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The Internationale

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Album Review

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." The rest are covers of songs (some of them pre-20th century) that either overtly or covertly deal with revolution, radical politics, or pacifist sentiments. The arrangements are a real departure for Bragg, and are most unusual and effective. "I Dreamed I Saw Phil Ochs Last Night" and "Nicaragua Nicaraguita" are for unaccompanied voice. "Marching Song of the Covert Battalions" features prominent clarinet and recorder passages supported by organ, accordion, and revival-meeting bass drum/cymbals combination. "Red Flag" is an energetic reel set sparsely for voice, whistles, percussion, and minimal guitar. The title track is given a grand, traditional, all-stops-out treatment, arranged for chorus, large brass ensemble, and percussion. The album's best selection, "My Youngest Son Came Home Today," is a dirgelike antiwar number that is very moving and effective. This album is a committed, deeply felt manifesto well worth a listen. Original pressings of this record came with a wide-ranging and enjoyable promotional 45 containing selections by Bragg, Clea & McLeod, Caroline Trettine, and the Young Fresh Fellows.


Born: 20 December 1957 in Barking Town Hall, London, Englan

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Finding inspiration in the righteous anger of punk rock and the socially conscious folk tradition of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg was the leading figure of the anti-folk movement of the '80s. For most of the decade, Bragg bashed out songs alone on his electric guitar, singing about politics and love. While his lyrics were bitingly intelligent and clever, they were also warm and humane, filled with detail and wit. Even though his lyrics were carefully considered, Bragg never neglected...
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