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Billy Bragg - Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy (30th Anniversary Edition) (Review)

Billy Bragg, Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy (30th Anniversary Edition)

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

TO celebrate the 30th anniversary of his seminal 1983 debut recording Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy Billy Bragg has released a special edition comprising the original album re-mastered, plus a new, live solo version by Billy recorded as a unique encore at his London Union Chapel show on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.

Furthermore, Life’s A Riot (30th Anniversary Edition) will feature a sleeve based on the original 1983 Barney Bubbles artwork and be available on CD, in a replica vinyl card sleeve with inner sleeve, limited edition LP with inner sleeve and lyrics on 180g vinyl with DL and digital.

Billy maintains that Life’s a Riot With Spy vs Spy has a very special place in his heart, being the first step on a 30-year journey that saw him travel to places that he could never have imagined back in ’83.

When listening to the live version, it’s clear to see that affection and the obvious camaraderie that Bragg shares with his fans. Mixing the order of the tracks around, this is a gutsy revisit of some of Bragg’s best moments, including the show-stopping finale A New England.

The re-mastered tracks, meanwhile, offer a terrific opportunity to hear the original songs cleaned up. And they do sound crisp.

Hence, A New England remains a fantastically great song and a genuine anthem, while the bluesy, heart-on-sleeve moment The Man In The Iron Mask is a terrifically moody ballad in which Bragg declares “for you I will be the man in the iron mask” over a sparse guitar riff.

Bragg’s way with social commentary is also evident on tracks like The Busy Girl Buys Beauty and classic album opener The Milkman Of Human Kindness which – at an early stage in Bragg’s career – laid down the gutsy style that has long since been a trademark.

Perhaps the most notable thing about the LP, however, is the way it still sounds timeless. The guitars, at least in remastered form, retain a vitality and urgency that gives rise to some thrilling moments, while the lyrics continue to hold the power they did when you first heard them.

It’s hard to believe, in fact, that this material is 30 years old!

Download picks: The Milkman of Human Kindness, A New England, The Man in the Iron Mask

Track listing:

  1. The Milkman of Human Kindness
  2. To Have and to Have Not
  3. Richard
  4. A New England
  5. The Man in the Iron Mask
  6. The Busy Girl Buys Beauty
  7. Lovers Town Revisited
  8. Intro (Live)
  9. Lovers Town Revisited (Live)
  10. To Have and to Have Not (Live)
  11. The Busy Girl Buys Beauty (Live)
  12. The Man in the Iron Mask (Live)
  13. Richard (Live)
  14. The Milkman of Human Kindness (Live)
  15. A New England (Live)