Level 42 – The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 2 (1985-1989) boxset review

1 07 2021

Level 42 are releasing a 10 CD set titled The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 2 (1985-1989), that contains all the Level 42 albums from that era plus further discs containing B-Sides, 7” mixes, remixes and rare tracks.

Regarded as the bands most commercial period, this collection features all the hits from the era including Running in the Family, Lessons in Love and Leaving Me Now.

Discs 6 -10 contain all the B-Sides, 7” mixes, remixes and rare versions from 1985-1989. Level 42 – The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 2 was compiled in conjunction with Level 42 and band experts Paul Wallace, Paul Waller and Simon Carson.

The comprehensive sleeve notes were written by Record Collectors Daryl Easlea who has spoken to band members current and past.

The collection kicks off with the 1985 live album A Physical Presence on the first two discs. I spent my teenage years in Woolwich, but had moved away and so missed this tour, that included a show at The Coronet in Woolwich, one of the gigs featured on this album, along with tracks recorded at The Hexagon (Reading) and Goldiggers in Chippenham.

A Physical Presence captures the band at their jazz-funk peak, before the more mainstream success that followed with the next few albums. Highlights include a crowd-participating Turn It On and the flawless second disc, with six killer tracks in a row, including a powerful version of Hot Water.

World Machine saw the band start to move away from their signature style, towards a more electronic pop sound. Known for the massive hit singles – Something About You (a truly great pop song) and Leaving Me Now, other highlights include the sublime arrangement of the title track, the percussive Coup D’etat and the Rhodes driven Lying Still, with some wonderful Steely Dan sounding harmonies.

Disc four contains the Running In The Family album from 1987. The album opens with a staple of 80s nostalgia radio stations, Lessons In Love, which is simply one of the band’s finest singles. There is a real consistency in the song-writing and performances on this album, resulting in 5 of the 8 album tracks being released as singles.

“All the dreams that we were building
We never fulfilled them”

Children Say has a lovely refrain and other highlights include It’s Over, the band’s final UK Top 10 hit and album closer Freedom Someday. Brothers Phil and Boon Gould left the band after the release of Running In The Family.

Guitarist Alan Murphy (Kate Bush / Go West) and drummer Gary Husband joined for Staring at the Sun, the last studio album in this collection, which appears on disc five.

Heaven in My Hands was the biggest hit from the album, peaking at No12 in the UK single charts. I love Alan Murphy’s guitar style, particularly from his work with Kate Bush as well as his strong contributions to this album, sadly his only appearance with the band, as he died in 1989. Sting guitarist Dominic Miller also features on the album.

Staring at the Sun feels very different from earlier Level 42 albums, with a shift towards a more pop/rock sound. Key tracks include the top 30 single Take A Look (what a chorus, by the way), the addictive Silence and the rare later period instrumental Gresham Blues.

The final five discs round up b sides, 7″ and 12″ mixes plus live tracks from the period. My personal highlights from these tracks include one of my favourite 80s 12″ mixes, Something About You (Sisa Mix), World Machine (Shep Pettibone Remix), the very much of it’s time, drum-less Heaven In My Hands (Guitarpella Mix), the surprisingly effective “funky drummer” take of Take A Look (Remix) and the 2nd version of Starchild (Remix) on disc 9, that clocks in at nearly 8 minutes.

The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 2 (1985-1989) is a great way to collect the Level 42 albums from the most commercially successful period of the bands career, and is an 80s music fans dream.

Buy Level 42 – The Complete Polydor Years Volume Two on Amazon

Disc One: A Physical Presence (Part 1)

  1. Almost There
  2. Turn It On
  3. Mr. Pink
  4. Eyes Waterfalling
  5. Kansas City Milkman
  6. Follow Me
  7. Foundation And Empire

Disc Two: A Physical Presence (Part 2)

  1. The Chant Has Begun
  2. The Chinese Way
  3. The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)
  4. Hot Water
  5. Love Games
  6. 88

Disc Three: World Machine

  1. World Machine
  2. Physical Presence
  3. Something About You
  4. Leaving Me Now
  5. I Sleep On My Heart
  6. It’s Not The Same For Us
  7. Dream Crazy
  8. Good Man In A Storm
  9. Coup D’etat
  10. Lying Still

Disc Four: Running In The Family

  1. Lessons In Love
  2. Children Say
  3. Running In The Family
  4. It’s Over
  5. To Be With You Again
  6. Two Solitudes (Everyone’s Love In The Air)
  7. Fashion Fever
  8. The Sleepwalkers
  9. Freedom Someday

Disc Five: Staring At The Sun

  1. Heaven In My Hands
  2. I Don’t Know Why
  3. Take A Look
  4. Over There
  5. Silence
  6. Tracie
  7. Staring At The Sun
  8. Two Hearts Collide
  9. Man
  10. Gresham Blues

Disc Six: 7” Singles

  1. Follow Me – Live – 7ʺ Remix
  2. Something About You – 7ʺ Version
  3. Leaving Me Now – 7ʺ Remix
  4. Running In The Family – 7ʺ Version
  5. To Be With You Again -7ʺ Version
  6. It’s Over – 7ʺ Remix
  7. Children Say – 7ʺ Remix
  8. Heaven In My Hands – 7ʺ Version
  9. Tracie – 7ʺ Version
  10. Take Care Of Yourself – 7ʺ Version

Disc Seven: B Sides

  1. Coup D’état – Version
  2. Something About You – U.S. Remix – Edit
  3. Micro Kid – Live – Full Length Version
  4. It’s Over – Instrumental
  5. Physical Presence – Live
  6. Starchild – Remix
  7. Three Words
  8. Silence – Live At The NEC Birmingham
  9. Man – Live At The NEC Birmingham

Disc Eight: 12” Singles & Remixes

  1. Something About You – Sisa Mix
  2. I Sleep On My Heart – Remix
  3. Lessons In Love – Extended Version
  4. Something About You – Shep Pettibone Remix
  5. Something About You – Instrumental
  6. World Machine – Shep Pettibone Remix
  7. World Machine – Dub
  8. Lessons In Love – Shep Pettibone Remix
  9. Lessons In Love – Dub Mix
  10. To Be With You Again – A.D.S.C. Mix
  11. To Be With You Again – Dub

Disc Nine: 12” Singles & Remixes

  1. It’s Over – Extended Remix
  2. Running In The Family – Dave ‘O’ Remix
  3. Children Say – Extended Remix
  4. Starchild – Remix
  5. Heaven In My Hands – Extended Version
  6. Heaven In My Hands – US Remix
  7. Take A Look – Extended Mix
  8. Tracie – Extended Mix
  9. Tracie – US Remix
  10. Take Care Of Yourself – Extended Version
  11. Take Care Of Yourself – Remix
  12. Starchild – Remix

Disc Ten: Bonus Tracks

  1. World Machine – Live Hammersmith Odeon 1985
  2. Leaving Me Now – Live Hammersmith Odeon 1985
  3. Something About You – Live Hammersmith Odeon 1985
  4. The Platinum Edition Megamix
  5. Lessons In Love – Shep’s Final Mix
  6. Running In The Family – HTL Dub
  7. Children Say – Slap Bass Mix
  8. Heaven In My Hands – Guitarpella Mix
  9. Take A Look – Remix
  10. Two Hearts Collide – 7ʺ Remix
  11. Two Hearts Collide – Extended Remix
  12. Take Care Of Yourself – Radio Edit
  13. Heaven In My Hands – Original Album Mix

Buy Level 42 – The Complete Polydor Years Volume Two on Amazon

Buy the previous box-set – Level 42 – The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 1 (1980-1984) from Amazon


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