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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Polydor Records

Here's a chronological and incomplete selection of Level 42's singles that reaches back to "Love Games" (and therefore excludes great earlier A-sides like "Sandstorm," "Love Meeting Love," and "Starchild") and extends to 1994's "Forever Now." Knowledgeable fans will likely balk at a couple of the selections or missing cuts, but this does contain the band's biggest hits, such as "The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)," "Something About You," "Lessons in Love," and "Running in the Family." As a throw-in, there's a 1998 version of "The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)" that features a guest appearance from Omar. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

The album was produced by label owner Andy Sojka. Highlights include "Love Meeting Love," "Wings of Love," "Love Games," "Turn It On," and "Starchild." © Bil Carpenter /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 1, 2013 | Level42 Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Level 42 was one of Britain's most successful bands by the time World Machine was released in 1985, but U.S. success was elusive. But that changed with the engaging single "Something About You," which became a Top Ten hit in America and sent this album soaring into the Top 20. World Machine pushes their newfound radio-friendly sound into the forefront, and the result is one of the finest pop albums of the mid-'80s. "Something About You" exemplifies Level 42's sound at the peak of its success. Bassist Mark King's vocals, while limited in range, are soulful and yearning, while keyboardist Mike Lindup's complimentary falsetto backing vocals add just the right ingredient to the mix. Given the group's original guise as an all-instrumental jazz combo, the musicianship is brilliant, and "Something About You" proves how good a song can sound coming from the radio. Unlike most albums that contain one strong single surrounded by duds, World Machine has more than its share of fine tunes. The jazzy, upbeat title track is one of the band's finest moments, the should've-been-a-hit "Leaving Me Now" is an effective ballad, and the midtempo "Good Man in a Storm" is catchy and thought-provoking. While not perfect -- "Physical Presence" drags, and "It's Not the Same for Us" is a bit too cutesy for its own good -- World Machine is the most successful album in Level 42's career, both in terms of sales and quality. © William Cooper /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2012 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

By Running in the Family, Level 42 had almost completely thinned out their early jazz-funk and soul roots in favor of a radio-friendly keyboard pop with a light R&B vibe. The sound lies somewhere between Kool and the Gang and early Tears for Fears. But if early fans might have felt betrayed by the new direction, the band's newfound aptitude for attention-grabbing hooks and airtight instrumental polish attracted more than enough new fans to replace them. Running in the Family included the band's sole number one hit in the U.K. charts, "Lessons in Love." It also featured a handful of other respectable pop nuggets including "Children Say" and "Fashion Fever." The record is a little uneven, faltering especially when the band indulges its taste for sappy ballads like "It's Over." But for the most part, Level 42 was extremely successful in its attempt to create something that would strike a chord with mainstream pop audiences. And they manage to do it without being obnoxiously derivative. Of course, the whole project reeks of 1987. But the solid craftsmanship of the writing as well as the group's ability to adapt to the popular tastes of the time helped them survive the '80s and become one of the more durable bands to have arisen in that era. © Evan Cater /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1989 | Polydor Records

Polydor's Level Best is a thorough, successful overview of the smooth, jazzy British sophisti-pop outfit, containing all of their biggest hits and best material, including the sublime "Something About You." At 18 tracks, it may run a little long, but it still is as comprehensive a summary of Level 42's career as could be hoped. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2002 | Polydor Records

The Ultimate Collection is an exhaustive double-disc anthology that is ideal for those who want all of Level 42's key moments ("The Sun Goes Down," "Lessons in Love," "Starchild," "Something About You," "Love Meeting Love"), in addition to select album material. Released in 2002 by Polydor in the U.K., it boasts digitally remastered sound and sells for the price of a single disc -- so, although it contains more than what most people in search of a good introduction want, it might be preferable to Level Best, the excellent single-disc compilation released over a decade prior. This easily trumps Turn It On, since it features no studio scraps and focuses on the band's best work. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 12, 2015 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

A few Level 42 anthologies of various sizes were released during the 2000s and early 2010s, including Ultimate Collection (2002), Lessons in Love: The Collection (2010), and Gold (2013). Released in 2015 by Spectrum (via Universal), Something About You: The Collection is a stuffed-to-capacity single-disc compilation that contains most of the group's biggest and most notable singles through 1987, including the Top Ten U.K. hits "The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)," "Something About You," "Lessons in Love," and "Running in the Family." It includes some earlier highlights, such as "Love Meeting Love," but loses points for missing the essential 1981 A-side "Starchild." © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2014 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Standing in the Light was Level 42's first major success in the U.K., hitting the top ten in 1983 and beginning a string of successful recordings that would continue throughout the band's career. The band's previous releases were pleasant but somewhat tepid exercises in jazz-lite; Standing in the Light not only marked a significant change of direction, but proved Level 42 could truly be an ace pop band. Level 42's first three releases Level 42 (1981), The Pursuit of Accidents (1982), and The Early Tapes (a compilation of material recorded in 1980, prior to the band's signing to Polydor) revealed a promising young band with undeniable talent and melodic instincts. Despite modest success with strong singles such as "Turn it On" and "The Chinese Way," pointless instrumentals and slick production added unnecessary weight to these albums. Standing in the Light was different for two main reasons : the songs were shorter and more accessible, and for the first time, all the songs included vocals. The group began as an all-instrumental jazz outfit; in order for Level 42 to become more commercially viable, bassist Mark King and keyboardist Mike Lindup eventually began to open their mouths and sing. Never a strong vocalist, King nevertheless was an engaging frontman, becoming more relaxed and self assured as the band's career progressed, while Lindup's falsetto backing vocals added a distinctive touch. "Micro Kid," the opening cut here, is a good example of their approach; the synth-heavy track also prominently features Lindup's brilliant keyboard work. Produced by Larry Dunn and Verdine White of Earth, Wind and Fire (one of Level 42's obvious influences), Standing in the Light contains a number of strong tracks; the funky British top-ten hit "The Sun Goes Down" and the midtempo ballad "People" are highlights, and the band's amazing musicianship is always a pleasure to hear. Only the goofy "A Pharaoh's Dream (of Endless Time)" bogs down the album, and Mark King's trademark thumb-slapping bass playing technique makes even that tune worth hearing. Like most early-to-mid 80's albums, Standing in the Light also suffers from a somewhat dated sound, but it is one of the most impressive offerings in Level 42's strong body of work. © William Cooper /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2014 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Level 42 was steadily perfecting and evolving their dance/pop, funk, and rock mix during the '80s, and when they hit the big time, the label began reissuing their earlier, less successful material. It's hard to understand why this didn't do as well as later albums like World Machine, Running in the Family, and Staring at the Sun, although the obvious reason would be that no singles ever broke that compared with the ones from those releases. But it was just as well produced, the songs were almost as cutely performed, and the arrangements are very similar. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2012 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

By Running in the Family, Level 42 had almost completely thinned out their early jazz-funk and soul roots in favor of a radio-friendly keyboard pop with a light R&B vibe. The sound lies somewhere between Kool and the Gang and early Tears for Fears. But if early fans might have felt betrayed by the new direction, the band's newfound aptitude for attention-grabbing hooks and airtight instrumental polish attracted more than enough new fans to replace them. Running in the Family included the band's sole number one hit in the U.K. charts, "Lessons in Love." It also featured a handful of other respectable pop nuggets including "Children Say" and "Fashion Fever." The record is a little uneven, faltering especially when the band indulges its taste for sappy ballads like "It's Over." But for the most part, Level 42 was extremely successful in its attempt to create something that would strike a chord with mainstream pop audiences. And they manage to do it without being obnoxiously derivative. Of course, the whole project reeks of 1987. But the solid craftsmanship of the writing as well as the group's ability to adapt to the popular tastes of the time helped them survive the '80s and become one of the more durable bands to have arisen in that era. © Evan Cater /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2000 | Polydor Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Although they didn't really begin to have dance/pop hits until later in the '80s, the English group Level 42 provided some fine performances on this album. While vocals weren't their strong suit, they did a reasonable job of harmonizing and at least getting through the melodies, while the production and arrangements helped embellish and compensate for their singing inadequacies. Although such groups as the Pet Shop Boys and even Thompson Twins do this type of thing better, Level 42 at least isn't irritating or self-indulgent. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 1, 1982 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Rock - Released January 1, 2014 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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. © William Cooper /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2012 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

By Running in the Family, Level 42 had almost completely thinned out their early jazz-funk and soul roots in favor of a radio-friendly keyboard pop with a light R&B vibe. The sound lies somewhere between Kool and the Gang and early Tears for Fears. But if early fans might have felt betrayed by the new direction, the band's newfound aptitude for attention-grabbing hooks and airtight instrumental polish attracted more than enough new fans to replace them. Running in the Family included the band's sole number one hit in the U.K. charts, "Lessons in Love." It also featured a handful of other respectable pop nuggets including "Children Say" and "Fashion Fever." The record is a little uneven, faltering especially when the band indulges its taste for sappy ballads like "It's Over." But for the most part, Level 42 was extremely successful in its attempt to create something that would strike a chord with mainstream pop audiences. And they manage to do it without being obnoxiously derivative. Of course, the whole project reeks of 1987. But the solid craftsmanship of the writing as well as the group's ability to adapt to the popular tastes of the time helped them survive the '80s and become one of the more durable bands to have arisen in that era. © Evan Cater /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2000 | Polydor Records

A Physical Presence, released in 1985, is the first live album from the British quartet Level 42. Recorded at various small European club venues, A Physical Presence is an impressive document of the band's dynamic live performances, and the live renditions of many of the songs improve on the original studio recordings. Much of the material on A Physical Presence comes from the band's first four studio albums, and several of Level 42's minor British hits ("Hot Water," "The Chinese Way") are included. Physical's highlights, however, are the blistering live takes on lesser-known non-single releases. For example, "Kansas City Milkman," which originally appeared in a somewhat lackluster version on the 1984 release True Colours, is given new life in concert; the version here is slightly faster and more energetic than the original. "Eyes Waterfalling" (originally from the 1982 album The Pursuit of Accidents) is given the same treatment and features Mark King's mind-boggling thumb-slapping bass-playing technique, which is all the more impressive considering his simultaneous role as lead vocalist. King is an amazing musician, but his fellow bandmates are no less capable; vocalist and keyboardist Mike Lindup, drummer Phil Gould, and guitarist Boon Gould give first-rate performances. Level 42's studio efforts (particularly on the early albums) tend to suffer from over-production, barely giving the musicians room to breathe. That certainly isn't the case here; on A Physical Presence, Level 42 truly shines, combining energy, talent, and songcraft to breathtaking effect. Although the sound quality isn't exactly stellar, A Physical Presence is still far better than Level 42's 1996 effort Live at Wembley. That album was recorded while the band was touring in support of its worst studio effort, Staring at the Sun, and contains entirely too much material from that anemic 1988 release. Live at Wembley also suffers from the absence of the Gould brothers and from the obviously less intimate arena setting; by the time Live at Wembley was recorded, Level 42 had become a major U.K. success. Mark King also became more of a show-off than a musician, and his half-hearted performance on Live at Wembley makes the album virtually unlistenable. A Physical Presence is a MUCH better indication of Level 42's capabilities in a live setting, capturing the band at the top of its form. © William Cooper /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1992 | Polydor Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 2000 | Polydor Records

Level 42's fifth and sixth albums, True Colours (1984) and World Machine (1985) -- the latter of which crossed into the Top 20 of the U.S. Billboard 200, thanks to the success of "Something About You" -- are combined on this two-disc set. The sound is remastered, and each disc features a handful of contemporary bonus tracks, including a few demos, "Hot Water [Mastermix]," "World Machine [Dub Mix]," and "Something About You [Sisa Mix]." The same year this was released, Polydor issued similar packages of the band's other albums: Level 42/The Early Tapes, The Pursuit of Accidents/Standing in the Light, and Running in the Family/Staring at the Sun. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

The first half of Level 42’s four-disc Living It Up is for casual fans. The second half, along with the packaging, which includes lengthy liner notes from Mark King, dozens of photos, and a pictorial discography, all stuffed inside a set of furry dice -- a compact, hardcover book-like shell, actually -- is for insatiable freaks. With such an evenly split personality, it’s impossible to imagine anyone picking up the set without some hesitation. Discs one and two consist of the band’s 34 U.K. singles, from 1980’s “Sandstorm” through 2006’s “The Way Back Home,” with “Kansas City Milkman” as the representative from the live EP A Physical Presence. Disc three, containing mostly previously unreleased material, compiles scattered versions, demos, a couple World Machine-era B-sides, and live material. A 19-minute segment from a 1991 performance in Antwerp involves a curious blow through Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” between “Love Games” and “The Chinese Way.” The final disc would have made a nice standalone release, or a souvenir for the band’s 30th anniversary world tour. It’s an acoustic album of imaginatively rearranged hits, recorded by King with Mike Lindup in 2010. © Andy Kellman /TiVo