LEVELLERS – We The Collective (On The Fiddle Recordings, OTFCD029P)

We The CollectiveTo celebrate their 30th anniversary, We The Collective finds the Levellers’ reaffirming their mission statement, renewing their vows. Recorded at Abbey Road, with renowned producer John Leckie, the album re-imagines eight of their classic songs – from a vast back catalogue – including some singles, plus two new tracks.

Played acoustically, with an added string section, the rather gentler-sounding song arrangements might be seen as some sort of acknowledgement of the passage of time. After all, these once passionate young men are now passionate middle-aged men. Greyer now, they nonetheless stand proudly by their body of work, still enraged by injustice and hypocrisy. As well they might be, since it’s all too horribly apparent how relevant these songs continue to be.

Where opening track ‘Exodus’ ploughs straight in with some punchy late-Beatles strings, the punky ‘Subvert’ remains a quick-fire stomp, set off with scraping strings and a militaristic drum. Generally, though, the pace here feels marginally slower, the songs have a bit more room and now seem designed for listening rather than moshing. This allows greater reflection and depth to emerge, such as in ‘England My Home’, which is suitably thoughtful, angry and disappointed. ‘Liberty Song’ and ‘Dance Before The Storm’ also smooth out the melody lines, deepen the groove and allow space for the lyrics to shine.

‘Hope Street’ replaces the sawing guitar of the original with heavy strings, adding a vaguely distant-sounding vocal, almost like catching the sound of a busker playing just around the corner. ‘Elation’ features Celtic-flavoured backing vocals and a bombastic climax, in place of its original electro/bass fuzz-out. Its ‘House Of The Rising Sun’-style vocal is delivered over a discombobulating harpsichord loop.

The brace of new songs – both highly topical and political, naturally – stand up well in the ensemble. ‘The Shame’ is a withering indictment both of the situations that create refugees and the pointlessness of well-intentioned, but ultimately ineffectual, sympathy.

The Phil Spector-ish burst of drums and tambourines that open ‘Drug Bust McGee’ lead, not to a wall of sound, but to the alarming first line “I stole my name from a dead baby”. A bitter tale of an undercover cop sting unfolds: the women duped into relationships – and creating families – built on lies and deception in the name of infiltrating activist groups. It’s a dark and woeful song, all the more so for the appalling truth of it. (As a small grumble, the review copy of the CD doesn’t credit the female singers or other musicians. Hopefully this is remedied on the full sleeve notes).

The album closes with the anthemic ‘One Way’. This classic crowd singalong has been strangely stripped back so that when the chorus arrives it doesn’t boom out assertively, it sort of shuffles in with its head down. Perhaps it’s meant to make the listener pause and reassess: the internet age allows us to be too quick to judge others, as traditional assumptions about faith, gender and lifestyle dissolve. A bit more “live and let live” would be nice. Or, might it be an awkward nod to the notion that unfettered individualism has eroded our social conscience? Nonetheless, it sadly dulls the impact of what’s arguably the band’s most famous call to self-determination and ends the CD on a rather downbeat note.

Postscript: It would be disingenuous not to mention the dreadful personal circumstances that have delayed the release of this album and tour (now postponed to the summer) – but without wishing to dwell on them, either. It’s too easy to find things, retrospectively, in the music that couldn’t possibly have been there when it was recorded: too easy to be misdirected. Time will give the fairest hearing and be the better reviewer in the end. All condolences to Charlie Heather and family, and to the band.

Su O’Brien

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist website: www.levellers.co.uk

‘Drug Bust McGee’ – official video:

Levellers reveal brand new video for ‘McGee’

Levellers

Levellers have revealed the video for their latest single ‘McGee’, which was filmed at Abbey Road Studios while the band were recording their upcoming album ‘We The Collective’, out on March 9th.

The second of two new tracks on the album, following the first single ‘Shame’, it tackles the subject of undercover police, something the band themselves have experienced. While the track itself is a scathing attack on deceit and lack of trust, the video captures the band in a purely creative state in the impressive setting of Abbey Road’s Studio Two.

Featuring a string section and the talents of legendary producer John Leckie (Radiohead, Stone Roses), the album contains new acoustic arrangements for eight of their previous singles including ‘Liberty’, ‘Hope Street’ and ‘One Way’ which they recorded straight to tape at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios, alongside the two afore-mentioned new tracks.

As part of the band’s 30th anniversary celebrations, Levellers are already well in to their full Acoustic Tour, which started at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections, followed by an appearance at the Roundhouse in London as part of the “In The Round festival” season. The tour picks up again in March where they will be playing the new arrangements with guest musicians at a number of theatres and concert halls around the country. Support on the tour comes from Ginger Wildheart.

Celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2018, Brighton folk-punk band Levellers will be releasing We The Collective on March 9th via the band’s own label, On The Fiddle Recordings.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: www.levellers.co.uk

Levellers – new acoustic album

Levellers

Celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2018, Brighton folk-punk band Levellers will be releasing We The Collective on March 9th via the band’s own label, On The Fiddle Recordings.

Emerging victorious through the ups and downs of label deals, spats with the music press and the wear and tear of touring, the Levellers have long been, and still are, one of the best live bands around but their impressive back catalogue of recorded music is often overlooked.

The band had more platinum, gold, and silver albums in the UK in the 1990s than any other British act. They’ve had seven Top 40 albums, including the number 1 album Zeitgeist and their platinum-selling 1991 album Levelling The Land, along with a string of Top 40 singles including ‘This Garden’, ‘Hope St’, ‘One Way Of Life’ and ‘What A Beautiful Day’.

Wanting to do something a bit different with their back catalogue, they brought in a string section and enlisted legendary producer John Leckie (Radiohead, Stone Roses) to help develop new acoustic arrangements for eight of their previous singles including ‘Liberty’, ‘Hope Street’ and ‘One Way’ which they recorded straight to tape at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios.

They also recorded two brand new songs ‘Shame’ and ‘Drug Bust McGee’ and the result is the ten track album We The Collective. Lead singer Mark Chadwick says “The different musicians, producer and the studio combined to make something really special”.

As part of the celebrations, Levellers will head out on a full Acoustic Tour in the Spring where they will be playing the new arrangements with guest musicians, starting at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival. They will play at the Roundhouse in London as part of the In The Round festival as well as a number of theatres and concert halls around the country. Support on the tour comes from Ginger Wildheart on all dates except Glasgow and London.

Despite only just being announced, the tickets for Preston, Milton Keynes and Winchester have already sold out.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: www.levellers.co.uk

The “Making Of” video: