The Liberty of Norton Folgate is the ninth studio album by the British band Madness, released on 18 May 2009. The band worked on the album for close to three years and it was their first album of new material since 1999's Wonderful. The band showcased a number of songs from the new album during three concerts at London's Hackney Empire in June 2008.

This 10-minute title track recounts the social history of a corner of east London that until 1900 was controlled by St Paul's Cathedral.[1] As a 'liberty' it was not legally independent however, merely the rights of the Crown over the land had been waived. A shortened version of the track "The Liberty of Norton Folgate" was made available on YouTube in mid May 2008. In December a boxset of the album was offered for pre-order on the Madness website; those who ordered were entitled to a digital download of the album on 20 December. Twenty-three tracks were recorded for the album, although fifteen made it on to the album to be released in May. The twelve tracks issued in the digital download leaked onto the internet on 25 December 2008. During concerts in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide at the end of March 2009, Suggs stated that "Dust Devil" would be the second single off the new album; second when accounting for the 2008 release ofNW5. It was released on 11 May, one week before the album. A third single, "Sugar and Spice" (with slightly different lyrics and intro to the album version) was released to radio in July, and on 21 July it was confirmed that it would be made available as a download single from 2 August on iTunes and 3 August from other retailers.

In November 2009 the band announced the release of a fourth single scheduled for 11 January 2010: "Forever Young", a favourite of both fans and band. Apart from several remixes, one of the single formats contains Love Really Hurts (Without You), a Dangermen era cover of the Billy Ocean classic. The release was put back one week and the single was released on 18 January, becoming the second single from the album to fail to chart.

It was produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, who have worked with Madness on all but one of their albums. Recording sessions also took place in Toe Rag studios in late 2006 with Liam Watson, who engineered and mixedElephant by The White Stripes.


 [hide*1 Reception


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic link
BBC (favourable) link
The Daily Telegraph link
Evening Standard link
Financial Times link
Hot Press (4/5)
The Independent link
MusicOMH link
PopMatters link
Rolling Stone link
Scotland on Sunday link
The Sun link
The Times link
Uncut link

Critical reception to The Liberty of Norton Folgate was highly positive, with most critics hailing it as Madness's best album in their thirty year career. Financial Times, in a five-star review, lauded that "[at] a stage of life when they might be endlessly revisiting "Our House" and "Baggy Trousers" on the 1980s nostalgia circuit, the much-loved ska-pop band, 30 years after their debut, have ripped up the form book and delivered a knockout album." The BBC described it as a "magnificent magnum opus" and "the most sophisticated and satisfying album of their career."[2] Uncut and Mojo both gave the album four out of five stars, with Uncut stating it as "refreshingly, unexpectedly excellent" and "everything seems to gel – the arrangements are the best ever." Online sources such as MusicOMH say "it may just be the best thing they have ever recorded" and "is everything you would expect of Madness and more." The Word Magazine describes it as "Peter Ackroyd writing for The Kinks, it's Sherlock Holmes in Albert Square, it's a Mike Leigh movie of Parklife, it's Passport To Pimlico meets Brick Lane, and it is Madness's masterpiece."

The album also made 3rd and 9th place, respectively, in the BBC's and Mojo's "Best albums of 2009" lists (category rock & pop)[3][4]

Track listing[edit]Edit

Standard edition (1 CD)[edit]Edit

This edition was released on 18 May 2009.

  1. "Overture" 1:07 (McPherson/Barson/Smyth)
  2. "We Are London" 3:40 (Smyth)
  3. "Sugar and Spice" 2:52 (Barson)
  4. "Forever Young" 4:36 (McPherson)
  5. "Dust Devil" 3:44 (Thompson/Woodgate)
  6. "Rainbows" 3:22 (Thompson/Woodgate)
  7. "That Close" 4:10 (McPherson/Foreman)
  8. "MK II" 2:22 (McPherson/Smyth)
  9. "On the Town" 4:32 (Woodgate/Barson) with guest vocals by Rhoda Dakar
  10. "Bingo" 4:06 (Thompson/Barson)
  11. "Idiot Child" 3:18 (Thompson/Barson)
  12. "Africa" 4:19 (Barson)
  13. "NW5" 4:14 (Thompson/Barson)
  14. "Clerkenwell Polka" 4:20 (Smyth)
  15. "The Liberty of Norton Folgate" 10:10 (McPherson/Barson/Smyth)

Special edition boxed set (3 CDs, 1 LP)[edit]Edit

This edition was made available for pre-order in late 2008 and was released on 23 March 2009. It contains a 2 CD version of the album and an additional CD of rehearsal recordings, demos and live recordings. Also included is a Madness "M" pin, a poster, and access to an online area that will contain additional material.

All of disc 3 contains material exclusive to this release. The seven tracks marked with a (*) on disc 2 are also exclusive to this release.

Disc 1
  1. "Overture" (McPherson/Barson/Smyth)
  2. "We Are London" (Smyth)
  3. "Sugar and Spice" (Barson)
  4. "Forever Young" (McPherson)
  5. "Dust Devil" (Thompson/Woodgate)
  6. "Rainbows" (Thompson/Woodgate)
  7. "That Close" (McPherson/Foreman)
  8. "MKII" (McPherson/Smyth)
  9. "On the Town" (Woodgate/Barson)
  10. "Clerkenwell Polka" (Smyth)
  11. "The Liberty of Norton Folgate" (McPherson/Barson/Smyth)
Disc 2
  1. "Let's Go" (McPherson/Barson) ('*)'
  2. "Idiot Child" (Thompson/Barson)
  3. "Mission From Hell" (Thompson/Barson) (*)
  4. "Seven Dials" (McPherson/Barson) (*)
  5. "Hunchback of Torianno" (Thompson/Woodgate) (*)
  6. "Fish & Chips" (Smyth) (*)
  7. "Bingo" (Thompson/Barson)
  8. "NW5" (Thompson/Barson)
  9. "One Fine Day" (McPherson/Foreman) (*)
  10. "The Kiss" (McPherson/Barson) (*)
  11. "Africa" (Barson)
Disc 3 – Practice Makes Perfect Plus Hackney Live
  1. "Dust Devil"
  2. "Let's Go"
  3. "Clerkenwell Polka"
  4. "Forever Young"
  5. "Seven Dials"
  6. "On the Town"
  7. "Fish & Chips Parade"
  8. "Idiot Child"
  9. "We Are London [Chas Demo]"
  10. "We Are London (Live)"
  11. "Idiot Child (Live)"
  12. "Bingo (Live)"
  13. "NW5 (Live)"
  14. "On the Town (Live)"
  15. "MKII (Live)"
  16. "Sugar and Spice (Live)"
  17. "Dust Devil (Live)"
  18. "Clerkenwell Polka (Live)"
  19. "Forever Young (Live)"
  20. "The Liberty of Norton Folgate (Live)"

Vinyl LP[edit]Edit

Side A
  1. "We Are London"
  2. "Forever Young"
  3. "Dust Devil"
  4. "Sugar and Spice"
  5. "The Liberty of Norton Folgate"
Side B
  1. "Clerkenwell Polka"
  2. "Bingo"
  3. "Rainbows"
  4. "That Close"
  5. "MKII"
  6. "Idiot Child"
  7. "On the Town"


A 64-minute long concert film, also titled The Liberty of Norton Folgate was directed by Julien Temple. It screened at the London Independent Film Festival on 17 April 2009.[5][6]

Chart performance[edit]Edit

The Liberty of Norton Folgate reached No. 5 in the UK album charts on 24 May 2009, their highest charting studio album since 7 in 1981. The album also charted at No. 1 on the UK independent album chart. The album went Gold in the UK in October 2009.

Chart (2009) Peak




Belgian Albums Chart (Vl)[7] 70 2
Belgian Albums Chart (Wa)[8] 78 2
Dutch Albums Chart[9] 52 4
European Hot 100 Albums Chart[10] ? 3
French Albums Chart[11] 110 3
German Albums Chart[12] 80 1
Irish Album Chart[citation needed] 31 3
Swedish Albums Chart[13] 47 2
UK Albums Chart[14] 5 13
UK Independent Albums Chart 1 ?
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