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A Guided Tour of Madness

Madness

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Album Review

Widely regarded as one of the greatest singles bands of the '80s, the four-disc anthology A Guided Tour of Madness is a chance to hear the U.K.'s biggest-ever Two-Tone band in all their glory, with 70 tracks plucked from their roller coaster, 30-year career. With the exception of "Sweetest Girl," "Sorry," and "The Harder They Come," every one of their 34 singles make the cut, from their 1979 homage to reggae legend Prince Buster, "The Prince," to 2009's "Forever Young" which, compiled in chronological order, allows fans to chart their journey from cheeky teenage "nutty boys" to elder statesmen of British ska-pop. Of course, their most familiar material, from their sole U.K. chart-topper "House of Fun" to their cover of Labi Siffre's "It Must Be Love," to their biggest U.S. hit, "Our House," is likely to inspire mass singalongs from casual fans. But as its lengthy track list suggests, this comprehensive collection also showcases what else they had to offer. Indeed, the band might not have looked as though they were taking themselves too seriously, but with songs which sensitively tackled issues such as the IRA ("Michael Caine"), the Falklands War ("Blue Skinned Beast"), and immigration ("Prospects"), they offered a lot more substance than they were given credit for, while 1999 comeback single "Lovestruck" (their first Top Ten hit in 16 years), their 2000s covers of the Kinks' "Lola" and the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hanging On," and the four tracks from 2009's well-received The Liberty of Norton Folgate prove that the band haven't been resting on their laurels. While most Madness fans will already own the majority of tracks here, there are also a few obscurities thrown into the mix, from early B-sides such as "All I Knew" and "Mistakes" (apparently the first song the band ever wrote) to "Sarah's Song," a number from their Our House musical, and the previously unreleased "Le Grand Pantalon," and the playful, Gallic waltz-tinged rendition of their signature hit "Baggy Trousers," which shows their tongue-in-cheek humor remains firmly intact. A cut above most hastily assembled retrospectives, A Guided Tour of Madness is a cleverly selected affair which should satisfy anyone wishing to investigate more than their more ubiquitous commercial hits. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi

Biography

Formed: 1978 in Camden, London, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Along with the Specials, Madness were one of the leading bands of the ska revival of the late '70s and early '80s. As their career progressed, Madness branched away from their trademark "nutty sound" and incorporated large elements of Motown, soul, and British pop. Although the band managed one crossover American hit in 1983, they remained a British phenomenon, influencing...
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A Guided Tour of Madness, Madness
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