Fantasy Deluxe #14: World Machine


As outlined in A Love Deluxe, the past year or so has seen me become just a little bit addicted to creating “fantasy” deluxe editions. You take an album, and use whatever extra material is available (B-sides, Single Edits, 12″ Remixes, Demos, Out-takes, non-album 45s) to piece together a multi-disc celebration of it. 

There is one album in my collection which has been both officially deluxed (albeit 15 years go), and given the fantasy deluxe treatment by Yours Truly not once, but twice. That album is World Machine by Level 42.

Why? I shall try and explain!

My first attempt, a 4-disc affair, was a result of never being satisfied with the 2CD expanded edition offered up by Universal Music, after I happened upon a second-hand copy in a long-defunct independent music store quite a while ago. The design was nice enough; a glossy foldout panel thing with the outer frosted slipcases which were an integral part of the packaging until Universal started cutting corners and replacing them with a cheap band of semi-transparent tape. That you have to cut open!

Ahem. We digress. The main problem (aside from the brickwalled remastering – more on that subject in a trice) was a paucity of bonus material. Understandable when there are only two discs’ worth of space available, perhaps, but when CD1 is just the album itself and CD2 contains all manner of random live recordings and a pointless remix credited to “Electrokingdom feat. Mark King” it’s harder to give a generous verdict.


Universal’s attempt at a World Machine deluxe. Nice slipcase, shame about the contents…

Although arguably one of the finest-sounding albums out there (in my humble opinion, and shared by a few other people I’m pleased to learn), neither the remaster on this particular set nor an earlier effort in 2000 achieve anything positive. In fact, the latter is positively brutal.

Where, too, were all the single mixes and fantastic 12″ versions that Level 42 were famed for? Level Best, the 1989 Greatest Hits effort, and a confusing range of 12″ compilations – that’s where. Surely they could all be brought together in perfect harmony, on one all-encompassing fantasy deluxe?



At the time of my initial attempt to deluxe World Machine, there were three versions of the album available on CD; the original Polydor pressing with Dream Crazy as a bonus track, plus one from 2000 (as part of a “twofer” series that paired it up with 1984’s True Colours) and the aforementioned 2CD special edition from 2006. For all the supposed technological advances of the last 35 years, World Machine still sounds best on that silver disc made in 1985. So that’s our starting point.

Recorded by Julian Mendelsohn (who would go onto to work with Pet Shop Boys, Johnny Hates Jazz and several other acts noted for their superior sound) and co-produced by the band with the expert help of honorary extra member Wally Badarou, World Machine is probably the defining album of Level 42’s career.

Half a decade of occasionally breaking into the UK Top 40 with their brand of jazz-funk had led them to the point where their albums would merely chart somewhere in the Top 20 and sell modestly; the commercial progress of 1983’s Standing In The Light (#9) and its hit The Sun Goes Down (Livin’ It Up) (#10) did not continue with True Colours a year later (despite the fantastic single Hot Water reaching #18). They tried their best for nothing. Round and round, the same old tune.

Time to change the tune. Or, as Mark King recalled in the late 1980s, it was “time we started to write some proper (pop) songs”. Turns out they were rather good at it, too.

Something About You and Leaving Me Now have become staples of 80s compilations and playlists, in addition to being pretty big hits at the time (#6 and #15 in the UK). Where this album differs to Running In The Family is the spirit of the “old” Level 42 still shines bright; the title track is a powerhouse of gurgling bass, chugging synths and socially conscious lyrics. I Sleep On My Heart also has its roots on the dancefloor, its hypnotic circular groove predating Sade’s Paradise by almost 3 years.

These two tracks were remixed for inclusion on 12″ formats of the World Machine singles. Even by 1985 standards, to issue so few 45s from an album was unusual – although they’d done the same with both Standing In The Light and True Colours, the groundwork laid by Something About You and Leaving Me Now had placed them in a position from which they could have easily mined the LP for more hits. Instead they kept on Running, with the brand-new Lessons In Love only a few months later.

That would prove a huge smash in America as far down the line as 1987, which was indicative of how divergent the US and UK campaigns had been for the group. Something About You broke into the Billboard Top 10 at roughly the same time Lessons In Love was hitting #3 in Britain, and to confuse matters further the US version of World Machine was significantly altered; the True Colours singles were included at the expense of Coup D’Etat and (surprisingly) I Sleep On My Heart, while the seamless opening trio on Side 1 were broken up by the placement of Something About You as opener.

The US configuration became CD2 of my second go at expanding the album, when I unintentionally became the owner of a copy after buying a whole bundle of Level 42 CD goodies online. I’d failed to spot that the World Machine which was included wasn’t just the standard UK version, so instead of casting it aside for a charity donation it became an integral part of a new, 6-disc deluxe.

m17903335487_1World Machine – North American style. Note the sneaky “US Version” strip, bottom right.

Possibly the most unique feature of this incarnation is the rejigged running order, as it meant that Physical Presence (not featured on the Live album of that name from earlier in 1985!) could no longer segue seamlessly into Something About You, so we get a proper fade into silence. Yes, these things matter!

Hot Water and The Chant Has Begun are slotted in quite thoughtfully as the first and penultimate songs on what would be Side B of the vinyl format.

The real work started after that, as all the 7″, 12″ and assorted mixes were collected and arranged on their own disc.

01 FOLLOW ME Live Remix Version 4.04
02 SOMETHING ABOUT YOU 7″ Version 3.47
03 LEAVING ME NOW 7″ Version 3.35
04 SOMETHING ABOUT YOU Shep Pettibone Remix 8.00
05 WORLD MACHINE Shep Pettibone Remix 5.49
06 I SLEEP ON MY HEART Remix 6.02
08 COUP D’ETAT B-Side Version 4.03
10 WORLD MACHINE Dub Mix 7.20
11 SOMETHING ABOUT YOU Instrumental Mix 7.02

These were sourced from a variety of releases; either bonus tracks on the 2000 remaster, a couple appeared on the 2006 special edition, and our trusty Level Best compilation for the 7″ versions. By the time I came to redo this project, the second of the gorgeous Polydor Years boxsets had been issued, containing pretty much everything I needed and often in better sound quality.

410klVp5dCS._SL500_Levelling up….1985-1989 complemented the earlier 1980-1984 set.

In fact, the array of bonus material on the 1985-1989 boxset enabled me to finally include the 7″ version of Follow Me (the Live single to promote A Physical Presence) which was usually ignored (aside from the Living It Up retrospective), and then create an entire CD of concert recordings related to the World Machine era.

01 FOLLOW ME Original Live Version 5.03
02 PHYSICAL PRESENCE B-Side Live Version 5.43
03 WORLD MACHINE Live, Hammersmith Odeon 5.46
04 LEAVING ME NOW Live, Hammersmith Odeon 5.32
05 SOMETHING ABOUT YOU Live, Hammersmith Odeon 5.21
06 I SLEEP ON MY HEART Live 4.15
07 DREAM CRAZY Live 4.19
08 LYING STILL Live 5.42
10 LEAVING ME NOW Live 5.50

A few of the above date from 2000 and 2003, but the focus was on the material rather than when it was performed (or that’s what I told myself!).

Despite very little in the way of genuine B-sides, and only the two full-scale UK singles, we managed to create something fairly comprehensive. The artwork stayed close to the recognisable World Machine iconography, using the nuts-and-bolts graphics and the band logo from that period, adjusted to suit the longbox style of presentation.

When compiling my latest Top 100 albums of all-time in 2016, the top Level 42 release ended up being Running In The Family, but as good as that album remains, something about World Machine – that I rediscovered in the process of putting together this fantasy deluxe – has a greater pull. It’s got the pop nous of Running…, but also a funkier vibe and greater range of styles and sounds that hark back to their earlier work.

The perfect combination of where they’d been and where they were headed.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s