Saturday 5 January 2013

Rise & Fall

Madness released their first single ("The Prince")  in 1979.  Their debut album ('One Step Beyond') followed a couple of months later.  Their second album ('Absolutely') was released 11 months later, and the third ('7') another year later.

Early 1982 showed Madness's catalogue to be:
  • 3 albums
  • 10 Top 20 singles
  • A Top 10 EP
  • A Number 1 single ("House Of Fun")
  • A stand-alone/non-album single ("It Must Be Love")
  • a Film ('Take It Or Leave It')
  • a Greatest Hits/Compilation package ('Complete Madness')
none too shabby for approximately 2 and a half years work

Whats the old adage?  Too Much Too Soon.  When you reach the top, the only way to go is down.
Not just yet - the best was still to come.

Released in October 1982, 'The Rise & Fall' was intended as a concept album about childhood.  However, this is really only evident in two tracks ("The Rise and Fall" and "Our House").
The band's sound is moving beyond the tried and tested ska sound, and bringing in diverse elements such as Music Hall (a nod to Ian Dury and Ray Davies?), Jazz and Eastern influences.  There's even a touch of psychedelia (albeit psychedelia-lite) on "Primrose Hill".
There's a definite melancholy running through the record, right from the first couple of verses of the title track:

These are the streets I used to walk 
On summer nights, sit out and talk 
That's the house where I used to live 
I remember what I would give 

This is the town I won't forget 
And after anger there's nothing left 
Walking now round and round 
Familiar sights are open ground 

This melancholia/darkness culminates perhaps with "Tomorrows Just Another Day", a jaunty, bluesy, jazzy 3 minute pop song concerning depression, despair and possibly suicide (or perhaps a spell in prison as I believed aged 13)
The band also make their first real foray into political comment with "Blue Skinned Beast" (about soldiers returning from The Falklands War).
But it's also a joyous album, containing perhaps their best known song in the form of "Our House".

Rise & Fall was perhaps the zenith of the original Madness releases.

Two stand-alone singles appeared in mid to late 1983 ("Wings Of A Dove" and "The Sun And The Rain" before their next next album ('Keep Moving') was released.  This album too longer than the (seemingly) customary 12 months, arriving some 16 months later in 1984.
Whilst a competent album, and further richening the Madness sound it never really cut it for me.

Mike Barson left in mid 1984, and Madness seemed to flounder a bit.  They'd left Stiff and joined Virgin who had given them their own label (Zarjazz), but without Monsieur Barso the sound was never the same.

Mad Not Mad was released in late 1985 complete with glossy production, and more pop/soul than ska.  To be honest, it seemed that the fun had gone at this stage.
Mike Barson re-joined for one last single ("Waiting For The Ghost Train"), and then it was all over.  Or was it?

Suggs, Lee Thompson, Chris Foreman and Cathal Smyth/Chas Smash continued as The Madness releasing 2 singles and an album in 1988.  The lead single ("I Pronounce You") is not a bad song, just not preformed with the same abandon/joy/joie de vivre as previous releases.

1992 saw the band return for Madstock! a one-off (two-off?) reformation concert of earthquake-creating proportions.

Following further Madstock events, 1999 saw the release of their first new material together since 1986 ('Wonderful') preceded by the none-more-Madness-sounding single "Lovestruck").

Of the first batch of albums, Rise & Fall ranks at the top of my list - I honestly didn't think Madness could surpass this magnificent octopus.  And then in 2009, they released 'The Liberty Of Norton Folgate'.
3 years on, and Norton Folgate still receives regular plays chez-Digit, but for all its fantasticness, in my mind it does not surpass "Madness Presents ... The Rise and Fall"

The second single released from the album was "Tomorrow's (Just Another Day)",  The B-Side of the 12" version featured a guest vocal from Elvis Costello:

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