Madness: Carl Smyth (vocals, horns); Graham "Suggs" McPherson (vocals); Chris Foreman (guitar); Lee Thompson (saxophone); Mike Barson (keyboards); Mark Bedford (bass instrument); Daniel "Woody" Woodgate (drums, percussion).
Liner Note Authors: Sara Cody; Sara Cody; G. Hanekroot.
Photographer: Kerstin Rodgers.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Creighton Steel Sounds; Jorgen Angel.
Arranger: Miguel Barrados.
THE BEST OF MADNESS, the 20th Century Masters release, boils down the career of one of England's most beloved pop acts from the '80s into an easily digestible 12-track set. Between 1978 and 1984, Madness had a spectacular string of hits in the U.K. thanks to their clever lyrics and arrangements, buoyant, singable melodies, and off-kilter, "nutty" sound. Though their U.S. success was limited to the smash single "Our House" and a handful of videos played in heavy rotation on MTV, they have--in the years since--taken their place alongside the Specials as one of the most distinctive and enduring ska-influenced groups of the era.
"Our House" is here, of course, as are the horn-driven bounce of "House of Fun," the thumping, funky "Cardiac Arrest" and the bright, keyboard-driven "It Must Be Love." Some important material goes missing ("My Girl," for example, is mysteriously absent), and listeners looking for a more comprehensive overview may want a longer compilation. But THE BEST OF MADNESS is a superb introduction to the band's charms. It shows them to be fine musical synthesists (a fact often overlooked) in their blending of ska, R&B, music hall, New Wave, and melodic pop and, more importantly, proves them to be a great deal of fun.