All right, pay attention, all of you bands that are out there on the nostalgia/revival circuit, and in particular, all of you 2 Tone bands that have regrouped, because THIS is how you do a reunion! For my money, Madness were always the best of the 2 Tone bands (they were my favorite band in the 6th grade!), and the new live record, Universal Madness , has raised my respect for the legendary Nutty Boys to near idol worship. Unlike some 2 Tone bands on tour right now, with claims to legendary names that are at best dubious, and lineups that include very few original members, Madness waited until all 7 original members were ready to work together to regroup, then kicked off with a short tour of the West Coast, of which Universal Madness is the result. Recorded live at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, Madness charge through a set of old favorites, and they sound like hardly a day has passed since they dominated the British charts with tunes like “Embarrassment,” “The Sun & the Rain,” and “The Prince” (all featured here). This record is fresh, vibrant, and alive!
What I wouldn’t have given to have been in the front row for this show, shouting along with the rest of the crowd to the classic spoken intro to “One Step Beyond,” dancing my ass off to the irresistible “Baggy Trousers,” grooving to Lee “Kix” Thompson’s amazing sax solos on “One Step Beyond” and “Night Boat to Cairo,” singing along with Suggs on “Our House” and “My Girl,” thrilling to the reggae-fied version of “It Must Be Love” (with another brilliant Kix solo and some incredible guitar work from Chrissy Boy) and Michael “Mr. B” Barson’s shimmering keys on “Shut Up” and “Bed & Breakfast Man.” I may never recover, and I wasn’t even there! This record is so brilliant, it makes me feel like I was there, every time I hear it!
Universal Madness has me dancing around the house like I’m back in the 6th grade. My only problem with the album is that it should be twice as long — 13 tracks just isn’t enough! Luckily, the Nutty Boys will be following up with an all-new studio album later this year, and (I hear) an East Coast tour! Not only that, but they seem to have started a trend I really like — I hear the entire original line-up of the (English) Beat are back together! Now, if only some sharp promoter starts thinking “package tour”… http://www.madness.co.uk
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