Level 42 – Staring At The Sun (1988): Review


Produced by Wally Badarou, Julian Mendelsohn and Level 42
Label – Polydor

Following the success of 1987s “Running In The Family”, Level 42’s stock as the premier UK based pop/funk crossover act was assured, but the original fusion of the two genres had been watered down with each individual collection until by 1988 the band were a highly polished pop group with only the merest hint of their funk past. The pressures and relationships began to unfold the previous year, and the rigours of touring and future direction frustrated guitarist Boon Gould and his brother, drummer Phil. They opted out and elected to leave the band they had founded with Mark King and Mike Lindup. The pair hastily appointed Steve Topping and Gary Husband to begin rehearsals for “Staring At The Sun”. Increasing problems were created when Topping abruptly quit, stating that King was impossible to work with. Go West guitarist Alan Murphy was brought in to replace Topping to fulfill recording duties for the album.


Probably as a result of the personnel upheaval, “Staring At The Sun” is by far Level 42’s most uneven performance. There is a definite lack of bite in the songs, none of King’s superior bass prowess, with listless arrangements and a tired, formulaic production effort. Songs like the instrumental “Gresham Blues” sound like the backing music for one of those 80s sex instruction videos. The title track seems cast in one of those garish Yuppie bars of the time, and the hilarious talk over vocals of “Man” remind the listener of Nigel Tufnel’s narration to “Stonehenge”. There are a couple of strong songs within all the banality; with the uptempo funk/rock “Heaven In My Hands”, which became a successful single, and harks back to the “Hot Water” era Level 42. The sweetly heartfelt ballads “Take A Look” and “Silence” can’t disguise the rest of the album’s inherent problems which result in the band’s worst collection by far.

“Staring At The Sun” is the facile, fatuous face of 80s pop, and however one attempts to defend Level 42, even they must have known this one was a dud.


Track Listing
“Heaven in My Hands” (King / R. Gould) – 4:39
“I Don’t Know Why” (King / R. Gould) – 4.22
“Take a Look” (King / R. Gould / Lindup / Badarou) – 4:41
“Over There” (King / Lindup) – 3:59
“Silence” (Lindup) – 4:56
“Tracie” (King / Husband) – 4:53
“Staring at the Sun” (King / R. Gould / Badarou) – 4:39
“Two Hearts Collide” (King / R. Gould) – 4:10
“Man” (King / R. Gould / Badarou) – 7:23
“Gresham Blues” A (King) – 5:43

4 responses to “Level 42 – Staring At The Sun (1988): Review

  1. I actually used to really like early 80s Level 42, and like so many bands they opted to cater for commercialism before artistic value.

  2. For me “Staring at the sun” is one of Level’s absolute best albums, indeed ! Why did this album so rejected… it’s a mystery for me.

    • Thanks for the comment. I just felt that in comparison it lacked some of the bite from the backing music that had been so prevalent in previous recordings.

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