The Harder They Come

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A collection of live recordings from Madness' first "Madstock" reunion concert in 1992. The lead track is the band's cover of Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come," which peaked at a modest #44 in the U.K. charts. It's a pretty solid rendition, despite the superfluous ornamentation provided by seemingly nameless female background singers. This edition of the single (the one with the blue cover) also includes three live performances that didn't make the Madstock album. Listening to these tracks, it becomes evident that the boys are having a blast. Carl "Chas Smash" Smyth's role in the band has never been completely clear, but one of his chief responsibilities seems to be the shouting. "Take It or Leave It" gives him plenty of chances to do that, and he obviously relishes them. Likewise, "Land of Hope and Glory" allows singers Graham "Suggs" McPhereson and Lee Thompson an opportunity for shameless hamming in the roles of drill sergeant and juvenile detainee. It's hardly their most polished performance of the song. While pianist Mike Barson indiscriminately slams on whole fistfuls of keys at a time, Suggs seems unable to find the tune and ends up speaking most of it Rex Harrison style. There is a bit more polish on "Tomorrow's Just Another Day," but polish has never really been the band's strong suit anyway. The charm of this EP, like the Madstock album, is in the exuberant spirit of its performances.