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The Levellers are a British band from Brighton, formed in 1988 by present members Mark Chadwick and Jeremy Cunningham. Heavily Influenced by an alternative style rock/ indie genre the Levellers attracted a Cult following during the early nineties from students, political activists and travellers! With there Celtic Folk Punk style and Anarchic lyrics, they became widely outspoken, and political activists. Speaking out against the Criminal Justice Act, and Various other Anti-Capitalist and environmental issues. Their was an underground feel to there music, with the dislike for the music world and press, which in turn meant they never became recognised by the mainstream critics despite having many gold and platinum selling albums in the 90s. To this day recognition has waved them by despite churning out 13 successful albums, and to date still selling out venue's over Britain and Europe.
CURRENT BAND MEMBERS........................
Mark Chadwick (Singer, Guitar, Harmonica)
Jeremy Cunningham (Bass)
Charlie Heather (Drums)
Simon Friend (Guitar, banjo, Backing Vocals, mandolin)
Jonathan Sevink (Fiddle, Violin)
Matt Savage (Keyboards)
Stephen Boakes (Didgeridoo)
You could be forgiven in thinking the Levellers were an Irish Band with there Celtic Folk Sound, and Fiddle driven tracks. A real Happy bouncing sound, that gets your toe tapping from the off, there invigorating rhythms and melodic tunes just make you want to dance, and leave you smiling, however if you delve into the lyrics you will often find a powerful message speaking out against the state or corruption. The Levellers style of Music enabled them to experiment with many different sounds and they were never shy in mixing there songs up, using such instruments as the Fiddle, Didgeridoo, mandolin and harmonica.
Their first Single was released in 1989 "Carry Me" followed by their debut album in 1990 "A Weapon called the Word" but it was not until their second album LEVELLING THE LAND in 1991 that they made their mark, and to this day still recognised as their most accomplished album, it entered the charts at number 14. Pretty good for an unrecognised non-mainstream band. Only three songs were ever released off the album their anthemic single "One Way" which reached the dizzy heights of number 51, but was to be re-mixed and re-released to reach number 33. Although not a chart success, will always go down in the Levellers Folklore as a True Classic. Fifteen years managed to climb to a respectable 11 in the UK charts, and to this date one of the most successful. The third track to be released was "Far from Home" which sadly only managed a meagre 71st position.
1) ONE WAY 9/10 Anthemic Song, re-released with didgeridoo, Energy flows from the guitar at the start, mandolin and violins are accompanied by a booming bass drum ! Great catchy opener.
2) THE GAME 10/10
Faster song! Ferocious Violins at the core keeping the tempo of the song high throughout, gives you a sense of anger by the end, which the anti authoritarian lyrics.
3) FIFTEEN YEARS 10/10
Like the previous song, fast and upbeat, the lyrics tell a great tale! My favourite ever Leveller track.
4) THE BOATMAN 6/10
The album pauses for a breather after the hectic start with this folk ballad. Guitar and Violin accompany you on a life along the road
5) LIBERTY SONG 8/10
Political laced lyrics, Brilliant Intro as the fiddle flies from the off, Makes you want to dance, a well-rounded punk-rock sounding track. Hard hitting lyrics about oppression of the common man.
6) FAR FROM HOME 9/10
Continues where the last track finished off, another classic. The Irish Jig/Celtic theme continues to drive down the veins of the song, drums violins and mandolins make you want to get up and dance.
7) SELL OUT 8/10
A more rock sounding start, with the guitar, before the folksy/irish theme feeds back in.. More politically penned lyrics, about ideals, racism and modern failure.
8) ANOTHER MAN'S CAUSE 10/10
Much slower song, lyrics need to be listened to understand the song, gravely backing vocals give this added depth and volume in backing up Chadwick's vocals.
9) THE ROAD 7/10
Celtic folky feel from the start, guitars violin and mandolin dominate, gives you an uplifting sense of freedom from the lyrics, you feel like your in a Irish drinking bar, tapping your toes...
10) THE RIVERFLOW 6/10
Starts to speed back up with more Folk rock, same engaging beat as the last song! Still in the pub, possibly the worst song on the album
11) BATTLE OF THE BEANFIELD 8/10
Gritty angst finish, tales of persecution and injustice, about police brutality on travellers as they made their way to Stonehenge.! A little slower to begin, accompanied with a moody feel, but the beat picks up to a climaxing finish. Good use of Harmonica.
OTHER ALBUMS ( YR RELEASED ) UK CHART POSITION
A Weapon Called the Word (April 1990) -
Levelling the Land (October 1991) 14
See Nothing, Hear Nothing, Do Something: UK Singles and Live Collection (1992) -
Levellers (September 1993) 2
Zeitgeist (August 1995) 1
Headlights, White Lines, Black Tar Rivers (Best Live) (August 1996) 13
Mouth to Mouth (August 25 1997) 5
One Way of Life: The Very Best of The Levellers (October 1998) 15
Hello Pig (September 2000) 28
Special Brew (May 2001) -
Green Blade Rising (September 2002) 77
Truth and Lies (May 23 2005) 102
Letters from the Underground (August 11 2008) 24
What ever your music tendencies, this album is a MUST for everyone if offers something different. The album cannot fail to make you raise a smile, or tap your foot, or even want to dance. There is enough in the album for everyone it has a rocky/indie edge for the heavier listener, yet at the same time a country/folksy appeal for the more discerning tastes, and if that fails to inspire you then the lyrics are gripping and meaningful.
I've seen the Levellers perform on numerous occasions and still I'd say that are amazing live, and one of the best performing acts you could see! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! 9/10.
Levelling the Land is the second Levellers album and for me is THE album of the 90s. In fact, it's the soundtrack to my whole life. Every tune on this album is a work of genius in its own right, from the political lyrics - still resonant today (check out the lyrics for Sell Out and Another Man's Cause which are more relevant today than they were during Thatcher's era). And though it may be nearly 20 years old, none of these folk classics sounds dated. It has the power to make me dance, to make me cry, to make me angry and to make me deliriously happy. A must-have for every music fan.
This version is even better value, making it officially the most value for money item I have ever bought - it unbelievably comes with bonus tracks and a bonus CD of the band's legendary and record-breaking performance at Glastonbury 1992, which is the largest stagefront crowd the festival has ever seen.
Levelling the Land ~ The Levellers.
This the difficult 2nd album from the Brighton based punky, Celtic festival following band. The original vocalist (Alan Miles) left before this album but is credited with co writing one or more songs. This album is interesting in that it seems more 'measured' than the first with a clear desire to get their thoughts across in a 'story telling' way with lyrics.
*******The band line up*******
Mark Chadwick - Guitars, vocals
Charlie Heather - Drums/percussion
Jonathan Sevink - Fiddle
Jeremy Cunningham - Bass guitar, artwork
Simon Friend - Guitars, vocals, mandolin
1. One Way (of life, and that's your own).
Much more of an accomplished musical offering than the hardened fesitival going fan might be used to. Good use of drums and guitar, bit of didgeridoo and the vocals are clear and to the point. The lyrics are very much about making your own decision and way in life. Not as frenetic as early Levellers offerings, catchy chorus, good opener. 7/10.
2. The Game.
Very rousing, back to dominant fiddles which is nice, heavy drums, great music, lyrics are a bit lame. 6/10.
3. Fifteen Years.
I have to say I have never liked this song, all a bit morose without much meaning in my opinion, nice drums and fiddle though. 6/10.
4. The Boatman.
My favourite Levellers track of all. I have this on my list to be played at my funeral. Very old English in style, guitar used like a lute, tambourines, drums, fiddle. Incredibly atmospheric song telling the tale of wistful thoughts about how people might want to live their lives, drifting down canals, smelling wood smoke. This really is the Levellers saying something pure and from the heart. 10/10.
5. Liberty Song.
Lots of fans feel this is a real favourite as it is a festival rouser, very much in tune with the first album. It's good, but to me just does not 'fit' after the last track. 6/10.
6. Far From Home.
Great catchy tune, seems to me to be a natural follow up from 'Carry me'. Very acoustic and 'nice'. 7/10.
7. Sell Out.
Back to a bit of politics, strong lyrically and musically, but doesn't seem to go anywhere for me. 6/10.
8. Another Man's Cause.
Fantastic. This is when The Levellers are at their best, telling folk like stories that have personal investment. The story of a young man going off to join the army, his father killed in the Falklands, his brother somewhere else. His mother 'crying home alone'. Acoustically brilliant, rousing, building, touching, the vocals are great too. 9 and ½ /10.
9. The Road.
Another throwback to 'carry me' all fiddles and lilting voice, guitar and drums, okay, but heard it all before. 5/10.
10. The Riverflow.
Bit like it could have been a part two to any of the songs on this album. Worthy for one line: "Well I don't know how you made it through all the smoke and brew you do, but it sure has left it's mark on you, but your'e still with us today, hooray". 7/10.
11. Battle of the Beanfield.
The story of the infamous battle when Wiltshire police beat the hell out a load of travellers, wrecking their vans, beating pregnant women and all for the sake of a party in a field miles from anywhere and anyone. Very powerful and a great song, that musically builds and uses the instruments to create an atmosphere that is charged to say the least. 9/10.
There are four more tracks on the 'digitally remastered' version, I do not have that version.
So how is it as a 2nd album? Great, not a really weak link amongst the tracks and a couple of the Levellers best ever offerings. What the first album is in energy, this is in story telling, superb.
The first album may be a bit too 'cliquey' for the generic fan, if so, this is the album you should have in your collection, great introduction to the band, and some of their best work. Miles better than album three.
The first album is on 'suggestion' with Dooyoo, and if it comes through I will be reviewing that one too, lol.
We are going back a bit with this one. Back to September 1991. Back into the history of one of the biggest bands of their musical genre. What musical genre would that be?
Mmm difficult question the Levellers are a very difficult band to pigeonhole. Folk rock, folk punk, both have been used to describe them and in some ways I suppose apt, but neither really do justice to the Levellers unique sound.
I would say that on this album they sound partially like a folk band you wouldn't be surprised to hear in an Irish pub on a Saturday night.
Even closer maybe would possibly would be gypsies singing around a Romany campfire on a summers evening considering the subject matter of the album
Add drums and bass to the mix of guitar, mandolin, violin and harmonicas to give more depth and range to the sound and you won't be far wrong. There is also a touch of the 'busker' in there as well, providing an effect of untamed freedom that widens the scope of their music. That is my impression anyway.
Never heard of the Levellers? Shame on you, never mind let me introduce the band.
They met in a pub in Brighton in 1988 and within two years they were headlining at Glastonbury.
They being, lead vocalist and guitarist Mark Chadwick, the multitalented Simon Friend who provides vocals, guitar, mandolin and harmonica. The bass player is Jeremy Cunningham, who incidentally is responsible for the artwork adorning the cover and completing the line up, ace violinist Jon Sevink and drummer Charlie Heather.
To the music then, I have described the overall sound of the album above and the opening song, One Way is a prime example of the style of things to come. Opening with guitars a counterpoint of violin and mandolin is joined by a slow rhythmic throbbing bass drum. There can be no mistaking the subject matter, a song about personal freedom (or the lack of it) from the opening line 'There's only one way of life and that's your own'. It also tells of the failure of the punk/ anarchy movement of the late eighties to make any difference to society.
The Game continues the anti authority theme but more subtly this time. It uses a poker game to signify politics and the effects that one decision can have on others. This is a faster song than One Way fast violin starts the song and the tempo is kept high throughout giving the impression of anger against a failed system.
A change of pace for The Boatman, this is perhaps the most 'folk' song on the album. Guitar and violin provide the backdrop for a slower song about life on the road, of being free to wander as one chooses ending with the sad truth that that is not something we are free to do. There is a long outro to this one, violin and mandolin combine to leave the listener with a vague sense of regret at chances missed to be free to live the simple life. This peacefulness doesn't last long though as Liberty Song is next, a much more punchy song starting with hammering guitar and violin. The style of this one is hard hitting, almost staccato as it talks again of lack of freedom and oppression of the common man.
Side one is completed by Far from Home. This one has the qualities of an Irish jig or even a barndance song, fast violin and mandolin against a quick drumbeat. This song is simply about having fun and I could imagine it being the sort of song that would be sung around the campfire with people dancing in the trees.
Side two; yes you youngsters, in the olden days you had to turn a vinyl record over to listen to the other side.
This side holds my favourite tracks of the album. Theme wise it is a continuation of side one but somehow seems to be detached from it and a single entity of its own. Maybe its because you listen to it as a single listening experience but somehow it seems to knit together better than side one.
Side two opens with Sell Out, A scathing attack on modern politics and policies. It continues the blast at society, taking racism and human rights along with misuse of our planet as its theme. A lot to fit in one song but I think it sums up the failures of the modern world quite succinctly. Musically Sell Out retains that 'jiggy' feel but this time added guitar and bass add more punch and underline the message of the song.
Another mans cause is pure ballad and is unashamedly an anti war song. It tells the tale of a family decimated by loss in another mans war and although it talks about the Falklands it could quite easily be as true today after the Iraq conflict. It just shows nothing changes doesn't it.
The Road is back to the theme of freedom to roam and do as one pleases. Following on from Another Mans Cause this is a soft song giving an impression of being at peace with a chosen lifestyle of wandering free. Mandolin and violin predominate with gentle guitar work adding to the melody.
The River Flow is my least favourite track, I won't say it is bad or a weak link because its not but for some reason it just doesn't affect me in the same way that the rest of the album does. It is again in that slightly staccato style telling a tale of happiness and dealing with life's problems. Guitar and drum take the lead this time with the violin in the background. I don't know what it is about this song but for some reason, for me it just doesn't work.
Finally the album ends with Battle of the Beanfield. The anger at injustice is back with avengence in this tale of persecution and injustice of authority. It is the story of an attack by police on a convoy of travellers as they made their way to Stonehenge on June 1st 1985. Police using what was reported to be overly violent methods arrested Four hundred and twenty people. Many fled into a field of beans adjacent to the road hence where the title came from. Starting with bass drum that is joined by bass guitar it has a brooding quality right from the start that is made even more melancholy by the slow violin that blends in. Harmonica provides the harsh sound of police sirens as the song builds as anger makes the track louder and faster.
This is perhaps my favourite song on the album, with the historical story behind it adding meaning to the music and the words.
Well, that is my interpretation of what I think is a fantastic album by a very underrated band. Of course you could ignore all that and just listen to it as a fantastic musical experience but I think you would be missing something should you choose to.
Levelling the Land is a record that I have listened to over many years and it has certainly stood the test of time. Many of the themes of the songs just as relevant today as they were then. That is sad really when you think about it as it means that none of the problems or injustices have really changed in the last fifteen years.
The record is available on CD as well as vinyl on China records for the vinyl and 1992 CD or Electra for CD, 1999 release. I have found it on Amazon priced £11 for CD or vinyl on very limited availability. It is also available from the Levellers shop on their website price £14 for the CD.
Listen and Enjoy.
©Docpov September 2005.
and that's your own! Well this sums up the band and the whole idea behind the Levellers to a tee, this band needs to be listened to again and again............ The band are folkish, rockish, celticish, australianish (well, they do use a didgeridoo!) However, back to the review :-) This album goes from the anthem 'One way' to the jiggy 'The Game' to the next anthem 'fifteen years' 'The Boatman' is a corker and then 'Far from home' comes on .... well, lets just say that this album is the best one to buy if you've never heard them before, but want to give them a try. This music just stirs me everytime i listen to it, I never learn lyrics, usually because after the first few plays i've got bored and i won't listen it for months. But when this band are on my sterio, i know nearly every word of every song, maybe it's sad for a 32 year old to be in the fanclub of a band, but they are soo cool! Borrow it if you have to, but i would add this to your 'must buys'
I bought this on a whim some years ago when it first came out because I liked the song, "One way of Life" and was quickly surprised and pleased by other songs that keep a traditional and passionate style of music,lyric and melody: Such as;"The Boatman",Far from Home,Another Man's Cause,The Riverflow and Battle of the Beanfield". Great political themes and I think even if you aren't "political" you will like this music! If you like this kind of music check out Delaney's Donkey I heard them on the Net and they have a nice sound... Cheers all
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 One Way
4 Liberty Song
5 Far From Home
6 Sell Out
7 Another Man's Cause
10 Battle Of The Beanfield
11 Fifteen Years