On this album, the Saints shift gears yet again. A Little Madness to Be Free takes the band (which was actually just a vehicle for singer Chris Bailey at this point) in a denser, more layered direction. This time, brass and strings dominate with lush acoustic guitars underneath. Obviously, any trace of the punk band that was, is gone. The power, however, remains. Like its follow-up, the devastating All Fools Day, this record explores the depths of irony, and the ironies of depth. Through exploration of the soul there is (musically at least) redemption. From the incredibly beautiful photo of a bay at sunset on the album cover to the opening track "Down the Drain," the tone is set. "Still I think it's better to stand out in the rain/ then go slipping on down the drain," Bailey sings. A melancholy rainy day vibe so damn gray it's vibrant; you can't help but be transported by it. This is the kind of album that makes you think about stuff. Stuff you'd rather not think about, like, "what the hell have I done with my life?" Somehow there is catharsis, so the end result is not an overall bummer. The somber and powerful "Photograph" tells of a lost love, and the beautiful, "Angels" will leave you singing along ("we can't waste another day") to the point of wanting to play the track again. The album concludes with one of Bailey's all-time classic songs, "Ghostships," a track so amazing he went and put it on several more albums, re-recording it twice. While electric guitars are not the centerpiece of the sound here, the layers make for an equally powerful experience. Surprisingly, there are really no keyboards to speak of, which is very unusual for a non-guitar rock album. By this point in his career, Bailey had come into his own as an arranger and it really shows. Certainly one of their most obscure discs, but ultimately as rewarding as their classics I'm Stranded, Eternally Yours, and All Fools Day.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Geoff Ginsberg