Friday, 14 June 2013

A look through the archives

And by that I mean that I might be sorting through the boxes under my bed.

Just found this review about a Levellers CD!

As a youngster in the early 1990s, I would have laughed if anyone had told me that the Levellers would be playing the Royal Albert Hall in years to come. This is a band that famously recorded the largest ever crowd for their headline performance at Glastonbury, who put on their own Beautiful Days Festival and a band who are loved by their fans for their energetic, powerful live performances, rather than performing classical venues like this one.

However, in September 2008, the band did play at the Royal Albert Hall, and this CD is a wonderful homage to that evening. Such is the incredible sound purity of this live 10-track album, you get a real sense of being at the gig.

The first track No Change features just two of the Levellers line-up, lead singer Mark Chadwick on guitar and Jon Sevink on trademark fiddle and providing backing vocals, in a understated and beautiful song reflecting the current political climate even more accurately than when this song was written 20 years ago. The rest of the band, along with a string quartet, join the pair to perform Julie, a haunting and touching song about a heroin addict; this version sounds so beautiful and crisp amongst the awe-inspiring of the Royal Albert Hall, that it brought me to tears.

Together All the Way brings the tempo back up with a rousing favourite, and the pace increases with Before the End, a surprising love song by the band.

The string quartet really comes into its own with Chemically Free, a song not often heard played live. This song appears on Mouth to Mouth, but is brought to life on this live album with the most incredible string version that is a million times better than the recorded version and sounds like a classic folk song.

Death Loves Youth is a newer offering from the Levellers, and this is a great version. Then its back to the 1990s for Exodus, a much-underrated song from the Zeitgeist album, which has much to say about civil liberties. This version, and Hope Street and This Garden, which follow, are softened by the additional strings, and once again performed passionately, underlining how the lyrics are just as relevant today as when they were written about the Tory government. The last track on the CD is Men-An-Tol, sung by Simon Friend whose voice matches the venue for elegance. The track formed part of the encore on the night, sending very happy Levellers fans into an autumnal London night.

Even the artwork is brilliant, provided as ever, by Levellers bassist Jeremy Cunningham. Levellers Live at the Royal Albert Hall is a must-have, not just for the Levs fan, but for anyone who appreciates the hard work, vivacity and musicanship of talented bands who’ve stood the test of time, as opposed to the gibber that’s served up by the likes of X-Factor and Fearne Cotton.

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