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The summer of 1992 marked the first public appearance by all seven "nutty boys" since pianist Mike Barson left the band in 1984. It was a jubilant reunion, drawing 72,000 rabid fans for two jammed concerts in Finsbury Park and creating enough noise to register a 4.5 on the Richter scale. The primary objective of longtime Madness producers Clive Langer and Alan Wistanley in producing Madstock! seems to have been to capture the atmosphere of the massive summer party by turning the crowd into the eighth member of the band. On that level, the album is a smashing success, painting a vivid portrait of the event that transports the listener into the boisterously sweaty masses. The enormous audience is a constant presence on the disc, singing along cheerfully, chanting "Madness," and generally venting eight years of pent-up enthusiasm for the band. As for the band's performance, it benefits from the sheer adrenaline rush of playing their first concert in eight years in front of 36,000 adoring fans. These guys were juiced, and it shows. In the case of lead singer Graham "Suggs" McPherson, it shows perhaps a bit too much, despite his attempts to sound blasé about the whole thing in his glib comments between songs. Suggs sounds hoarse and out of breath for much of the show, and struggles to get through the band's sole American hit "Our House." But Suggs' decision to sacrifice vocal quality for exuberance is more excusable than the unimaginative arrangements of the songs, which vary little from the original studio recordings. Moreover, the singles-heavy song selection ("Close Escape," "Madness," and the Jimmy Cliff cover "The Harder They Come" are the only non-singles on the record) is a little boring for serious fans. Casual fans will probably want to skip Madstock! altogether and opt instead for the studio recordings. But for diehards who missed the event, the album is worth buying just for the crowd noise.

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