Friday, June 30, 2017

30 on the 30th: Running in the Family and "It's Over"

March 1987 was all about U2; April 1987 gave us Prince; May 1987 brought Suzanne Vega. For late June of 1987, I toast the 30-year-old memory of that minor masterpiece, Running in the Family, by the fantastic (and too often forgotten) English funk-jazz-pop outfit, Level 42.

I'm cheating with this release in at least two ways. First, I've almost certainly missed it's U.S. release date; the album hit in March of 1987 in the U.K., and while it wasn't released simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic, I doubt it was this late. But hey--so much good stuff came out in the spring of that year that something had to be pushed back if I was going to keep myself to just one a month.

Second, I didn't listen to this album in 1987. I knew the radio hits--"Lessons in Love," most obviously--but I didn't have any real appreciation of this band, much less this album, until a mission companion of mine in South Korea a couple of years taught me something about funk and R&B music (which, as my entry on Prince a couple of months ago made clear, was far from thorough at the time!), and that inspired me to pick up Level 42's Level Best as an interesting example of what can be done with the style. That compilation album became one of my scriptures in the months that followed, and I couldn't wait to get back home and find out all the other tunes of theirs that I missed out on. Which I did--and now, 27 years later, while this doesn't have my absolute favorite Level 42 numbers on it (that would probably be "Heaven in my Hands" and "Tracie" from the following year's Staring at the Sun), it's an overall delight, one which never fails to take me back to memories both soulfully old and brassily kick-butt.

Which track to celebrate? How about this version of "It's Over," which is synth-heavy, but which also shows the way Level 42, and bandleader Mark King in particular, could very nearly create an authentic slow jam/quiet storm feel, when they wanted to.

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