6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The first - the best!,
This review is from: One Step Beyond... (Audio CD)
By 1976, rock music had become so saturated with pretentiousness that people started to react and a whole mass of styles developed. The British Ska revival was one, led by the Specials and Madness, adopting an authentic attitude and philosophy that echoed the ska bands of the 60s. This is encapsulated in Madness early albums; "One Step Beyond" (1979) included. Their style was sometimes accused of not being truly reflective of traditional Ska, and their lyrics lacked the sense of protest projected by some other bands. There may be some truth in this, but they seemed to do so with an attractive sense of innocence i.e., they said 'hey, this is just music, music to enjoy... there are no politics here!!! In terms of song writing, Madness were probably one step beyond most of their colleagues anyway. Lyrically, their song tend to be influenced by observations of working class Londoners and their experience of life and relationships, with many references to specific characters, local newspapers, tube stations, etc, mixed with more exotic locations i.e., Cairo, the jungle etc.
"One Step Beyond" opens with the title track- and Chas Smash demanding attention: 'hey you! Don't watch that, watch this!' He refers to Prince Buster: 'Well listen Buster........' who is obviously Madness' main hero. There are two covers of Buster songs: 'One Step Beyond' and 'Madness', a song which, of course, they eventually named themselves after. Also, 'The Prince' is obviously a tribute. Madness soon introduce their very skilful song-writing ability with 'My Girl', 'Believe Me', and 'In the Middle of the Night'. 'Night Boat to Cairo' (a regular concert encore to this date) even attempts to break the traditional pop format, with its one single verse in the middle of the track before a modulation from C-F. With this track, Madness also show-off their ability to musically depict the lyrical content of their songs, with the small-ranged chromatic melodies from voice and instruments and the 'Lawrence of Arabia' style harmonic sequences. We are led into a military camp in 'Land of Hope and Glory', which is echoed at the end in 'Chipmunks Are Go' with its army-style call and response chanting. There is a fabulous Ska rendition of the main theme from Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake', which urinates all over anything the prog rockers attempted to do with classical tracks in earlier years.
There are some weaker tracks towards the end and this, unfortunately, became a bit of a Madness trait. However, on "One Step Beyond" it really doesn't matter. From the moment Chas shouts those words and the band kicks in, the energy will overtake you for the next forty minutes, and there's no stopping it.