Brewing Up with Billy Bragg, and Between the Wars – into one two-record set (now available on a single CD). The first seven cuts, from the Life's a Riot EP, are Billy Bragg at his most basic; recorded in an afternoon with no overdubs, the audio is rough and Billy's electric guitar often threatens to drown out his voice, but the performances are game, and Bragg was already writing top-notch songs like "A New England" and "The Milkman of Human Kindness."
In March 2016 Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, guitars in hand, boarded a Los Angeles-bound train at Chicago’s Union Station looking to reconnect with the culture of American railroad travel and the music it inspired. Winding along 2,728 miles of track over four days, the pair recorded classic railroad songs in waiting rooms and at trackside while the train paused to pick up passengers.
It'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Talking with the Taxman About Poetry in 1986 were the two Mermaid Avenue volumes, in which Bragg set Woody Guthrie's unpublished lyrics to new music with Wilco serving as his collaborators and backing band, suggesting that this former one-man band suddenly needed plenty of help to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 have 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.
The Internationale With Live & Dangerous EP & Bonus Tracks. This is the definitive collection that represents all that went into making the original album. The world is indeed an great big onion which can make you cry or if you fry it it'll make your mouth water. Isn't Mother Nature amazing? And as the inhabitants of Esperantovia say, Se vi povas legi ĉi tiu tiame vi estas vere internacia kaj vi havas gajnis la rajton je aĉeti ĉi tiu albumo. Billy Bragg's albums have always contained material with the strong political slant of classic folksingers in the Woody Guthrie/Bob Dylan mold. This release shows him at his most muckrakingly fervent and angry. Only "The Marching Song of the Covert Battalions" has music actually composed by Bragg – and that selection contains a lengthy quote of the tune "When Johnny Come Marching Home."