Living It Up
By David Chiu
On the strength of their excellent 1986 pop hit “Something About You,” the English-based Level 42 was already something special to me, even if they had never released another huge hit. But don’t call them a one-hit wonder (they had another hit with “Lessons in Love”). The music on Living it Up, a new 4-CD retrospective, showcases a depth that perhaps American audiences didn’t know about from this veteran English band. The early ‘80s sound of Level 42 was your typical smooth-funk jazz, very similar to Earth, Wind and Fire (in fact, EWF bassist Verdine White was one Level 42’s producer). Things picked up in the World Machine era (circa ’85-’86) where the band’s sound was more pop-oriented as in the case of the aforementioned “Something About You” and the underrated “Hot Water.” Along the way, the funk sound, highlighted by singer Mark King’s percussive bass playing and keyboardist Mike Lindup’s high harmony voice, embraced different styles such as electronica (“Dive Into the Sun”), pseudo hip-hop (“Take Care of Yourself”), and bossa nova (“My Father’s Shoes”). Also on this set are rarities and a set of newly-recorded acoustic versions of hits. Level 42 was never big in the States, but this collection makes a strong argument that their body of work should not be overlooked.