Standing in the Light was Level 42's first major success in the U.K., hitting the top ten in 1983 and beginning a string of successful recordings that would continue throughout the band's career. The band's previous releases were pleasant but somewhat tepid exercises in jazz-lite; Standing in the Light not only marked a significant change of direction, but proved Level 42 could truly be an ace pop band.
Level 42's first three releases Level 42 (1981), The Pursuit of Accidents (1982), and The Early Tapes (a compilation of material recorded in 1980, prior to the band's signing to Polydor) revealed a promising young band with undeniable talent and melodic instincts. Despite modest success with strong singles such as "Turn it On" and "The Chinese Way," pointless instrumentals and slick production added unnecessary weight to these albums. Standing in the Light was different for two main reasons : the songs were shorter and more accessible, and for the first time, all the songs included vocals. The group began as an all-instrumental jazz outfit; in order for Level 42 to become more commercially viable, bassist Mark King and keyboardist Mike Lindup eventually began to open their mouths and sing. Never a strong vocalist, King nevertheless was an engaging frontman, becoming more relaxed and self assured as the band's career progressed, while Lindup's falsetto backing vocals added a distinctive touch. "Micro Kid," the opening cut here, is a good example of their approach; the synth-heavy track also prominently features Lindup's brilliant keyboard work.
Produced by Larry Dunn and Verdine White of Earth, Wind and Fire (one of Level 42's obvious influences), Standing in the Light contains a number of strong tracks; the funky British top-ten hit "The Sun Goes Down" and the midtempo ballad "People" are highlights, and the band's amazing musicianship is always a pleasure to hear. Only the goofy "A Pharaoh's Dream (of Endless Time)" bogs down the album, and Mark King's trademark thumb-slapping bass playing technique makes even that tune worth hearing. Like most early-to-mid 80's albums, Standing in the Light also suffers from a somewhat dated sound, but it is one of the most impressive offerings in Level 42's strong body of work.