“One Step Beyond” by Madness - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1979Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

The rockingest rocksteady beat of Madness ruled my junior world and, as far as I was concerned at that stage, Lord Suggs and Chas Smash were the two coolest guys who had ever roamed the Earth. I never actually owned any records in 1979, but all of the singles from this LP were seeping into my consciousness via Radio 1 and Top of the Pops. This, for me, is synonymous with growing up, and Madness and I are deeply bonded for life. The nutty six were: Suggs (18, lead vocals); Mike Barson (21, keyboards); Chris Foreman (23, guitars); Mark Bedford (18, bass); Lee Thompson (22, saxophones) and Dan Woodgate (19, drums, percussion). It wasn’t quite official yet, but Chas Smash (20, vocals, fancy footwork) would soon be announced as the seventh member, and to this day I still look at that sextet cover as a travesty of justice. The 19th October 1979 was a bit of a monumental day for the British Ska revivalists, with both “Specials” and “One Step Beyond” hitting the shops in a stupendous double-whammy statement of intent. Whilst the former slightly takes my head, the latter steals my heart. Both have my soul.

Chas’s epic intro to “One Step Beyond” is the first thing to be heard on the LP, and the message is clear from the off – “you better start to move your feet”. The nutty boys proceed to mash up Prince Buster’s original in their own inimitable style; these audacious upstarts are here to boss the joint. The almighty “My Girl” is next, and we’re introduced to the pseudo-classical greatness of Mnsr Barso’s piano alongside Suggs’s every-lad vocal, which this writer still has word-perfect to this day. The magnificent start is maintained on “Night Boat To Cairo”, an unlikely tale of a toothless, carefree oarsman, seemingly meandering down the Nile in a somewhat hapless fashion. Once again, classical undertones are at play – an oft overlooked aspect of this band – as the piece fades away in a fiddling blaze of glory. Avoiding conflict with 2-Tone, a new version of the debut single from 2 months ago – “The Prince” – is recorded, but is perhaps just a shade too polished by comparison (although I’m being very picky in that statement, for it’s a classic all the same.) The big-up to Jamaica’s stars from these young pretenders has been a revelation for countless thousands of British white kids. Who knew education could be such fun?

Just as The Specials did on their debut, Madness demonstrate imagination and versatility with the pseudo-Jazz finger-clicking goodness of “Razor Blade Alley” – conceived by saxophonist Lee – which comes complete with wandering bass and tinkling piano. Flowing seamlessly from this, they take on Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” –what Madness is this? They’ve got some balls. “Rockin’ In A♭” reveals the band’s R n B roots, Madness being “first to market” with this song which came from Mike’s brother’s band, pub rockers Bazooka Joe. Suggs gets into the spirit of the thing, exercising the ol’ vocal cords with a bit of a Buddy Holly job. All four of the cover versions have been terrific, and a classic version of “Madness” ends the album where it began – with a tip-of-the-hat to Buster. This may not be uptown Jamaica but it is, most certainly, a treat.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:18] 10.0.png Madness - One Step Beyond (Cecil Campbell) Ska / Rocksteady
A2 [02:44] 10.0.png Madness - My Girl (Mike Barson) Ska / Rocksteady
A3 [03:31] 9.7.png Madness - Night Boat To Cairo (Mike Barson, Graham McPherson) Ska / Rocksteady
A4 [02:28] 8.5.png Madness - Believe Me (Mike Barson, John Hasler) New Wave
A5 [02:57] 9.6.png Madness - Land Of Hope And Glory (Lee Thompson, Chris Foreman) Ska / Rocksteady
A6 [03:18] 9.1.png Madness - The Prince (Lee Thompson) Ska / Rocksteady
A7 [02:24] 9.2.png Madness - Tarzan’s Nuts (Mike Barson) Ska / Rocksteady
B1 [03:01] 7.7.png Madness - In The Middle Of The Night (Graham McPherson, Chris Foreman) Reggae
B2 [02:33] 9.5.png Madness - Bed And Breakfast Man (Mike Barson) Ska / Rocksteady
B3 [02:42] 8.2.png Madness - Razor Blade Alley (Lee Thompson) Jazz
B4 [02:36] 8.9.png Madness - Swan Lake (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky) Ska / Rocksteady
B5 [02:29] 8.1.png Madness - Rockin’ In A♭ (Bill Smith) Blues / Rhythm n Blues
B6 [02:23] 7.7.png Madness - Mummy’s Boy (Mark Bedford) Reggae
B7 [02:38] 9.1.png Madness - Madness (Cecil Campbell) Ska / Rocksteady
B8 [00:51] 6.7.png Madness - Chipmunks Are Go! (Cathal Smyth, Brendan Smyth) Novelty

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