If lived through the 80's then you either loved or hated Level 42. They were the archetypal white soul / funk band who would regularly take up residence in the Hammersmith Apollo and never leave, well, until Maze moved in to take up a similar long stint.
Initially they were a low(ish) key pure funk outfit, but when they struck gold with hits like The CHinese Way things were bound to change and they were rocketed onto the UK stage like a thumb driven rapier into your soul.
OK, the purists may well say that they lacked the true soul of a black band of their peers, but that's nitpicking. What they were was a great pop band with their feet rooted in funk, who delivered some classic songs that were totally of their time.
Do they still stand up to the test of time....? Yep, no doubt. Something About You, Living It Up, Leaving Me Now, To Be WIth You Again, Love Games, all brilliant songs that work as well today as they always have.
So, if you love a funk driven pop song, look no further. Mark King wasn't the best singer in the world, but who cares, his slap bass was utterly superb and with the rest of the band hitting the mark, you are in for a lovely treat.
on 8 October 2001
It's a great compilation of some of their greatest hits with the highlights being Running In The Family, Children Say, Something About You and Lessons In Love. However, where are Kansas City Milkman, Weave Your Spell, Turn It On and Almost There? The inclusion of these early songs would have made this the greatest compilation on Earth. As it is, it's a great intro to Level 42 but you'll have to delve deeper to find some of their best material.
on 14 December 2011
Most of the connaisseur would say Level 42 have basically 2 or 3 periods, the first that deal with funk and a strong jazzy feel, with that fabulous bass line skills like in tribute to Stanley Clarke and other great Jazz-rock masters, and have an outstanding playing and performance edge that goes mostly into a groove. That is my favourites part and to some.
The songs from that compilation who belong to this are, Love Games, Chines Way, Micro Kid, Hot Water, as the Sun goes down (livin it up) that put to the light their most known songs from that period from 1981 to 1984, so few is selected here if you dare to dig in these marvellous 5 albums from Early Tapes 1980 (sad, nothing selected from that, this selection forgot even Mr.Pink!) to the beautiful True Colors 1984 with The Chant as begun.
Apart the caracteristic bass lines, the synth arrangements by Wally Badarou (the nearly unknown fifth member) were always cutting edge with full of fascinating sound creativity, like Mike Lindup, an excellent musician and performer who used his voices mostly in a special register near falsoletto style, complementing perfectly the low voice of Mark King, low singing and Bass groove. In his manner of playing it stays a somehow rare performance. This is a part of the game, because this winning team and particulary the brother Gould (drums and guitar), managed to also write quality lyrics and had a real gift to compose easily structured songs that made the melodic lines more and more catchy. Like this they realised a real interesting brand of sound that made them unique for long.
in the same time listen to these, you begin to discover the seeds of they next future, less funk and less bassline grooves, but a more catchy melodies, themes like important vocal parts.
In the transition time from 1985 to 1987 they made songs that have some remainings from their roots, but goes efficiently straight to easy Pop like, Leaving me now, Heaven in my hands, Children say, and It's Over (beautiful ballad but very different to their early "Why are you leaving" that featured so much more jazz chords, and complex bass line, now all gone) to their big success hits, Something about you, Running in the family and Lessons of love - so much known from radio and TV, nearly too much featured.
Even they took their famous groove somehow inside, the same ideas push to evidences, let's say for everyone, even the others that wouldn't understand all their previous loads of notes!
The third period features the next song that are more mainstream eightie pop, that don't belong to my favourite, like To be with you again, Take a look, Tracie, the two others released in the 90' Guaranteed and forever now, with occasionaly some good flashback moments to what they were.
This Very best of them have even a specialty, this nearly remixed version from 1998 of The Sun goes down who put the sound into more new realms like RnB, soul to trip hop, with a new production sound with pretty chill pads and atmospheres.
It's OK and appealing enough even if something seems to be lost from the magic of then.
So this album is a good base to discover Level 42, but I would strongly recommend anyone to try their early music anyway, I was nearly to rate 3 because of enough weakness from their production after the second half, but finally give them 4, these lads made so long a good job, and deserve it.
I have been a fan of Level 42 since hearing 'The Chinese Way' back in the early 80's. For the casual fan, or someone starting to get into the group, this is an excellent CD to start of with. The good thing about this CD is that it charts the musical evoultion of the group. From the early brit funk hits of the fore mentioned 'Chinese Way', Love Games, and Micro Kids, to their big hit ( and the song that marked their cross-over appeal)'The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)( which was produced by members of Earth, Wind & Fire), their period as a major pop band( Something About You, Leaving Me Now, the excellent, and I believe their first UK number one, Lessons In Love, & Running In The Family, and another one I really love,To Be With You Again) to the more out & out pop of cuts like ' It's Over', Children Say, Heaven In My Hands, Take A Look, Tracie,Guaranteed and Forever Now.
For more Level 42 why not try the 1986 albumWorld Machine