Level 42 – Live at The Fulcrum Centre, Slough – 1983 – In Concert – BBC Radio 1 –
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Level 42 to start the new week of a new month. One of the pioneers of the budding UK Jazz-Funk scene, Level 42 did a lot, not only to promote this genre, but also an influential force during this time of the 80s when a lot of bands and artists were getting started and gigging around. I think you can trace much of their style and influence on groups like Working Week and singers like Alison Moyet who were all part of that Jazz-Funk/Synthpop surge taking place in clubs and on the radio who were, in turn influenced by American bands like Earth, Wind and Fire.
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 favorites on the budding British and European jazz-funk scene, taking advantage of the musical expertise and performance skills of all four members. Polydor capitalized 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).
To get an idea of what the band were up to during the 1983 period, check out this concert, recorded at Fulcrum Centre, Slough in 1983 and broadcast on BBC Radio 1’s In Concert series.
It’s held up quite nicely and a reminder there was so much more going on in the 80s than we give credit for.