August 31, 1999
Cooking Vinyl
Pop/Rock, Urban Folk, Alternative Pop/Rock, British Folk, Alternative/Indie Rock, College Rock, Folk-Rock, Psychedelic

Album Review

This is no ragtag rummage sale of leftovers, castoffs, and third-rate rejects. Having previously purchased the ten singles Reaching is culled from, spanning 1985-1997, one nevertheless revels in the poignant, luxurious breadth of Bragg's heart and brain. Like Bragg's real LPs, this is a roadmap to the spectrum of feeling, from bliss to misery and every destination in between. One experiences the heart-busting sweetness of "Ontario, Quebec and Me," the contented, bubbling joy of "The Boy Done Good," the knowing shrug of "Bad Penny," the regretful resignation of a revamped (by an inspired Johnny Marr) "Greetings to the New Brunette" called "Shirley," the distasteful, frank frustration of "Sulk," the gentle sadness in a rendition of the Smiths' B-side "Jeane," the wrenching melancholy of a ballad-rethink of "Wishing the Days Away," and the dour despair of his piano cover of Brit-folk standard "Heart Like a Wheel." (Or, for those who favor sociopolitics, there is "Days Like These" and a less frenzied re-recording of "Accident Waiting to Happen.") Unfortunately, some of Bragg's best B-sides are oddly A.W.O.L. The scathing "Thatcherites" and the Natalie Merchant-sung collaboration "Bread and Circuses" should have replaced the too-sketchy "I Don't Need This Pressure Ron" and "Scholarship Is the Enemy of Romance" -- or simply been added, along with his torch job on Love's "Seven and Seven Is." Likewise, a so-so cover of the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" probably should have been left on the forgettable charity Sgt. Pepper tribute LP it came from. But, otherwise, this album might be better than William Bloke. If Bragg-faves the Temptations once sang "I Wish it Would Rain," then Reaching is like that song's memorable coda: "Let it rain...."
Jack Rabid, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Shirley [#]
  2. Sulk
  3. Accident Waiting to Happen [Red Star Version]
  4. The Boy Done Good
  5. Heart Like a Wheel
  6. Bad Penny
  7. Ontario, Quebec and Me
  8. Walk Away Renee [Version]
  9. Rule nor Reason
  10. Days Like These [UK Version]
  11. Think Again
  12. Scholarship Is the Enemy of Romance
  13. Wishing the Days Away [Ballad Version]
  14. The Tatler
  15. Jeane
  16. She's Leaving Home
  17. I Don't Need This Pressure Ron
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