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Only worth getting if you're a Madness novice or a completist
on 2 April 2012
As the subject line suggests this album is only really worth buying if you're a total Madness novice, without a great deal of their music in your collection already, or a completist who has to buy everything they have done to go in your collection.
If you're the former then this is a good starting point on your journey into Madness - you get most of the hits, plus a good sampling of album tracks besides and all at a very good price - although personally, and if you're willing to spend a little more money, I'd recommend the "A Guided Tour Of Madness" boxset released in 2011 that is very similar to this offering but comes with 3 CD's containing all the hits and plenty of album tracks besides, as well as a DVD of the band's triumphant 1992 reunion gig "Madstock" that spawned a thousand re-union gigs....and an earthquake!!
As a fan of many years standing who has all of their non-greatest hits albums, as well as many of the greatest hits that have been released down the years (Total Madness, Divine Madness, and Ultimate Madness to name a few) I already have everything on this album at least once, and in some cases numerous times, so I shan't be buying this latest compilation in it's entirety - although I have of course downloaded the two "previously unreleased" tracks, which is what I suspect a lot of other die hard fans will be doing.
The two previously unreleased tracks are a cover of Jimmy Cliff's "Vietnam" and a ska'd up version of classical piece "Hall Of The Mountain King" by Grieg. The former is a good cover of a little known song with all the usual Madness hallmarks. Personally I'm not a great fan of "Hall Of The Mountain King" which in parts sounds like it was knocked together for a video game, it does build well to an energetic ending, but doesn't come anywhere close to being as good as the other Madness "classical music" cover "Swan Lake" which can also be found on this compilation. That said I can see it becoming an "encore favourite" when the band play live - which neatly leads me on to another point about the album, it's actually the kind of set list I would love to see the band play live (especially given that the 24 songs you get are about the right length for a gig), giving a greater emphasis to their much under-rated album tracks rather than just churning out the greatest hits with a smattering of album tracks every now and then.
So 3 stars for the musical content - minus 2 stars for this being yet another compilation that has been done several times (and better) before.