29 January 2014
The Levellers - Levelling The Land
Back in 1991 you would have been hard pressed to find a band that was so popular, but so far removed from the so-called popular band at the beginning of the Grunge era and the end of the Madchester era as well. The Levellers were socially and politically aware of the work, created and loved by the travelling community, the press at the time loved them and were surprised by them as well, and they looked out of place with their none-dower appearance and positive messages. To say they were bucking the trend is an understatement, if you have been to an indie disco or rock club then you will have heard at least one of their numbers. They are still going strong to this day and doing regular tours around Europe and beyond. This is the album that made their presence know to the larger public. Now into its 23rd year, how does it hold up?
Starting off with arguably their most well known tune "One Way" which goes on about have only one way in life which is your own. For some people this is over played dribble, but not for me; for me it still has that moment of joy that comes from jumping around like a loon and growing up with this song being everywhere. It is still one of my most favourite tunes ever. Next is "The Game" which goes on about how life is not a game or a practice. It also has a few choice words about religion, war, politics and gambling. Following onto this is a song that was not on the very first pressing of the album, but has since become part of it - "15 Years". Originally released as part of an EP called the 15 Years EP, it was one of their biggest hits; it is a tragic story about a man who's life have turned to shit and all the booze and distractions cannot hide the fact his true love has fled. This could be one of the best modern interpretations of a medieval bard-esque tunes that has ever been released. It is a storming tune which fits into the album with ease and does not sound like an add-on.
The mood is changed with the tale of wanting to be free in the job of choice with "The Boatman". It is a damming condemnation of modern life and how choice is just an illusion. I love the fact it is filled with much of the protest and social commentary that is sorely missing from quite a lot of music these days. In the end, they wish they are freemen; I agree with that sentiment today as I did when I first heard this album; however the strange breakdown at the end still confuses me (but only a little). For me, the next track is the best song on the album, "Liberty Song". Lots of people would say "One Way" or "15 Years", yet I still find myself loving this one more. Maybe it is because it was never overplayed, maybe it is because it is just better or maybe it is because I am an awkward bastard at heart. However, from the building fiddle opening, the drums and the shouts of 'Coming to get you' just makes this one of my most favourite songs by The Levellers. A song about how our liberties are being eroded and taken, it could still be about these modern times and the bunch of muppets which are currently in charge. "Far From Home" is about travelling and making home where you can find it, it is decent but not exactly my most favourite song on the album.
"Sell Out" is much more like it, it is battle ready, it will take the crowd by storm, making no compromise with the state of the country in 1991 and again it is just as relevant today as it was back then. The band is wanting the world to go back to a simpler time where they could be without the trapping and cage like feeling of modern times. I cannot find anything wrong with this; it does feel like we are sold out daily, today just as we were then. Next is the haunting and poetically beautiful "Another Man's Cause"; a haunting ballad about the duty of a soldier and dying for something that is not of your doing. It is a brilliant look at the side of how a pacifist who does not want to be a soldier, it is a commentary on how there are solider families who just keep sending their young to the same end as their fathers. It is beautiful, moving and true - no one should have to do that job, but it is still being done.
After that moving piece you have "The Road" which does not exactly follow that wonderful moment with ease. It is slow number about moving with the day and much like "Far From Home" it is ok, but it is hardly essential to the overall feeling of the album. "The Riverflow" is next with its tale about meeting up with someone from years ago and how times have changed the person and the person who they are singing about. It is another moment of brilliance that is peppered through this album. Ending the album proper is "Battle Of The Beanfield" which is a brilliant piece of social commentary again from people trying to fight the cause of the common people against the establishment. This is another piece that could have been wrote for now, especially after the introduction of the so called gagging law which is aimed to get business needs like the new high speed tunnel through parliament, but without people being able to speak up - ie, the politicians not letting anyone have their say until election time. Strange how the world turns.....
On later editions of the album there are five extra tracks which were the b-sides to "One Way" and the other tracks from the 15 Years EP. The best one's of this set are "Last Days Of Winter", "Dance Before The Storm" and the cover of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia. All these songs are well worth looking into. This is a timeless album which has aged incredibly well; it is still relevant today as it was then. It might have been slightly out of place then, but it was right at the heart of what was going on as well.
10 out of ten - This is proof that there is a God.
Top tune - Liberty Song
You can purchase from the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Levellers website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Also, you can listen to it on Deezer here
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