After dinner last night Kelly and I swung by the SRCvinyl store in Niagara Falls to see what they had cooked up for Halloween. They promised tricks and or treats for vinyl aficionados off all ages so, yeah, why not? I hadn’t originally planned on even buying anything until I uncovered the 30th Anniversary release of Billy Bragg’s ‘Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy‘ album.
This is Bragg’s first studio album, released in 1983 on Charisma Records. All songs on the original album consisted of Bragg singing to his electric guitar accompaniment which, in my opinion, is the best kind of Billy Bragg, or the “One Man Clash” as he likened to call himself. What’s unique about this 2013 re-release is that is features both a remastered version of the original tracks alongside a live performance of the entire EP which was recorded live at the Union Chapel, London on June 5th, 2013.
I used to own this album back in university and listened to it religiously until, on one fateful evening, it up and disappeared during a dorm party. I was devastated. It was cool because it was neither in fashion among the other bozos I lived with at the time, nor was it out of fashion with anyone for whose musical taste I both admired and respected, especially Michelle, without whom I probably never would have listened to Billy Bragg in the first place. It was the “It” album. Or so it was at the time anyway.
And rightly so, since in 2013, NME ranked the album at #440 in its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album contains both politically charged “Urban folk” songs, such as the attack on the school system and unemployment, ‘To Have and To Have Not‘, and love songs such as ‘The Milkman of Human Kindness‘ (the ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water‘ for the post-punk generation) and my absolute favorite Billy Bragg song of them all, ‘A New England‘ (which was later a hit for singer Kirsty MacColl). Other honorable mentions on the album go to ‘The Busy Girl Buys Beauty‘, ‘Richard‘, ‘The Man In the Iron Mask‘ and, ah shit…it’s all awesome. The total “Brill”, or “Bees Knees” as they say.
Let’s just say, I’m currently in heaven having gotten on of my landmark Desert Island albums back again.