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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
29
Letters from the Underground
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£11.09+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime


on 31 August 2008
There's no harsher critic than a disillusioned fan so, as a fan of the Levellers' early years, I was fully expecting to have the same reaction to this album as I have to all their records since Mouth to Mouth: "I'd really love to like this, but I just don't".

The good news is that, having put this album on for the first time about 10 minutes ago, I was overjoyed to hear the Levellers back at their folk-punking, ass-kicking best. Although this doesn't recapture the youthful folkiness of A Weapon Called the Word or Levelling the Land, the sound is like a heavier version of their eponymous third album, so if you like the songs "100 Years of Solitude" and "Broken Circles" (I do!) then this is the album for you.

There's none of the Beatles-aping, poorly-scanning lyrics or repetitve down-tempo drones that have appeared on the last few albums; rather we get incisive political lyrics delivered in the form of upbeat folk-pop-punk (with rather more of the pop-punk than the folk). There's also more of a presence of the Levellers' wild-west sherrif/backing vocalist Simon Friend who manages to sound like he's gargling with barbed wire while simultaneously providing some of the band's most touching, heartfelt songs.

If there are any problems with this album (and, to be honest, at first listen, there aren't many!) it's that occasionally the production has to compensate for Mark Chadwick's voice which is still sounding a little overworked and weary compared to the crystal-clear vocals he used to provide. There's also not much for the fans of the Levellers in acoustic folk-ballad mode (a la Julie, No Change, Another Man's Cause) but, to be honest, it's not that kind of an album and it would be churlish to complain when this is by far the best record the Levellers have produced in a very long time.

I really enjoyed listening to this album and I think that's a pretty good recommendation!
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on 7 September 2008
One of the other reviewers suggested people should catch the Levellers live...

As it happens, that's just what I've just done. I spent a recent weekend (15th - 18th August 2008) at Levellers very own BEAUTIFUL DAYS festival at Escot Park in Devon... I've seen the Levs many times over the years and remain a firm fan despite not having THOROUGHLY enjoyed an album since "Zeitgeist". This isn't a fezzy review though... all I'll say is it was muddy but brilliant, though Levellers themselves were oddly lacklustre considering the festival is their baby...

Which leads me on to this new album...

Let me say first, to anyone who doesn't really know much about the band... stop reading now and go and buy their first 4 albums... then buy the others and, finally, buy this... it'll put what I have to say into context.

As a fan it's hard to be objective, but I think the last few albums have been mediocre or worse... so I was expecting "Letters From The Underground" to be equally poor. Boy am I surprised!!!

The thing I loved about the early Levellers material was the rawness and energy to it. This was something I felt they lost once they made a few quid and got to fool around in much more high-tech studios. Also, I guess that as we get older the flame dampens and priorities change a bit... and it becomes hard to sustain the sense of social and moral outrage that fuels us when we are young. I believe that's what happened to the Levs.

I don't think they ever stopped caring though, and "Letters..." is proof of that. I don't think any of the songs on this album are as strong or memorable as the angry anthems of the late 80s/early 90s. Nevertheless, I am almost weeping with relief that my undoubted favourite band have finally fulfilled the promise of a return to form that they hinted at but never quite achieved on "Green Blade Rising" or "Truth & Lies".

This new album is brimming with the attitude and anger of old. The aggression and energy is restored, both in the playing, the lyrics and the singing. The band are as tight and coherent as ever. I'm amazed and delighted. I didn't think I'd be able to recommend the album and I am overwhelmed that I'm able to say, to new and old fans alike, you MUST spend your pennies on "Letters From The Underground"...

Stand-out track for me? BEHOLD A PALE RIDER..
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on 12 August 2008
Not in a long time have I taken to an album as quickly as I have with this. This is the Levellers at their very best. Classic folk, punk and rock merged into a beautifully executed and politically powerful wonder.

After hearing them perform a few of the tracks live I knew it was going to be good, but I never expected this gem. It is a true delight to listen to, each and every song fantastically crafted and recorded with so much passion and emotion.

In recent albums I've been slightly concerned that their music was becoming overproduced. This album strips the music down to its raw basics and really shows off the virtuosity this band encompasses.

If you're new to the band you'll love it, if you're obsessed with them, you'll love it. There is something here for everyone, from the extremely punkish Burn America Burn to the epic and heart-wrenching Behold The Pale Rider (which to my delight is sang by Simon, something I thought was missing from the last album).

In my opinion there is not a bad thing about this album and it gives credit to the passion that the Levellers have put into their music over the past decades. If it keeps on growing on me like it is now I daren't imagine how obsessed I'm going to be with it by this time next week!

Buy this album now, you won't regret it, I promise!
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on 2 September 2008
I first saw the Levellers in 1989 playing support to Radical Dance Faction; they were seriously good back then. I followed them over the years, seeing them live many, many times. In recent years though, I lost interest; their music had lost something for me, it just failed to excite any more. So, I read the reviews for this offering and thought I would give it a go, not really expecting much. But this, to use a bit of a tired old cliche, is a real return to form. Less polish perhaps, but much more energy, and yes, the old excitement is there. Highly recommended to fans, but it probably won't convert non-believers which is unfortunate as it deserves a wider audience. Great music.
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on 21 August 2008
One of the other reviewers suggested people should catch the Levellers live...

As it happens, that's just what I've just done. I spent this last weekend (15th - 18th August 2008) at Levellers very own BEAUTIFUL DAYS festival at Escot Park in Devon... I've seen the Levs many times over the years and remain a firm fan despite not having THOROUGHLY enjoyed an album since "Zeitgeist". This isn't a fezzy review though... all I'll say is it was muddy but brilliant, though Levellers themselves were oddly lacklustre considering the festival is their baby...

Which leads me on to this new album...

Let me say first, to anyone who doesn't really know much about the band... stop reading now and go and buy their first 4 albums... then buy the others and, finally, buy this... it'll put what I have to say into context.

As a fan it's hard to be objective, but I think the last few albums have been mediocre or worse... so I was expecting "Letters From The Underground" to be equally poor. Boy am I surprised!!!

The thing I loved about the early Levellers material was the rawness and energy to it. This was something I felt they lost once they made a few quid and got to fool around in much more high-tech studios. Also, I guess that as we get older the flame dampens and priorities change a bit... and it becomes hard to sustain the sense of social and moral outrage that fuels us when we are young. I believe that's what happened to the Levs.

I don't think they ever stopped caring though, and "Letters..." is proof of that. I don't think any of the songs on this album are as strong or memorable as the angry anthems of the late 80s/early 90s. Nevertheless, I am almost weeping with relief that my undoubted favourite band have finally fulfilled the promise of a return to form that they hinted at but never quite achieved on "Green Blade Rising" or "Truth & Lies".

This new album is brimming with the attitude and anger of old. The aggression and energy is restored, both in the playing, the lyrics and the singing. The band are as tight and coherent as ever. I'm amazed and delighted. I didn't think I'd be able to recommend the album and I am overwhelmed that I'm able to say, to new and old fans alike, you MUST spend your pennies on "Letters From The Underground"...

Stand-out track for me? BEHOLD A PALE RIDER..
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on 19 August 2008
Good stuff from the crusties. A real return to form after a couple of hit and miss efforts. Actually, Truth and Lies was over produced drivel and the one of the few albums I genuinely regret in a 500+ CD collection.

However, in 'Letters' there are politically charged lyrics, especially in the biting Cholera Well- as good an anti-US polemic I've heard for a while; thumping basslines, strong vocals, especially from Mark and decent melodies.

My album fave is Before the End, and Pale Rider- Mark and Simon are respectively at their best on these and they are up there with the best ever (Fifteen Years, Men an Tol. Battle, etc)- I like the more reflective Lev tracks and feel that if there is something missing on the album its maybe a couple more like this.

BUT the Levs are known for rabble rousing, fiddle and digerredo, passion, earnestness, and tracks to mosh too. Their fanbase maybe in its 40s and 30s but I'm sure this will get them dancing.

As Jeremy would say: 'Nice one....'
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on 15 August 2008
It's not very often i'll take to an album the first time i listen to it.In fact it's fair to say that i have only ever thought of 2 or 3 albums as classics on first listen.

Letters From the Underground has now been added to the list of the 2 or 3 albums.

I was expecting a good album after hearing the initial free downloads that the band released in the last couple of months(Burn America Burn,Life Less Ordinary and Cholera Well) but i have to say it's surpassed my expectations in a big way.Death Loves Youth for example made the hairs on my arm stand up when i heard it.

The 2 disc edition comes with 3 other songs and the Burn America Burn video.Of the 3 songs on the 2nd disc TV Suicides is amazing.Do yourself a favour and buy the 2 disc edition to hear this.It kinda reminds me of some of their older B Sides like Miles Away but in my opinion it should have been straight on to the album proper.

If you're a Levellers fan you'll love it.

Buy it...you'll be doing yourself a favour.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 August 2008
This is Grade One, No Holds Barred, Levellers... and they are having fun. Stomping, anarchic Folk-Rock - everything you want from a Levellers album. Soaring fiddle, thundering drums, howling guitars, and some really good foot-tapping tunes. Bit early to say which is best track - but this is genuine Levellers, through-and-through. You know it makes sense!
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on 12 September 2014
great great band but not their best effort!!
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on 9 September 2008
Well what can you say. Since buying this CD its rarely been off my CD player in the house or the car and that's not mentioning the mp3 player!! I knew a number of the tracks anyway as I've seen them 4 times this year but I was surprised at how good this album turned out to be. Not one duff track and them back at their very best. roll on December when I see them again.
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