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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Madness of Queen Liz?, 13 Aug 2012
This review is from: Total Madness (Audio CD)
Right the first thing that needs saying is that this is a reissue of Madness' 2009 compilation. Back then it was a CD and DVD package, which contained nearly all the hits, a B side and an album track as well as nearly all the original hit videos from the 80s as well as those for Lovestruck and NW5 the introductory hits from comeback studio albums Wonderful and The Liberty Of Norton Folgate respectively.

Fast forward three years and Madness are, if anything, having a more successful year than 2009 had been. As well as recording a new, as yet unreleased, album (the first fruits of which `Death Of A Rude Boy' have appeared online this very weekend) they've had time for crowd pleasing festival performances, a jaunt to America, a one man autobiographical show from Suggs, their biggest ever arena tour starts in November immediately after their second annual House Of Fun weekender at Butlins and ends with two nights at the o2 Arena and they've performed for The Queen on top of Buckingham Palace for the Diamond Jubilee and for the World from the back of a flat bed truck in the Olympic Stadium to close the London Olympics 2012.

You'll forgive then, their record company putting out this revised version of their best of CD. Whole new generations of fans are out there for this to be bought by and for. No-one should quibble that this collection simply gives them a Photoshopped version of the original cover (the bus didn't originally have a union jack livery and it wasn't driven by Queen Victoria the last time I looked) a new catalogue number and running order and removes the disc of videos. That is because this album is only for newer or returning fans, some of the reputed many billions who will have seen Madness on the telly this year. No-one who had 2009's version needs this one.

The tracklist is exactly the same as the 2009 version, with the exception of It Must Be Love and Our House (the tracks performed to the largest audiences this year) being moved up front to grab the attention early doors.
Total Madness does not have a chronological track list, being paced to some extent to match their live set. The introductory two songs are followed by a massively uptempo string of hits with One Step Beyond..., Baggy Trousers, House Of Fun, Embarrassment and My Girl following in swift fashion. That staggering opening seven hits, which plenty of bands would kill to have in their cannon, are chased by the sheer ebullience of the frenetic Wings Of A Dove followed by the sombre singalong of The Sun And The Rain (the only instance of successive tracks mirroring their original release order), before the pace lets up slightly with Grey Day. Thematically these two songs very much belong together. Next up is NW5, from the last album. Not Madness's biggest hit single, but certainly one of the best melodies Mike Barson has written and a big live favourite since its 2006 debut. In this company it proves itself more than equal to Madness's wonderful original run of hits.

Mid (original) career Madness rears its successful head with the trio of Cardiac Arrest, Tomorrow's Just Another Day and Driving In My Car. Believe it or not we reach track 12 before finding a track that hasn't been a staple of Madness' live shows. With a new album to be promoted to the masses it would seem that Cardiac Arrest will not get its live reappraisal for some time yet... Bed And Breakfast Man was never a single, but judging by its popularity live it probably should have been. Its inclusion in this set is no surprise. Neither is 1999's comeback hit Lovestruck, which was Madness's first top 10 single since 1983's The Sun And The Rain. Lovestruck was an instant classic and fits perfectly with the next two tracks, the gorgeous One Better Day (Madness's best ever single in my humble opinion) and Michael Caine. Both came from Keep Moving, a brilliant, but transitional album made under the shadow of fear cast by the knowledge that founder member Mike Barson was leaving the band. It was a brilliant send off and was my favourite original Madness album, when released in the Olympic year of 1984... Wonder what made me think of that?

The catchy cha cha cha of The Return Of The Los Palmas 7 sets us up perfectly for the encores, sorry, last 4 tracks. We storm through The Prince, Shut Up, Madness and then Night Boat To Cairo brings the album and show to a glorious end. We want more and that's a good thing with a new album to come later in 2012.

This is a cracking compilation album and Madness are a cracking band. Do yourself a favour, if you're new to this band as a result of the jubilympics buy this, buy yourself some of their back catalogue and keep your eyes and ears open for the release of their brand new album.

This best of is but the tip of one incredibly big iceberg...
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