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The Levellers formed in 1988, bringing together five Brighton, England musicians -- Mark Chadwick (vocals, guitar, banjo), Alan Miles (vocals, guitar, mandolin, harmonica), Jeremy Cunningham (bass, bouzouki), Charlie Heather (drums), and Jon Sevink (fiddle). Forging a pseudo-hippie, slightly punky folk-rock with Celtic flavoring, the band released two EPs on their own Hag label in 1989, which led to a contract with Musidisc. The group issued their first album, A Weapon Called the Word, in 1990. After its release Miles quit the band and was quickly replaced by Simon Friend. The following year, the Levellers left the Musidisc label, moving to China Records. Later in the year, they released Levelling the Land, which entered the U.K. charts at number 14 and would later go gold. "One Way," the first single from the album, hit number one on the indie charts and the band's tour was sold-out. All of the success led to an American record contract with Elektra. The Levellers' success continued throughout 1992, with more sold-out European tours and the hit 15 Years EP. However, even with all of their success, the band was only able to make a small impression in America. Throughout 1993, the group worked on their second album, Levellers; in the meantime, they continued touring and released the singles compilation See Nothing, Hear Nothing, Do Something. Levellers didn't contain the same amount of hits, nor did it earn the same amount of positive press as their debut, yet the Levellers' devoted following did not diminish. Zeitgeist followed in 1995 to mixed reviews, and the group's following began to diminish somewhat. In 1996, the band released Live: Headlights, White Lines, Black Tar Rivers. The group explored alternative guitar pop on 1997's Mouth to Mouth, followed by a greatest-hits collection (One Way of Life: The Best of the Levellers) in 1998. After a lengthy hiatus, the Levellers stormed back in 2003 with Green Blade Rising, an anthemic return to form that was echoed in 2005 with the similarly rousing Truth & Lies. While much of remainder of the decade was spent consolidating their fan base with a number of prestigious European festival dates, 2008 brought the idiosyncratically political Letters from the Underground. Issued in the year of their 20th anniversary, it was the first studio album to be released on their own On the Fiddle label and their most successful record since 2000's Hello Pig. Following Chadwick's late-2010 solo venture All the Pieces, the new year saw the Levellers embark on a celebratory U.K. tour, performing Levelling the Land in its entirety a full 20 years after its release. Their raw, Czech Republic-recorded tenth studio album, Static on the Airwaves, arrived in summer 2012 and included the raucous single "Truth Is." Continuing to play festival dates and shows across the U.K. and Europe over the next few years, the band celebrated Levelling the Land's 25th anniversary in 2017 by reissuing remastered versions of their first six albums. That same year, they entered Abbey Road Studios with producer John Leckie to re-record some of their biggest hits acoustically with an orchestral backing. The resulting collection, We the Collective -- which also celebrated the group's 30th anniversary -- was released at the beginning of 2018. Two years later, their 12th original studio album, Peace, was one of their fieriest sets to date, as they continued to rage against misgovernment and injustice after 30 years in the business. With plans to tour the album cancelled at the last minute due to COVID-19, the group found themselves at a loss. Not wanting to go down the streamed concert route that others had taken, the group reconvened at their Metway Studios in Brighton to play through a selection of tracks from their catalog. Recorded for prosperity on film, the Levellers issued The Lockdown Sessions in late 2021, capturing a side of them that's rarely been heard before.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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