There are two surprises about this album. The first is that it took 7 years after the solitary album from The Madness before Suggs finally branched out solo. The second surprise, especially to the casual Madness fan who might not have spotted Suggs as a key writer in the band (Ghost Train was his only solo credit), is how great it is.
If you were put off, as I was, from getting this album initially by the fact that the two hit singles from it were covers (decent but unspectacular versions of Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel and I'm Only Sleeping by The Beatles), then be prepared to be impressed by just how good the rest of the album is. Significant credit for this must be shared by fellow nutty boy Mike Barson who shares the writing duties on several tracks including the exceptional Camden Town and Alcohol. 4 am was considered good enough to be reworked by the full Madness band for their "comeback" album a few years after this and while this version lacks some of the punch they give it, it is still a class track. Elsewhere "Green Eyes" is hauntingly down beat and memorable.
The only miss for me is the closing track "She's Gone" which tries a little too hard to get epic and doesn't quite get there. Overall this is a stunning debut. Thankfully it hasn't precluded further work with the full band, which has been getting better and better. On this evidence though Suggs is more than capable of punching his own weight solo.