The Lot

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The second Madness box set includes all of the studio albums from the band's first run from 1979 to 1986, leaving out only the 1999 reunion CD Wonderful. It also leaves out the various compilation records (e.g., Complete Madness, Utter Madness, and Divine Madness, as well as the U.S. release Madness). Rather than reproduce the original album covers, The Lot pairs off the six albums into three distinct periods: the early "nutty" ska of One Step Beyond and Absolutely; the early-'80s experiments with a more mature pop sound on Seven and The Rise and Fall; and the more slickly produced, darker-toned pop of Keep Moving and Mad Not Mad. It's a clever packaging strategy, though the art direction could stand to be a little more attractive. The box set also features a 45-page color insert with comments from the band about each album. But the real draw for serious fans who already have all of the albums is the inclusion of 24 "interactive videos" intended for computer viewing. Each CD contains four videos from that period. Even fans who already have the Complete Madness, Utter Madness, and Divine Madness video collections may find this feature attractive, since the quality of the visuals seems to have improved in the conversion to digital. American fans should beware: the enclosed edition of the 1984 album Keep Moving is the British version and consequently does not contain the singles "The Sun and the Rain" or "Wings of a Dove," although both are included in video form. In any case, The Lot offers strong evidence that, for all of their hit singles, Madness was an excellent album band as well.

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