David Randall chatted to Mark King about Level 42 for an hour special to be broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on Sunday 24 July at 18:00 GMT. In this exclusive edit, Mark talks about setlists and a band album to recommend to new listeners. (7:04)
Level 42 Records/Membran [Release date 17.06.16]
For some, Level 42 may sum up the excesses of 1980s pop: a relentless hit machine propelled by Mark King’s funk bass, and with stadia credentials, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Madonna and selling out several nights in their own right at the Hammersmith Odeon.
Dig deeper, and the band have survived their classic era through sheer musicality and excellent songwriting. Their first main label album was released in 1980 and like its successor was produced by Mike Vernon. This is understandable given that in their early days the band were very much in a jazz funk/muso groove.
Bandleader Mark King brought showmanship and pizzazz to his infectious slap bass style and more than anyone he was responsible for introducing the style to mainstream pop. It was a winning formula when combined with Phil Gould’s drums and brother Boon’s guitar fills whilst Mike Lindup was a gifted keyboard player who also lent the band his distinctive falsetto vocals.
Their third album – 1983′s Standing In The Light - was produced by Earth Wind & Fire’s bass player Verdine White which lent the band a certain cudos in terms of cultural crossover, and club credibility.
1985′s World Machine firmly established Level 42 on the international stage and yielded their biggest U.S. hit ‘Something About You’.
By 1986 the band was already showing personal strains and following ‘Running In The Family’, Phil and Boon Gould left. Subsequently, the band rediscovered their fusion roots and worked with the likes of the seasoned sessionist Gary Husband (John Mclaughlin, Jeff Beck), Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) and even Allan Holdsworth who provided guitar on the 1991 album ‘Guaranteed’.
After 1993′s Forever Now album and tour Mark King put the band on ice and pursued a lower-key solo and songwriting career. Less than 10 years later, after including Level 42 material in his live sets and meeting up again with Mike Lindup, Mark King reconstituted the band and with brother Nathan on guitar and a horn section.
The latest iteration of the band was recorded at the Indigo O2 in London, September 2015 and this 3 disc set (2 CDs and a DVD) is a compelling account. The setlist was built around the band’s latest studio recordings, which came out in 2013, and expanded with all the key tracks from a 30 year plus career.
I have always been a closet Level 42 fan, and remember their dance floor credentials when dee-jaying in the 1980s. Tracks such as ‘Love Games’, ‘Hot Water’ and ‘The Chinese Way’ were always popular whilst the slower ‘Leaving Me Now’ demonstrated a softer underbelly. For lapsed fans this is a great way of updating your 1989 “Live At Wembley” video that got chewed up in your VHS machine. And a perfect primer for the band’s October 2016 UK tour. ****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
UK dates (October 2016)
Oct 2 Waterfront Hall Auditorium, Belfast
Oct 3 Venue Cymru, Llandudno
Oct 4 The Lowry, Salford Quays
Oct 6 Victoria Hall, Stoke-On-Trent
Oct 7 O2 ABC, Glasgow
Oct 8 Sage Gateshead
Oct 10 Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
Oct 11 Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Oct 12 Margate Winter Gardens
Oct 14 Southend Cliffs Pavilion
Oct 15 Ipswich Regent Theatre
Oct 16 New Theatre Oxford
Oct 18 Portsmouth Guildhall
Oct 19 Colston Hall, Bristol
Oct 21 Bath Pavilion
Oct 22 Truro Hall for Cornwall
Oct 23 Bournemouth Pavilion
Oct 25 G Live, Guildford
Oct 26 Hexagon Theatre, Reading
Oct 28 Watford Colosseum
Oct 29 Eventim Apollo, London
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