For almost 30 years, Madness has continued to make ska – a form of Jamaican music that combines mento, calypso, jazz and R&B. Although the ska genre has certainly had many ups and downs, the fact that Madness still performs and makes music is astonishing. To put some perspective on Madness’ longevity, also forming in 1976 was a little band from Dublin called U2.
Bands that have been around for as long as Madness has constantly think of ways to maintain the fun of making music. One way is to produce a cover album, full of genre-altering flavor. This has been done recently by the incredibly good new wave band Nouvelle Vague and by the R&B teen Joss Stone. Doing covers is nothing new; however, maintaining one’s sound through a variety of cover songs is very challenging.
Madness performs these songs well from the delightful “I Chase The Devil” (Lee Perry) to the weirdly good Supremes cover “You Keep Me Hanging On.” The importance of the instruments and how well the music blends together is focused on the vocals-lacking “Dangermen A.K.A. High Wire.” The best songs are “John Jones” – with its blissful melodies – and “You’ll Lose A Good Thing” – with its pop flavored beats. The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1 is a solid album with many smoothing rhythms and interesting arrangements.