Bragg Reissued, Boxed By Yep Roc

Five releases by English singer/songwriter Billy Bragg will be expanded in deluxe two-disc editions later this year by indie Yep Roc Records.

Five releases by English singer/songwriter Billy Bragg will be expanded in deluxe two-disc editions later this year by indie Yep Roc Records. Due Sept. 20, the new versions of three EPs and two albums will comprise four two-disc sets, with bonus material making up the second disc of each. One set features a DVD.

In addition to being made available individually, the discs will also be packaged in a box with a separate DVD of unreleased live performance footage and a booklet featuring lyrics and photographs.

Much of the bonus material that will fill the additional discs is previously unreleased and stems from a variety of sources. All of it was handpicked by Bragg with the help of producer Grant Showbiz (the Smiths, the Fall) and Wiggy, a longtime cohort and guitarist on many Bragg releases.

The revamp begins with Bragg's debut 1983 EP "Life's a Riot With Spy vs Spy," the content of which appeared in the U.S. on the 1987 compilation "Back to Basics." That was a get-up-to-speed collection Elektra issued of Bragg's early Go! Discs output, which established him as a fervently left-wing political artist unafraid of dealing with themes of love and sexuality.

Yep Roc's version boasts the seven original tracks on the first disc, including the classic "A New England." The second disc collects 11 cuts, five of which ("The Cloth (1)," "Love Lives Here," "Speedway Hero," "Loving You Too Long" and "The Cloth (2)") are previously unreleased Bragg originals. Also included is a cover of John Cale's "Fear is a Man's Best Friend."

The 11-track "Brewing Up With Billy Bragg," a 1984 album that also ended up on "Back to Basics," grows by as many cuts on its second disc, with five previously unissued tracks, including covers of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" and the Smiths' "Back to the Old House."

"Talking With the Taxman About Poetry" found Bragg fleshing out his sound and working with such notable compatriots as Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, vocalist Kirsty MacColl and horn player Dave Woodhead. The original 12-track set includes Bragg's memorable character study "Levi Stubbs Tears" and the love ode "Greetings to the New Brunette." The bonus disc adds 10 tracks (five previously unreleased) including covers of Gram Parsons' "Sin City" and Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears."

The final title is a compilation of the EPs "Live & Dubious" (1988) and "The Internationale" (1990), both of which found Bragg at his politically angriest, lashing out at world leaders and carrying the cross for the unsung working hero. The set adds six tracks to the first disc, notably covers of Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" and Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come." In this instance, the second disc, subtitled "Here and There," is a DVD culling brief clips of Bragg performing in East Berlin in 1986 and Nicaragua in 1987, and a 45-minute show in Lithuania in 1988.

The box set's bonus DVD -- "From the West Down to the East" -- features a 1985 performance on the U.K. TV series "The South Bank Show" and another 1986 East Berlin performance.

Bragg's last studio album was the 2002 Elektra set "England, Half English." As of late, he has been issuing his own "official bootlegs" through his official Web site. The latest is a 33-song London show from 2004 that features Woodhead, as well as a guest appearance by singer/songwriter Jill Sobule.

Bragg's 2005 appearance schedule has been light to date, with the only confirmed upcoming shows being a July 17 appearance at the Tolpuddle (England) Festival and an Aug. 21 set at the Beautiful Days Festival in Escot Park, England.


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