Level 42 - The Definitive Collection
Maybe its something I should be ashamed of, but my first ever visit to the shed-like Wembley Arena was to see a Level 42 concert. I was very young, and very excited, and our tickets put us right at the back of the venue where we could hardly see a thing. Happily though, Mark King had little red lights on his bass frets and for every bass solo they turned off the lights so we could watch him slap away. I think I even bought a T-shirt.
Those days though (for both me and the band, thankfully) are now long gone, and here we have another greatest hits collection. Quite how this is different to The Collection (2001) or The Ultimate Collection (2002) is anyones guess, but here we have The Definitive Collection (which rather ironically has fewer tracks that the ultimate collection, work that one out, popsters).
So it is fair to say that Level 42 were pretty big in the 1980's, big enough for me to put my paper round money towards a Wembley ticket. They had 29 UK top 75 singles, played a lot of big venues, and are probably the biggest band to ever come from the Isle of Wight. The band was formed by the brothers Gould, Phil and Roland, who teamed up with bassist Mark King and keyboard player Mike Lindup.
They made a few records of funk/disco, but it is pretty obvious that as the career progressed they became far and away a pop band, leaving the funk behind. This placed a split in the band so wide that the founding Gould brothers left in 1987, just before the release of their biggest album Staring at the Sun (this is where I come in, buy the album (on tape of course) and buy my ticket). But it was all downhill from here. This hits got fewer, and the band split in 1994. However, Mark King legally won the right to use the name and now tours as Level 42. And pump out Greatest Hits albums, one after another.
This is not a bad collection, with some reasonable songs and a couple which are really pretty good. Running in the Family is a funky little song, as is The Sun Goes Down, a real staple of the 80's mix-tape. Lesson in Love is also a pretty good piece of melody, as is Something About You, a good song let down by the gloss of production.
That is the problem with listening to music like this now, the sheen of the production, all those casio pre-sets that make it sound like everything else from that era. Mike Lindup's vocals are also annoying, the falsetto just sounding whiny at times. There is no getting away though from the fact that Mark King is a pretty fantastic bass player - his trademark playing style is all over this album.
When they were poor, they were terrible. Songs like Tracie and To Be With You Again just sound awful in this day and age, and Leaving Me Now is so sickly its obvious why she left. Level 42 really do belong to another era now, maybe best to be forgotten. It may be pleasant to hear them occasionally pop up on Magic FM, but to suffer a whole album is really taking things too far.