Even devoted Billy Bragg fans who have followed the singer-songwriter's albums throughout the '90s and 2000s are likely to agree that the artist's best work is his earliest. Bragg was a passionate, outspoken figure who married punk immediacy to folk-styled songwriting, and whose unerringly clever and detail-rich lyrics addressed both political and emotional matters with equal insight. He released a series of albums and EPs in the '80s that still sound fresh and relevant today.
VOLUME 1 BOX SET is a compendium of all of Bragg's early recordings, including his debut EP LIFE'S A RIOT WITH SPY VS. SPY, his excellent full-length albums BREWING UP WITH BILLY BRAGG and TALKING WITH THE TAXMAN ABOUT POETRY, and the various EPs and singles in between. VOLUME 1 also includes work from THE INTERNATIONALE, the 1990 release that marked the change in Bragg's approach from stripped-down singer-with-guitar to a more a robust, pop-oriented sound. The set is packed with extras, including alternate takes, rare singles, unreleased material, and two DVDs featuring concert and television appearances. But the thrill of having Bragg's excellent songs from the era--and there are many of them--under one cover is the set's real treasure.