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Levellers – We The Collective Review

Genre: Folk Punk 

Label: On The Fiddle Recordings

Release date: Out Now

https://www.levellers.co.uk/

Members: 

Mark Chadwick – lead vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonica
Jeremy “Jez Cunningham – bass guitar, guitar, bouzouki, backing vocals 
Charlie Heather – drums, percussion
Jonathan “Jon” Sevink – fiddle, violin, tin whistle, sequencer, sample loop
Simon Friend – guitar, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, vocals
Matt Savage – keyboards, backing vocals

Additional Musicians:

Hannah Miller: Cello , Backing Vocals
Anisa Arslanagic: Viola
Mike Simmonds: Violin
Ollie Austin: Percussion
String Arrangements by: Jon, Hannah & Ollie
Laura Kidd: Backing vocals on Drug Bust McGee
Stephen Boakes: Digeridoo on Elation
Tobias May: Extra Percussion

Tracklisting: 

Disc: 1
1. Exodus
2. Liberty Song
3. England My Home
4. Subvert
5. Hope Street
6. Elation
7. Dance Before the Storm
8. The Shame
9. Drug Bust McGee
10. One Way

Disc: 2 (From the Vinyl / Deluxe CD Editions)
1. Fifteen Years
2. Outside Inside
3. All the Unknown
4. Said and Done

Celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2018, Brighton folk-punk band Levellers released ‘We The Collective’ at the end of March via the band’s own label, On The Fiddle Recordings.

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 10 track album I’ve been listening to for some five or six weeks now. I’ve waited to review this in full because the Deluxe CD version contains an extra disc with 4 additional songs and given that one of them is a reworking of the classic ‘Fifteen Years’,  I felt it was worth waiting until the full package arrived on the doormat. 

The ten track main album opens with ‘Exodus’ which contain the lyric that gives us the album title and offers a glimpse into the time and effort the band have put into overhauling some of their classic songs. That the songs are classics makes it all the more difficult for the band to release something that long time fans will accept. If you’ve been a fan of Levellers for as long as I have, the mere thought of a reworked version of a track like ‘One Way’ will make you nervous. Many artists have tried and history is littered with examples where it all went terribly wrong. Why would you do it? It’s like trying to paint a different version of the Mona Lisa and convince people that it’s worth displaying next to the original. 

Thankfully this left does feel right and the band have put some serious thought into the way these songs have been reworked and they’re nothing short of glorious. 

The strings in ‘Exodus’ hint at what a live show can produce and if you want further insight into the tour that’s coming up in the summer, then have a look at our live review below from a recent show at London’s Roundhouse venue. 

Levellers, In The Round, with DM Farley, The Roundhouse, London, February 4 2018

The energy that ‘Liberty Song’ typically presents both on the band’s classic album ‘Levelling The Land’ and also in their powerful live shows has been harnessed and turned into something that does deserve to be hung next to the original canvas for people to compare. For those unconvinced, new material also exists on the album to give you a reason to investigate further. 

The Shame’ is a hard-hitting piece showing the plight of refugees in Europe and beyond, in the face of geo-political maneuverings from our world leaders. It covers the sort of issue that the band have steadfastly championed over the last 30 years and is a welcome addition to the album. The video for this can be seen below: 

Elsewhere, ‘Drug Bust McGee’ paints a great story and the accompanying video highlights the time and effort spent at the world famous Abbey Road Studios to create this album. 

If the though that “this can never better the original” is one that springs to mind when considering whether to purchase this album then think again. This is a beautifully created album and perhaps the most impressive advertisement for a live tour that has ever been pulled together. It’s a smart move to follow the album release with the tour featuring the same collective of musicians and whilst the tour has been postponed due to the tragic death of Charlie Heather’s son, it recommences in June with some European dates before a full UK tour in the summer with Ginger Wildheart in support on a large selection of dates. A full electric European leg celebrating 30 years of the band follows in the Autumn and details can be found below:

https://www.levellers.co.uk/events

Overall this will appeal to long time fans of the band, it’s already given Levellers the highest chart entry in 20 years proving that they have as much to say today as they did back in the mid 1990s. The quality of musicianship is unquestionable and the songs themselves are timeless classics. 

The main album wraps up with ‘One Way’ unsurprisingly and it’s guaranteed to leave a smile on the face as wide as the day is long. Entertaining you whilst raising awareness about issues that directly and indirectly affect us all, some things never and should not change. 

Score 9/10

Reviewed by: Adrian Hextall

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