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A Seventh Wonder by Madness
on 10 March 2010
Between 1979 and 2009 Madness produced 10 studio albums, 1 live album and countless greatest hits packages. Of the 10 studio albums, 4 are almost universally accepted as being classics (One Step Beyond, Absolutely, Rise and Fall and 2009's modern day masterpiece Liberty of Norton Folgate). Their third album, Seven, just misses the classic status by a whisker. It is, however, a fantastic album and contains some of Madness's best songs.
The 3 singles taken from it (Grey Day, Shut Up and Cardiac Arrest) need no introduction. Madness always had a knack of wrapping up social commentary (sometimes serious, sometimes not) in great lyrics and melodies, and Grey Day, a song about depression, is one of the best examples, not just from Madness, but from any band. And a song about an over stressed businessman having a heart attack. Who else but Madness could pull that off?
As with all Madness albums there is the 'should have been a single' track. Here it is Sign of the Times, surely one of their best ever songs.
Other highlights include Mrs. Hutchinson (would have been great to see a Carry On style video to this one), Pac-A-Mac, Missing You, When Dawn Arrives and the magnificently dark (and a clear pointer to where their next album was heading) Tomorrow's Dream.
Even though 'Side 2' has a number of tracks that might be referred to as fillers (Benny Bullfrog [fun but throwaway], The Opium Eaters [a decent enough instrumental but not a classic] and Day on the Town [a half decent song trying to escape some lacklustre production]) it is still one of my favourite Madness albums, and one of the ones I have listened to the most.
There are some good extras on this reissue too. 3 BBC session tracks, the 12" version of Cardiac Arrest, and all the B-sides, one of which, In the City, is their absolute best. Why oh why didn't they make the Cardiac Arrest single a double A side with this! In fact, why didn't they put In the City out as a single in its own right? There is every chance that it would have got to number 1. I suppose us mere mortals will never know.
Pop history is littered with bands who have started out with 2 great albums, only to throw it all away on their third. Not Madness. The quality control displayed on this album is still extremely high, and it still sounds great today. It would only be another year until they produced their first true masterpiece, The Rise and Fall, and Seven bridges the gap between Absolutely and Rise and Fall brilliantly.
What a band!