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David Madden strikes a balance
published: Wednesday | March 31, 2004

THE FINAL 16 seconds of Walk The Walk, the fourth song on David Madden's Online album, are a splendid microcosm of the entire set.

Madden sings over a swinging ska rhythm to 'shine the light for me, so we can see out where it was dark/shine the light'. The drums emphasise the end of the phrase, all music goes save for the keyboards in a brief solo, the drums roll, the trumpet comes in fine. Madden semi-hums a slur, the drums roll again, all instruments come in and he ends with a bang on an emphatic 'shine your light', background vocals and all.

SUPERB ARRANGEMENT

Those 16 seconds contain most of the elements of Online, superb arrangement, uncomplicated but certainly not simple and sometimes poignant lyrics, a more than competent (though not award-winning) voice, great live instrumentation and the feeling that this is music that took time to make, and every second of it very well spent.

Online is a big album from a big man, who has seen from ska to dancehall and embraces all with his voice and trumpet successfully, while staying true to his art. It is not an easy balance to strike and, if anything, Madden chooses prophet over profit as he opens with the groundation style (enhanced with excellent musicianship, of course) Leave Babylon, which states in part:

Leave Babylon alone

Dem gwine tumble dung-

Fia ago bun dem

Wid all dem diamon'

An golden Mamon

In other words, if you expected swinging ska rhythms to dance to and leave the mind untroubled, you can quit right there.

It must be noted that the album is credited not just to David Madden, but to David Madden's Cybernetix. The notes in the sleeve say that after touring, performing and paying on records with performers from Toots, Beres, The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, the Skatalites and Marcia Griffiths (among many more), "he has come full circle, combining is voice with the trumpet to call it Cybernetix."

That combination of voice and trumpet is brought out clearly and early on the second song, Nature Sound, when after singing "I and I alone, listening to nature's sound", the trumpet comes in for a solo (with just the right touch of reverb), then it is back to voice, with the two coming in together later in the song.

A VARIETY OF MUSIC

In terms of music, in addition to the opening groundation Online, Madden visits ska with Walk The Walk, dancehall with Green Island, brushes on R&B with Mystic Mood and bounces roots rock reggae with River Flow. The latter has very interesting sound effects and a beautiful touch of what can only be described as 'Black Uhurish'. Thematically, Madden has a thing for the ladies, what with Ah Luv Her saying "we share a simple bed in our room/looking through the window at the moon/expecting what may ever come too soon/I love her" and the playful Games Inside musing "you look through your window and see that is raining/look over your shoulders/why do you keep refraining/from playing games inside my darling/where there is no referee for warning". But there is also the poignant lyric "let's wash the feet of a total stranger/much love is felt in gratitude that brings laughter" from Nature Sound and the familiar image drawn by "go to the stores to shop/and feel like a needle in haystack" from Christmas A Christmas.

Altogether, the songs on Online should make for a great live show. It is unfortunate, though, that the jacket design does not reflect the content. Music like this deserves much more than a photograph of David Madden with his trumpet, along with a rather small inscription of the album's title. Not that he does not put a pleasant face on his music, but the creativity and sheer excellence of the music should have been shown from the get go.

ALMOST PERFECT

But then, it could have been worse. It could have been the other way round, pretty jacket and blah music. In addition to the cover shortcoming is the clipping off of the end of some tracks, after the volume starts to go down to signal the end. To some it may not matter, but to not fade the songs right down to silence on an album as good as this is a real pity.

It is a bit like the telephone interrupting the last spasm of a great orgasm. Names like Rupert Bent, John Sharpe, Clevie Brownie, Dwight Pinkney, Glen DaCosta and Paul Castick, Tony Green and Benji Myers confirm in writing what has already been made plain to the ear. This is not 'bway' music.

Track Listing

1. Leave Babylon

2. Nature Sound

3. Ah Luv Her

4. Walk The Walk

5. Games Inside

6. Mystic Mood

7. River Flow

8. Chained

9. Green Island

10. Talk The Talk

11. Fly Away (Home)

12. Mystery Solver

13. Christmas A Christmas

14. Road Runnings

15. Bigger Cake

- Mel Cooke

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