The second acoustic album from Levellers featuring guests from folk band The Moulettes gives a new twist to older songs.
Something rather different for me to be reviewing here! I’ve been a fan of Levellers since the release of their best-known album “Levelling the Land“, which is quite some time! However, I have never caught any of their live acoustic shows that they have done over the years. So once this album was offered to me, I jumped at it.
The “Levellers Collective” first appeared in 2018 with the album “We The Collective” which like this one featured Hannah Miller and Ollie Austin from The Moulettes, playing cello and percussion, and also Hannah adding her vocals to the songs. Also, this marks the first official Levellers recording for Dan Donelly who has been standing in for Simon Friend over the last few years on guitar. All the songs on here were recorded live in the studio too, so no vocal effects processing, multi-tracking etc. What you are going to hear is pure music.
So – what do we have here then? Let’s find out…
Seven reworkings and three new songs…
As has been proven by bands such as Nirvana, acoustic versions of their songs take on a new life. The seven re-workings on here add weight to that point. Covering 5 of the studio albums namely “Levelling The Land“, “Weapon Called The World“, “Green Blade Rising“, “Truth & Lies”, and “Letters From The Underground“.
The album starts with one any Levellers fan should know: “The Game“. This is a slower and moodier version, with Mark Chadwick’s vocals sounding much richer due to this. It’s always been an emotive track, now made even more so. A great start to proceedings.
The second ditty “Down By The River ‘O’ ” was a standalone single with long-time collaborator Rev Hammer released last year. Telling the story of the 1968 flood that affected Rev’s home town of Buntingford. This is very much a showcase for John Sevink’s phenomenal melodic violin playing – Always one of my favourite parts of Levellers songs. Very much in that good ol’ “Bluegrass” style, it’s a lively musical jaunt that at the least will get your feet tapping!
“The Cholera Well” is not a song I’m too familiar with, due to my pretty much stopping at the Zeitgeist album in my Levellers collection. This is another moody song with a simple but pleasing melody and great instrumentation. Following this we go back to the debut album for “Together All The Way“, which is pretty close to the original, but maybe a tad slower. Nice Mandolin work on this one.
A couple more that I’m not as familiar with next…
“Wake The World” and “Wheels” are these two tracks. Again from albums from the later works (Which I must ensure to give some ear time to!) these sound like they were written with acoustic performance in mind. On the first, we get some pleasing backing vocals from Hannah, adding a nice twist to the usually all-male vocals of the band. The second is a most splendid track, that has a real swing to it. Mark’s vocals on this one are among the best I’ve heard from him. Superb!
On to much more familiar territory next with “Battle of The Beanfield“. Live at a full gig, this has always been a powerful song, which if you know what it’s about adds to the power. So to digress slightly, and let those of you who don’t know the song subject, here we go. On June 1st 1985, Wiltshire Police stopped a convoy of new-age Travellers from getting to Stonehenge. As this was not long after the miner’s strikes, the police went in with the same violent and brutal mentality, smashing vehicles and pretty much beating up any Traveller they could, including pregnant women and those carrying young children. It was going to be interesting then to hear how this song played out in this acoustic format.
The Cello plays a big part in adding depth and drama to the mood the lyrics delivered here. In a strange way, this has given an already angry and emotive song more bite and is definitely my favourite here.
Last three songs – over too quickly?!
None of the songs on here so far have been lengthy, and these last three tracks are also over in a relatively short time. Comprising of two new songs “Man ‘o’ War” and “Sitting In The Social” sandwiching the third track taken from LTL “Sell Out!“. As is part of the Levellers’ appeal, these songs address social inequalities very well. in fact “Sell Out” and “Sitting In The Social” seems even more appropriate to the current time we live in here in the UK.
Now, is the album over too quickly? I’d say it’s bang on, as it’s one of those albums you would like to playback from the start all over again. It’s dare I say it, a soothing album. The beautiful melodies wash over like a salve of happiness despite the lyrical themes.
Levellers put modern folk-rock into popular music, and this album certainly keeps the folk torch burning very brightly. It’s a beautifully crafted selection, that should appeal to anyone who loves music with strong melodies, and songs that you can sing along to as well.
In a nutshell – it’s bloody brilliant!
Track Listing (original album appearances in brackets)
01: The Game (Levelling The Land)
02: Down By The River ‘O’
03: The Cholera Well (Letters From The Undeground)
04: Together All The Way (Weapon Called The World)
05: Wake The World (Green Blade Rising)
06: Wheels (Truth And Lies)
07: Battle Of The Beanfield (Levelling The Land)
08: Man ‘o’ War
09: Sell Out! (Levelling The Land)
10: Sitting In The Social
- CD £10.88