Level 42

Running in the Family

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By Running in the Family, Level 42 had almost completely thinned out their early jazz-funk and soul roots in favor of a radio-friendly keyboard pop with a light R&B vibe. The sound lies somewhere between Kool and the Gang and early Tears for Fears. But if early fans might have felt betrayed by the new direction, the band's newfound aptitude for attention-grabbing hooks and airtight instrumental polish attracted more than enough new fans to replace them. Running in the Family included the band's sole number one hit in the U.K. charts, "Lessons in Love." It also featured a handful of other respectable pop nuggets including "Children Say" and "Fashion Fever." The record is a little uneven, faltering especially when the band indulges its taste for sappy ballads like "It's Over." But for the most part, Level 42 was extremely successful in its attempt to create something that would strike a chord with mainstream pop audiences. And they manage to do it without being obnoxiously derivative. Of course, the whole project reeks of 1987. But the solid craftsmanship of the writing as well as the group's ability to adapt to the popular tastes of the time helped them survive the '80s and become one of the more durable bands to have arisen in that era.

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