Today's Artists at the beginning of their career, they were squarely a jazz-funk fusion band, contemporaries of fellow Brit funk groups like Atmosfear, Light of the World, Incognito, and Beggar & Co. By the end of the '80s, however, the band -- whose music was instantly recognizable from Mark King's thumb-slap bass technique and associate member Wally Badarou's synthesizer flourishes -- had crossed over to the point where they were often classified as sophisti-pop and dance-rock, that made polished, upbeat, danceable pop/rock. The band's commercial peak came with 1985's World Machine, but they continued to record and tour sporadically throughout the '90s and 2000s.. . ...... N Joy
xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx
Mark King and the Gould brothers (Phil and Rowland, the latter generally known by his nickname "Boon") were all brought up on the Isle of Wight and played together in various bands during their teenage years. Phil Gould went on to study at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he met keyboard player Mike Lindup in a percussion course. Both musicians found that they shared musical heroes: Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Keith Jarrett and Jan Hammer.
By 1979, Phil Gould and Mark King were both based in London and became involved in Robin Scott's pop project M. While working with M, they became acquainted with Afro-French keyboard player Wally Badarou, who played synthesizer on M's US number one single "Pop Muzik". In late 1979, Phil Gould introduced Mark King and Mike Lindup to each other, and all of them began playing together in loose rehearsal sessions, developing their own jazz-funk fusion style. The developing band's original guitarist was Dominic Miller (later to find fame playing with Sting), but he was replaced by Boon Gould on the latter's return from working in the United States.
Initially, instrumental roles were flexible, with Boon Gould also playing bass guitar and saxophone and Lindup doubling on keyboards and drums. Mark King was primarily a drummer (although he also played guitar) but had recently sold his drum kit to pay for transport back to the UK after an ill-fated European venture. With Phil Gould and Boon Gould established (respectively) as the most accomplished drummer and guitarist in the quartet, King opted to learn bass guitar instead. At the time, King was working in a London music store. A notably flexible musician and quick learner, he had observed visiting American funk players demonstrating the thumb-slap bass guitar technique and developed his own take on the style in a matter of weeks.
The developing band (at this point, entirely an instrumental act) took the name Level 42 and settled on a working line-up of King (bass guitar, percussion), Lindup (keyboards, percussion), Boon Gould (guitar, saxophone) and Phil Gould (drums). The name of the band is a reference to the novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, in which "42" is the answer to "the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything." Having maintained their links with Wally Badarou, Phil Gould and Mark King invited him to work with Level 42. Although he never formally joined the band, Badarou would become a fifth member in all but name: co-writing songs, playing keyboards and synthesisers in the studio and co-producing the records.
After they were seen jamming together, Level 42 were invited to sign to Elite Records (a small independent label) in 1980. They were also encouraged to branch out into vocal music. Having considered recruiting a singer, the band eventually settled on giving King and Lindup the vocal role. The two men developed a complementary style, with Lindup's falsetto frequently used for harmonies and choruses while King's deep tenor led the verses (although Lindup would also sing entire songs on his own). Lyrics were generally written by the Gould brothers while King, Badarou and Lindup concentrated on Level 42's music. The Elite Records single "Love Meeting Love" brought the band to the attention of Polydor Records, with whom they signed their second recording contract. In 1981, they released their first Polydor single, "Love Games", which became a Top 40 hit. They then cut their critically acclaimed self-titled debut album, which was an immediate success throughout Europe.
The band quickly established themselves as concert favourites on the budding British and European jazz-funk scene, taking advantage of the musical expertise and performance skills of all four members. Polydor capitalised on the band's success by releasing a second album, The Early Tapes later in the same year. This was a compilation of material from the Elite Records period (and is also known by an alternate name, Strategy). In 1982, Level 42 released their third album The Pursuit of Accidents. This was a further development of the Level 42 formula, maintaining their instrumental jazz-funk skills and styling but also experimenting further with pop songs. Both of the singles from the album — "Weave Your Spell" and "The Chinese Way" — charted. The latter, in particular, rose high in the charts and gained the band a much wider audience than before.
A fourth album, Standing in the Light, was released in 1983. Produced by Larry Dunn and Verdine White (of Earth, Wind & Fire), this album began a new era for the band, being less experimental and less jazzy than previous releases. It provided them with their first UK Top Ten hit, "The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)". Notably, the album featured no instrumental tracks, with the band now focusing heavily on songs. (The band would not release another instrumental on an album until 1988's Staring at the Sun). The 1984 album True Colours continued the band's development away from straightforward jazz funk, veering stylistically between funk, power pop, mid-tempo rock and moody ballads. It yielded the singles "The Chant Has Begun" and "Hot Water". The latter was a Top 20 hit in Britain and a Top 5 hit in the Netherlands where the band became popular (the song reached also No. 7 in Belgium). During the same year, Mark King released his first solo album Influences on which he played the majority of the instruments (with a guest appearance by Aswad's Drummie Zeb, and with Lindup guesting on additional keyboards). By this time, Level 42 were known for their power as a live band (as showcased on the 1985 double live album A Physical Presence). For live gigs the band added saxophonist Krys Mach, who toured with the group from 1984 to 1988 and contributed to some album recordings.
By this time, the band were well established in their mainstream pop/R&B sound, as evidenced on their next studio album, World Machine, released later in 1985. King's dextrous bass playing and Lindup and Badarou's chugging keyboards acted as templates for pop songs such as "Something About You" and "Leaving Me Now", which were both UK Top 20 hits (Top 40 hits in the Netherlands). Significantly, "Something About You" was also their first (and only) US Top 10 the following year; also reaching the Top 5 in Canada and the Top 20 in Italy and New Zealand. "Leaving Me Now" was the second hit from this album, peaking at No. 15 in the United Kingdom but proving less successful in Europe. Elements of Level 42's roots could still be found in the funky "Coup d'État" and "Dream Crazy" on the UK version of the album, as well as a long instrumental track named "Hell," which was also recorded during the World Machine sessions
World Machine gained positive reviews from critics, with AllMusic journalist William Cooper, in a retrospective review, describing it as "one of the finest pop albums of the mid-'80s." During the recording of the album, the first major tensions between Phil Gould and Mark King began to surface over musical direction, production and their personal relationship. This clashing led to Gould leaving the band for a week. Allan Holdsworth's drummer Gary Husband was lined up as a potential replacement, but Gould and King's dispute was subsequently patched up and the group went on to enjoy their most successful year to date. Released in early 1986 (and initially recorded to keep up the band's European chart momentum while the band was busy touring the United States), "Lessons in Love" was an international hit and became Level 42's biggest selling single. It gave the band their first number one in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and South Africa, increasing the band's popularity considerably. It also placed at No. 2 in Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden, No. 3 in the UK and in Ireland, No. 4 in Austria, No. 10 in Norway, No. 12 in the US in 1987, No. 18 in New Zealand and No. 22 in France).
"Lessons in Love" became the lead single on 1987's Running in the Family album, recorded to capitalise on the impact. With the band now at the peak of their success, the album added further gloss to Level 42's polished pop sound (despite adding to Phil Gould's disquiet). Further singles from the album continued and built on the band's existing profile: "To Be With You Again" (No. 6 in the Netherlands and in Ireland), the ballad "It's Over" (No. 3 in Ireland and No. 7 in the Netherlands) and Running In The Family's title track (No. 1 in Denmark, No. 3 in the Netherlands, No. 4 in Ireland, No. 5 in Switzerland, No. 7 in Norway and No. 9 in New Zealand). The album itself was a major international success, reaching the Top 10 in numerous countries.
By now a leading British pop band, Level 42 played at the Prince's Trust concert in June 1987, with Eric Clapton standing in on lead guitar for a performance of "Running in the Family". King and Lindup also performed with artists including Ben E. King on "Stand By Me" and George Harrison and Ringo Starr on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Despite the success, Level 42 were on the brink of splitting up. Although Phil Gould was the most visibly dissatisfied member, it was Boon Gould who was the first to leave, departing in late 1987, following a support slot on a Madonna tour. The quietest member of the band, Boon surprised both King and Lindup with his sudden departure. However, he had been suffering from nervous exhaustion and also wanted to leave the lifestyle of a constantly touring musician in order to settle down and spend more time with his wife and children. Boon's relationship with the band remained amicable and, although he would not return to Level 42 as a performing or recording member, he continued to write lyrics for the band following his departure.
In December 1987, midway through the tour, Phil Gould finally left Level 42 permanently. Like his brother, he was suffering from exhaustion, but his relationship with King had broken down once again and they now found it difficult to work together. Phil was also reportedly dissatisfied with the band's direction in terms of their newer "pop" sound, and King and Lindup failed to convince him to stay. To complete the tour dates, the band hired Prefab Sprout drummer Neil Conti to fill in. Following the tour, Level 42 recruited Gary Husband as the band's new full-time drummer. He in turn recommended Steve Topping as a replacement guitarist. However, Topping and King's personalities clashed and Topping eventually left the band in early 1988 after initial writing and rehearsing sessions in Dublin. Most of the next Level 42 album, Staring at the Sun, was recorded without a permanent guitarist. Rhythm guitar on the studio recordings was handled either by the band's old friend Dominic Miller or by an uncredited Mark King. In April 1988, towards the end of the sessions, the band recruited lead guitarist Alan Murphy (a session guitarist who had worked extensively with Kate Bush and had also been a member of Go West).
Staring at the Sun was released in 1988, reaching number 2 in the UK and the top ten in several European charts. It included the hit-single "Heaven in My Hands" (number 12 in the UK and also top twenty in the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland). Boon Gould had co-written many of the tracks with King, Lindup and Badarou, while Gary Husband was credited with his first co-write with King on "Tracie" (a tribute to King's childhood sweetheart). To promote the album, Level 42 embarked on a four-month European tour, culminating in six sell-out nights at Wembley Arena. These latter dates were recorded for what would become the band's second live album, Live At Wembley (eventually released in 1996).
Although the band seemed to have maintained their momentum and recovered well from the split of the original lineup, they were about to be hit by a serious tragedy. Unknown to the rest of Level 42, guitarist Alan Murphy was suffering from AIDS, something which he himself may have been aware of before joining the band. At the time, his previous band Go West had been stalled by internal disagreements, and one of Murphy's reasons for joining Level 42 was to ensure that he spent his last days playing the music that he loved. During 1989, Murphy contracted pneumonia: weakened by his existing condition, his decline was rapid and he died on 19 October 1989. Devastated, Level 42 took a year off to regroup and rethink. To cover the gap and to fulfil the band's contract with Polydor Records, Level Best (a greatest hits compilation) was released at the end of 1989; also marking a decade since the band's beginnings. During the break, Mike Lindup also recorded and released his debut solo album, Changes (featuring Dominic Miller, Pino Palladino on bass and Manu Katché on drums).
]The band signed a new contract with RCA Records in 1990, for whom they produced their next album, Guaranteed. Although most of the rhythm guitar work was once again handled by Dominic Miller, Gary Husband asked Allan Holdsworth to provide some guitar work (notably on "A Kinder Eye"). As well as drumming, Husband also played keyboards and increased his songwriting role, co-writing many tracks with King, Lindup and Badarou. The album features the only track entirely written by Husband – "If You Were Mine" – which also featured on the "Guaranteed" single release. Mark King also collaborated with lyricists Drew Barfield and George Green to expand the songwriting. Guaranteed was well received by American music critics. However, the album did not get good reviews in the UK (despite reaching No. 3 in the UK charts while the title track reached No. 17 in the singles charts) and was ultimately less commercially successful than previous efforts.
After the recording of Guaranteed and a week-long promotional tour, Level 42 were in need of a permanent guitarist. Mark King assumed (erroneously) that Allan Holdsworth would not be interested in taking the position. Instead the band recruited well-respected art-pop guitarist, session player and sometime solo artist Jakko Jakszyk: the former frontman for 64 Spoons, he'd also collaborated with Tom Robinson, Sam Brown and Stewart/Gaskin among others. Although he did not play on Guaranteed, Jakszyk appeared on the album's cover photo and took part in promotional duties and the tour for the album, as well as playing on two B-sides from this era ("At This Great Distance" and "As Years Go By").Unlike Husband, Jakszyk never became a full legal member of the band (apparently due to "record company politics"). However, following the end of promotion for Guaranteed, the King-Lindup-Husband-Jakszyk line began writing and recording new material together, with at least two songs ("Fire" and "Free Your Soul") completed. Following the next development in the band's history, this work was shelved and remains unreleased.
In early 1993, Gary Husband left Level 42, leading to the return of group founder member Phil Gould as Level 42's drummer (and principal lyricist) for 1994's Forever Now album. Further changes to the band were evident in that Jakko Jakszyk did not play on the album: all guitars were performed by the American session guitarist Danny Blume. Although Forever Now was a critical success, the reunion of Gould and the group was short-lived. When Level 42 began to promote the new album (with Jakszyk returning to the live band for concerts and TV appearances), Gould played only one promotional gig and did not go on the road for the Forever Now tour. He was replaced as live drummer by Jaksyk's friend and frequent collaborator Gavin Harrison (who later played drums for both Porcupine Tree and King Crimson). It was announced halfway through the Forever Now tour, on the day of the Manchester Apollo gig, that the band would be disbanding permanently following their concert commitments. Level 42 played their last gig at the Albert Hall in London on 14 October 1994. According to Jakszk, the band recorded tapes for a live album during the final 1994 shows at the Albert Hall and the Brighton Dome which "sounded fantastic", but the album was never released
In 1996, Mark King signed to Virgin Records and released a solo single "Bitter Moon" (with Lyndon Connah playing keyboards). This was followed up by his second solo album One Man, featuring lyrics by Boon Gould. The album was not a big commercial success. King later toured as a solo act, playing his own new compositions and some Level 42 favourites. In 1999, he played some shows at the Jazz Cafe in London under the name of "The Mark King Group" with a band including Husband, Jakszyk and Jakszyk's fellow former 64 Spoons colleague Lyndon Connah on keyboards. Jakszyk left the band after the Jazz Cafe shows, to be replaced on guitar by Nathan King (Mark King's younger brother). King continued to tour with this band, now renamed "Grupo Mark King", over the next couple of years, augmenting the line-up with saxophone player Sean Freeman.
Although Mark King was by now two albums into a solo career, his previous band's music proved to be persistently popular and he found that he was playing more and more old Level 42 tracks at live shows. In late 2001, King came to a business agreement with Mike Lindup and bought the rights to the name Level 42. Although Lindup agreed to play on future albums, he did not want to tour. King announced the return of Level 42 with a new line-up which also happened to be the musicians from his current live band: himself, Husband, Connah, Freeman and Nathan King. On 12 July 2002, the first official Level 42 concert for six years was played at The Circus Tavern in Purfleet, Essex. While not recording any new material, for the next few years the band settled into a regular pattern of touring and playing old hits.Over the course of the year there was a burst of reissue activity. Two Rockpalast shows from 1983 and 1984 were released on DVD, followed by two CD releases: The River Sessions (a live show from 1983 recorded in Scotland) and a new compilation called The Ultimate Collection II.
In February 2006, after twelve years without releasing a new studio album, Level 42 announced the release of Retroglide. While billed as a band album, it was chiefly recorded and produced by King at his home studio, with Gary Husband, Lyndon Connah, Sean Freeman and Nathan King all contributing. Retroglide also featured input from two previous Level 42 members. Erstwhile guitarist Boon Gould provided the album's lyrics (as well as contributing a guitar solo on "Ship") and the band was effectively expanded to a six-piece via extensive guest performances by Mike Lindup, who added prominent keyboard parts and vocals to many tracks. Although Phil Gould was uncredited on the album, the track "Ship" is the first song since 1986 worked on by all four original members, as Phil originally arranged the track with his brother Boon. However, Retroglide was also the first Level 42 album not to feature any contributions from Wally Badarou. In May 2006, Level 42 announced that Mike Lindup would return full-time to replace Lyndon Connah on keyboards. Retroglide was promoted via a supporting tour throughout the UK, Netherlands, Germany and several other European countries during October 2006. On 26 August 2007, Level 42 played an outdoor gig at the Arundel Festival in West Sussex: the band's only UK show of the year. In 2008, Level 42 played a twenty-date UK tour.
In 2010, Husband stepped down as Level 42's drummer for the second time, due to prior commitments with John McLaughlin. Husband was replaced by Pete Ray Biggin. In 2012, Level 42 toured the UK and mainland Europe, in celebration of the 25th anniversary since the release of Running In The Family, by playing the whole album, with a whole array of other hits. Also included in the shows was an acoustic set, with Mike Lindup playing the accordion. In October 2012, on Mark King's birthday during a gig in Bristol, Boon Gould joined the band on stage.
On 20 and 21 September 2013, Level 42 (joined by an expanded brass section), performed three new songs at London's Indigo O2 Arena - "Where's Yo' Head At", "Too Much Time", and "Sirens". All of these appeared on the band's first new release for seven years, the six-song studio EP "Sirens" (released on 31 October 2013, and the first output from the band's new self-owned label Level 42 Records). Mixed by the American DJ John Morales, the EP also contained "Mind On You", "My Independence Day" and "Build Myself a Rocket" (with King's daughter Marlee providing the backing vocals on the last of these tracks). Musically, it built on the production approach of Retroglide while allying the band with contemporary developments in R&B and dance electronica.
On 3 December 2013, the band announced 'The Sirens Tour' - a 30 date tour, starting in October 2014 and taking in the UK, Netherlands, Germany and Italy. In the summer of 2014, the band performed at a number of festivals across Europe including headline performances at Let's Rock Bristol and Rochester Castle. They also played at Rewind festivals. At a performance in Bournemouth, ex-drummer Gary Husband returned due to Pete Ray Biggin being unavailable. In 2015, the band appeared at a number of UK and European festivals headlining at 'Let's Rock The Moor' and 'Carfest' concerts. They also played two nights at the Indigo2 in London where the band once again featured a larger brass section consisting of Dan Carpenter (trumpet) and Nicol Thomson (trombone) as well as regular saxophonist Sean Freeman. In 2016, Level 42 performed at a number of festivals across the UK and Europe as well as in Curaçao, Chile and Argentina before embarking on a UK, Netherlands and Scandinavian tour in order to promote the "Sirens II" EP.
On 1 May 2019, it was announced that Boon Gould had been found dead at his home in Dorset. He was 64
xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx
In the early 1980s, most newly successful British bands like Duran Duran and Depeche Mode were knee deep in the synth pop/new romantic/new wave/post-punk/whatever movement. But Level 42 distinguished itself by combining R&B and jazz influences (Earth, Wind & Fire, Stanley Clarke, Average White Band) with a strong pop sensibility, churning out a series of successful albums and Top Ten singles. The band began to achieve major U.S. success by 1986 with the albums World Machine and Running in the Family. Unfortunately, U.S. success was short-lived; Staring at the Sun, released in 1988, tanked, for an obvious reason: the album just isn't good.
Level 42's most visible members had always been bassist/vocalist Mark King and keyboardist/vocalist Mike Lindup. Founding members Phil and Boon Gould, the band's primary songwriters, left the group prior to the making of Staring at the Sun. Level 42 would never fully recover from the loss of the two key players; their departure severely affected the band's sound. Veteran session musicians Alan Murphy (guitar) and Gary Husband (drums) joined Level 42 the year Staring at the Sun was released; while their talent and capabilities are obvious, the lifeless performances on the album suggest a severe lack of chemistry and direction. The usual awe-inspiring musicianship displayed on the band's previous releases is non-existent here. (Murphy died in 1989.)
Considering the poor quality of the songs on Staring at the Sun, the sluggish performances are perfectly understandable. The rock-ish "Heaven in my Hands" is catchy enough, and the Mike Lindup-penned ballad "Silence" is the album's best song...but the rest of this stuff! "Man" sounds like bad '70s art rock (complete with pretentious spoken word narration), "Two Hearts Collide" is flat and completely void of purpose, and "I Don't Know Why" boasts some of the most inane lyrics ever written for an album by a major band ("I don't know why...I love you like I do...but baby I love you...and always I'll be true"....ugh.)
Worst of all, Mark King who, over the course of the band's existence was becoming a more expressive and effective vocalist, sounds bored and uninspired, particularly on "Two Hearts Collide." And Mike Lindup's complementary falsetto background vocals are barely used this time around.
It might be easy to excuse the band for losing enthusiasm; after all, it lost two key members along the way, and perhaps Level 42 was pressured into repeating its newfound American success. But this album is unforgivable. It became a big hit in the U.K., charting at number two, but went nowhere in the States. It would take Level 42 several more years to release an album that would even come close to restoring the quality of its previous releases (Forever Now, which became the band's swan song). Now out of print, Staring at the Sun is, by far, the least essential album in Level 42's catalog.
Level 42 - Staring at the Sun (flac 307mb)
01 Heaven In My Hands 4:41
02 I Don't Know Why 4:23
03 Take A Look 4:41
04 Over There 4:01
05 Silence 4:57
06 Tracie 4:51
07 Staring At The Sun 4:44
08 Two Hearts Collide 4:10
09 Man 7:24
10 Gresham Blues 5:45
xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx
After several hit albums in the U.K., Level 42 finally found American success with the 1986 album World Machine and its hit single, "Something About You." When 1987's follow-up release Running in the Family also scored on this side of the Atlantic, it seemed Level 42 was here to stay. But 1988's Staring at the Sun was an artistic catastrophe and a commercial failure, and Level 42 would never again reach the artistic and commercial peak of its two U.S. successes. Guaranteed was a considerably better album than Staring at the Sun -- not that the band could do much worse -- but it went virtually unnoticed in America. The departure of founding members and primary songwriters Phil and Boon Gould in late 1987 began a series of major setbacks for Level 42. The Staring at the Sun album was misguided and flat, and replacement members Alan Murphy and Gary Husband didn't seem to gel. To throw the band into further disarray, Murphy died of AIDS in late 1989 and Level 42 was dropped from Polydor after almost a decade. Apart from a 1989 greatest-hits album, the band had not released a new album in three years. The group recruited guitarists Alan Holdsworth and Dominic Miller and signed with RCA, which released Guaranteed in 1991. Guaranteed boasts a number of catchy, if unremarkable, pop tunes; the title track (a Top 20 hit in the U.K.) is pleasant enough, and the almost-country number "My Father's Shoes" is unlike anything else the band ever recorded. Vocalist and bassist Mark King, who sounded nearly comatose on Staring at the Sun, is rejuvenated and energetic here, particularly on the upbeat "Overtime" and the funky "Her Big Day." Keyboardist Mike Lindup leads on one of the album's best tracks, the ballad "Lasso the Moon," and "With a Little Love" is a simple but engaging plea for (what else) love, peace, and happiness. Unfortunately, many of the songs here are dull and forgettable. The band itself is in top form, but even the best musicians can't do much with lifeless material. A couple of tracks are downright awful; "The Ape" is as silly as the title, and the overblown "If You Were Mine" is the album's worst song, proving drummer Gary Husband isn't much of a songwriter. It's nice that Level 42 was able to regain some of its credibility with this album; Staring at the Sun was so mind-bogglingly awful, anything the band had recorded afterward would have been an improvement. But compared to the rest of the band's output, Guaranteed barely registers. It isn't necessarily a bad album, but one listen makes it painfully obvious that Level 42 was on its last legs. The band would release one more album (1995's very good Forever Now) before disbanding.
Level 42 - Guaranteed (flac 391mb)
01 Guaranteed 4:51
02 Overtime 4:47
03 Her Big Day 5:09
04 Seven Years 4:42
05 Set Me Up 4:27
06 The Ape 4:14
07 My Father's Shoes 5:14
08 A Kinder Eye 5:45
09 She Can't Help Herself 5:23
10 If You Were Mine 4:59
11 Lasso The Moon 4:01
12 With A Little Love 4:09
xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx
Forever Now is Level 42's best album since the mid-'80s heyday of World Machine and Running in the Family. Prior to "Forever Now", the two previous Level 42 albums, 1988's "Staring At The Sun" and 1991's "Guaranteed", were a bit directionless and uninspired - and ultimately a bit boring. [Though not by any means bad, "Guaranteed" in particular came across as fairly depressing with its lyrical concerns of death and misery only dampening the music]. This album shows the band back at their best - for two reasons; 1] the return to their jazz-funk sound, and 2] the return of original drummer and lyricist Phillip Gould. While "Forever Now" maybe lacks the youthful energy of the 1981 debut release "Level 42" or the commercial sucker punch of 1985's "World Machine", this is definitely Level 42's best album since "World Machine", and musically [while in sonic terms, it doesn't actually sound like either] is a hybrid of the jazz-funk of the former, and the more polished sound of the latter.
By 1994, the sound that the band [at this point consisting of Mike Lindup, Phil Gould, Mark King and Wally Badarou] had been stuck with for the previous seven years was now gone and had been replaced with a fresher, fuller sound; gone were the dated mechanical keyboards synonymous with the late '80's and instead pianos, organs and warmer-sounding synths were welcomed into the fold. Similarly, for the first time in many years, Level 42 have drums that sound a lot more organic and present in the mix than those heard on any Level 42 song since, say, "Lying Still" from 1985. Phil Gould, in his typical signature style, lays down some excellent hi-hat and snare work, creating laid-back Jeff Porcaro "Georgy Porgy" style grooves which are a welcoming return to the early days of the band's music. Naturally, the funky bass riffs are still the driving force behind the music, but Mark King's bass lines are not as boisterous and aggressive this time around, instead he opts for a more muted sound with less slaps, and the softer touch only helps to showcase how good the whole band sounds. The production is smooth throughout but it also allows the music to breathe, balancing gloss with something a bit more earthy.
"Forever Now" is also a lot more laid-back than most [or perhaps all] Level 42 albums - more than half of the seventeen-total songs are slow or/mid-tempo, while only four or five are uptempo. That is not to say the band has lost its energy; in a time when they had faded from the commercial limelight, they seem very content and focused on writing inspired songs without the pressure of delivering a hit album, which only adds more depth to the proceedings. In fact, the album never gets boring and offers up many alternating styles and moods to keep things interesting; the trippy acid-jazz of "The Bends", the soulful R&B of "One In A Million", the dark and witty "Past Lives", the jazz-rock of "Model Friend", and the accomplished and uplifting "Love In A Peaceful World", with its wonderful harmonies and repentent lyrics. And like a lot of the very early Level 42 albums, there is an abundance of instruments on display here; harps, horns, strings, and a lot of percussion. They even get in on the action of sampling and using their own loop tracks, put to best effect with the didgeridoo-sounding vocal loops on the mellow "Billy's Gone".
With the new decade in full swing, and considering that the acid-jazz scene was already thriving with bands like The Brand New Heavies, Incognito and Jamiroquai offering an alternative to the mayhem that was Brit-pop, Level 42 looked set to return successfully to their club roots - but ended up calling it a day instead. A worthy swan song.
Level 42 - Forever Now (flac 379mb)
01 Forever Now 4:14
02 Model Friend 4:56
03 Tired Of Waiting 4:57
04 All Over You 4:02
05 Love In A Peaceful World 7:13
06 Romance 4:55
07 Billy's Gone 5:24
08 One In A Million 4:27
09 The Sunbed Song 5:16
10 Talking In Your Sleep 3:45
11 Don't Bother Me 4:50
xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx
The commercial face of the '80s jazz-funk movement, the unashamedly unfashionable Level 42 may have been ridiculed by the genre's purists, but their percussive slap-bass-heavy sound regularly competed with the likes of Sade and Simply Red for the decade's dinner party music of choice, while the band scored four consecutive Top Three albums and 20 chart hits before disbanding in 1994. Twelve years on, and one of the music scene's few bassist-cum-lead singers, Mark King, returns with their 11th studio album, Retroglide. He may be the only permanent original member left, but co-written by guitarist Boon Gould (whose brother Phil features on the uncredited arrangement of "Ship"), and with keyboardist Mike Lindup adding his trademark falsetto vocals to many tracks, it's the first album to feature all four founding musicians since 1987's Running in the Family. But loyal and patient fans expecting to hear the same kind of hook-laden and funky bass-led tunes of their heyday will be sorely disappointed, as apart from the manic thunder-thumb skills displayed on the melodic rock-tinged opener "Dive into the Sun," and the frenetic fretboard-showcasing of "Sleep Talking" which, bizarrely, features a breakneck speed rap from the unlikely MC King, its 11 tracks are very much at the progressive, ambient, and occasionally directionless end of proceedings. None more so than on the meandering, seven-minute "The Way Back Home" which opens with some clock-ticking sparse electronica before it chugs along slowly into a Johnny Hates Jazz-esque slice of over-polished new wave pop which suggests King hasn't spent the last 12 years listening to any music post-1987, a problem which swamps the self-produced LP. Elsewhere, "Ship" is a limp and plodding AOR ballad featuring an interminable prog rock guitar solo; "Just for You" is a monotonous, sub-Sting dirge which is instantly forgettable despite its seemingly neverending, repeated chorus, while the aimless "All Around," which features the quintessential '80s musical touch, the sax solo, is inoffensive incidental music at best. Having all but ignored their unique slap-bass sound which had previously set them apart from their fellow coffee-table contemporaries, Level 42 just sound like a very ordinary '80s wine bar house band. Those who don't want to tarnish their memories would be advised to give Retroglide a miss. Despite the few flashes of their old self, Retroglide is ultimately a poorly produced comeback which unfortunately hasn't been worth the wait.
Level 42 - Retroglide (flac 356mb)
01 Dive Into The Sun 4:03
02 Rooted 5:31
03 The Way Back Home 6:56
04 Just For You 4:50
05 Sleep Talking 5:02
06 Retroglide 4:48
07 All Around 4:58
08 Clouds 4:32
09 Hell Town Story 4:56
10 Ship 5:13
11 All I Need 5:21
xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx
This album has plenty of bass punch. However some say his solo work from 'Trash' onwards is better.[most is imported as Mark controlled it all via his record company.]I enjoy all the long forgotten tracks on "The Remixes." Track 2, and "Chinese Way", bounce along with hypnotic repeats. The final track called "Hit Combination" should have been extended to twice it's length. Ben Liebrand's superb mix is worthy of an extra 5 minutes, For the price "The Remixes", represents sane value in an upside down market.
Level 42 - The Remixes 526mb
Level 42 - The Remixes (flac 526mb)
01 The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up) (12" Mix) 6:07
02 Something About You (Shep Pettibone Remix) 8:04
03 Children Say (Paul Staveley O'Duffy Extended Remix) 5:41
04 Hot Water (Mastermix Edit) 8:36
05 Running In The Family (Dave 'O' Remix) 6:37
06 Love Games (U.S. Remix) 6:43
07 The Chinese Way (Extended John Luongo Remix) 7:25
08 (Flying On The) Wings Of Love (U.S. Mix) 6:27
09 Two Hearts Collide (Wally Badarou Remix) 7:38
10 Lessons In Love (Shep Pettibone Remix) 7:52
11 The Hit Combination [Ben Liebrand Megamix] 6:00
--1 Lessons In Love
--2 Hot Water
--3 Running In The Family
--4 Children Say
--5 Something About You
xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx