The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1

by: Madness

What does a veteran band do when it's some 25 years into its career and wants to record a new album but doesn't have any new original songs? Why, record a covers album of course! And that's exactly what Madness, the kings of British ska revival, have done for their ninth studio album, 2005's The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1. It's their first new album since 1999's Wonderful, but they've been active in the interim, playing gigs on a regular basis. This means that the group sounds supple and professional, even if the lack of new songs in six years does suggest that the band doesn't really have anything to say at this point, and would just rather play, relax, and have a good time while encouraging others to have a good time. And that's fine -- The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1 is pleasantly laid-back, a good soundtrack to a lazy summer afternoon. Madness demonstrate a stronger reggae bent than they ever have, which does mean that album can be reminiscent of UB40's similar venture, Labour of Love, but Dangermen never sounds too sleepy or refined, as UB40's sequels to their 1983 commercial breakthrough did. In other words, it still has that nutty Madness sound, only it's not nearly as frenetic as it was 25 years ago -- it's mellow and relaxed, and rather charming because of it. That doesn't mean that The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1 is something that even hardcore fans will play all that often, but anybody who has liked Madness in the past will find it hard not to enjoy this CD as it plays. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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