Since Geffen doesn't possess the rights to the bulk of Madness' best, most influential work, Total Madness: The Very Best of Madness isn't the definitive compilation it could have been. Instead of drawing heavily on their early ska singles, Total Madness relies on the latter-day albums Keep Moving and Mad Not Mad, as well as adding three cuts from the 1983 compilation Madness, which means that only four songs -- "Our House," "It Must Be Love," "Tomorrow's Just Another Day," and "One Step Beyond" -- are genuine classics. There are several hits here -- such as "Michael Caine," "Wings of a Dove," "Yesterday's Men," and "One Better Day" -- but they aren't nearly as vital as "House of Fun," "Night Boat to Cairo," or "Cardiac Arrest," three hit singles which were on Madness. As a result, Total Madness winds up being an overview of Madness in their decline, with a couple of earlier hits thrown in for good measure. On that level, it isn't bad, but it certainly doesn't capture the essence of the band, and both dedicated fans and curious listeners would be better served by Complete Madness or Madness.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine