Total Madness - Madness Album Review
"Total Madness" says the name on the disk - but is it? Well, it is in that it's the madness of the Camden's nutty boys, but, being that there are only two songs post 1984, it's not quite a full retrospective.
This is probably a good thing for you and I - not because I don't like their newer material - it's more that I haven't heard it, being that my Madness collection stopped with 1983's single 'Wings of a Dove' being my last acquisition. It's fair to say that Madness provided the soundtrack to my primary school life, with my first ever album being 'Complete Madness', closely followed by 'The Rise and Fall' (so, now you know how old I am!). My eldest brother introduced me to the septet (and also The Specials and Bad Manners), and whilst he moved onto pastures new (The Jam/ blues and more), I kept the faith until electro and Hip Hop beckoned in 1984, later leading to a whole mixture of different genres: soul, indie, blues, jazz...
Throughout the 80s (and really only the early part), Madness were the ultimate singles band, selling over six million singles - out-selling Madonna, and holding the record for the most time spent in the charts, amassing 214 weeks - the same as UB40, but achieved in a much shorter span.
Having checked both Amazon and Wikipedia, it's fair to say there have been a few compilations since 'Complete Madness' (at least thirteen, not including imports!). So, what does this add to the mix, then? Well, compared to Complete Madness, all but two of the 16 tracks from that album are present. One of them - a throwaway track, which I think the original album blurb said was recorded for Japan - was one of my childhood faves. 'Take it or Leave it' is also missing - which is a real shame, as I absolutely love that track. Not the most complicated recording they've made (not that you usually measure Madness this way), but a great song which builds nicely - pity.
Also added to the mix (with regards to Complete Madness) are: Our House, Wings of a Dove, The Sun and the Rain, NW5, Tomorrow's Just Another Day, Driving in my Car, Lovestruck, One Better Day, Michael Caine.
So, having deserted Madness in the mid 80s, it was quite a while before I would actually give them the time of day (not literally, I'm sure I wouldn't begrudge Suggs that bit of info), but my interest picked-up after hearing 'Wings of a Dove' and 'Our House' just a few years ago. I started to appreciate that their songs were well crafted, not just (what I mistakenly thought for a while) a bunch of guys that threw together a few ska-esque songs on the crest of that particular wave. Lyrically, there are some very nice touches to a few of the songs, including Our House's clever: 'Father wears his Sunday best/ Mother's tired she needs a rest/ The kids are playing up downstairs' and 'Shut Up's': 'I've Got A Wife And Three Kids You Know/ They'll Tell You I'm Straight At Least I Think So/ I'm As Honest As The Day Is Long/ The Longer The Daylight The Less I Do Wrong'. It's interesting to note that, where I thought that Suggs (being the front man, and a pretty intelligent guy) wrote all of the lyrics, he only contributed to a few, with Mike Barson writing the lion's share.
Of the "newer" songs on the compilation, 'NW5' (taken from the recent album 'The Liberty of Norton Felgate') and 'Lovestruck' let the side down a bit (to my ears, anyway), with the slightly limp Lovestruck following the sublime 'Bed and Breakfast Man', and maintaining the doldrums is 'One Better Day', taken from 1984's 'Keep Moving'. 'Michael Caine', taken from the same album saves the day, though. The last few tracks are classics, with Los Palmas 7, The Prince, Shut Up, Madness leading up to the grand finale 'Night Boat to Cairo'.
Accompanying the compilation is a DVD of videos for all but one of the songs on the CD ('Madness', which was never a single). Would have liked to have seen that, but unfortunately was not part of my review package :-( , but we all remember saxophonist Lee Thompson flying around in 'Baggy Trousers', and the "Madness Family" in 'Our House' - well, those of us of a certain age do.
All-in-all, a grand selection of songs (23 tracks), and a very nice compilation, but when it comes to putting it on your MP3 player, don't forget to include 'Take it or Leave it'!
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