Madness The Dangermen Sessions Vol. 1

There’s two ways to look at this album: 1) when the well runs dry use someone else’s that’s got lots of water (in this case by covering tried and true ska/reggae classics) or 2) when you’re tired of all that success and fame and pop chart sheen, go back to your roots and try to regain some credibility and your lost audience. No matter what the motive behind this Madness record was, the fact is that the majority of it is good, really good. Why Madness rejected ska after their first 15 minutes together only money knows, but as the Dangermen, the original Madness seven have recaptured the heavy-handed Brit club ska they first mastered in 1978. Using original Madness producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstonley, the group indulge in lots of nostalgia but aren’t consumed by it. The retro songs are covered in early nutty Madness fashion but there is a lot of freshness to the group as well. "Israelites,” for instance, is a strong interpretation of the original with a laidback duby feel, and Max Romeo’s "Iron Shirt” is a top ranking reggae track as good as anything from 2 Tone. The band obviously enjoy the rear view and tip their hat both to their beginnings and to ska royalty Prince Buster by covering his "Girl Why Don’t You?” The back half of the album holds the weaker moments — covers of Jose Feliciano, the Supremes and The Kink’s "Lola” aren’t up to par with the rest of the material. Perhaps by Vol. 2 all the kinks will be worked out. (V2)