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"I rather enjoyed that!" | Reviewer: neil
------ About the album Mad Not Mad performed by Madness
“I rather enjoyed that!”
Listening to “Mad not mad” could be considered a risky business. Let’s not forget that by this stage of their career, Madness had parted company with their keyboard player and premier nutty sound professor – Mike Barson, and that the musical climate of the time could not be further removed from the anarchic Ska beats of their roots. Add to this, that the album took ages to record, has been described by Suggs as “a polished turd”, by Woody as “six tired sounding men”, and you could be forgiven for giving this one a miss. On the positive side, artists are not infallible when it comes to rating their own work - take Oasis for example. If one were to believe Noel Gallagher, then every Oasis album is a work of genius, when the reality is that since “Definitely Maybe”, it’s all been shite. So let us approach “Mad not mad” with caution yes, but with an open mind....
The opener “I’ll compete” sets the tone for much of which is to follow. A brass led funky wall of sound stomper, with every production device known to mid-1980s man thrown in for good measure. Anybody expecting “One step beyond” will have suffered a Cardiac Arrest (ahem) by this point – the lack of distinctive keyboards and sax indicate a new direction, but a decent album opener.
When Mr Thompsons sax does appears on “Yesterdays men” the albums second cut, it’s simply quite beautiful, contrasting as it does with the opening track. This is grown up Madness at their absolute best – a fabulous soulful ballad which the production of the time fits perfectly.
A hint at the old Madness complete with “Night boat to Cairo” klaxon on “Uncle Sam”, a political song with humour – no easy feat to achieve which to be fair works very well, although the production is a tad on the overblown side (and that’s putting it mildly).
Next up “White Heat” a Suggs / Smyth stomper which you simply have to nod your head / tap your toes along too – or if you’re feeling especially ambitious dance. One of the standout tracks on the album in my humble opinion, and a missed single opportunity.
The albums title track next, and our first slab of filler, which just doesn’t work for me. The production is actually quite annoying, creating the impression that they’re trying to cover up a pretty ordinary song, with the ending bordering on painful.
The much maligned “Sweetest girl” next. For the uninformed, when this was released as a single it was the groups first single not to break the top 40, and was immediately seized on by the music media as the end of the group and the world. Of course neither was true, and whilst not being the greatest cover version in history, it is in no way offensive. Should it have been a single? No.
“Burning the boats” could have been a single, and always remind me of a Paul Weller Style Council era track. Another busy track production wise, but a good song is underneath it all – nice harmonica as well.
“Tears you can’t hide”, not sure about this one to be honest. Strip it down and perform it as a straight Reggae number, and you might get away with it. Unfortunately, all the things that are hated about 1980s production are contained here in 3mins 8seconds.
Ah! This is more like it!! “Time” begins with the “House of fun” drum introduction and morphs into a simply magnificent dark brooding epic – the standout track of the album as far as I’m concerned.
The album closes with “Coldest day”, which for me again is a triumph of production over substance, with a rather plastic sounding drum machine rearing its ugly head. Oh well never mind.
All in all? I didn’t rather enjoy “Mad not mad”, I really enjoyed it!! Major re-evaluation of this album is required asap!!
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