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Sea Level - 1978 On The Edge



ARTIST: Sea Level
ALBUM: On The Edge
LABEL: Capircorn
SERIAL: CPN 0212
YEAR: 1978

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Randall Bramblett - vocals, sax * Chuck Leavell - vocals * Dave Causey - guitar * Jimmy Nalls - guitar * Lamar Williams - bass * Joe English - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Fifty-Four * 02 King Grand * 03 Living In A Dream * 04 A Lotta Colada * 05 This Could Be The Worst * 06 Uptown, Downtown * 07 Electron Cold * 08 On The Wing


Background
This interesting and seemingly forgotten band recorded five mostly excellent albums of sub-jazz fusion and funk between 1977 and 1980, with all manner of stylistic deviations in between. The band was an offshoot of the Allman Brothers Band, with Jimmy Nalls, Lamar Williams and Jaimoe Johnson forming the band with Chuck Leavell following the dissolution of the Allmans. The band's first two albums appeared in 1977, a self-titled effort and 'Cats On The Coast'. Following this Johnson departed and was replaced by former Wings drummer Joe English. Many observers felt the magic was lost with the release of this album, with the band moving towards a slicker AOR direction rather than the jazzy refrains of the original lineup. To my ears it isn't too dissimilar, with the West Coast arrangements more prominent and the bands knack for the offbeat still prevalent.


The Songs
Opening instrumental 'Fifty-four' is a superb piece, mixing funk and melodic guitar licks to the extreme, conjuring up perfect images of a sunny California day on the ocean, sailing around on a yacht. Simply put this is the ultimate statement of West Coast AOR and the sax is the proverbial icing on the cake. 'King Grand' combines more funk with shades of Southern rock, if that sounds compatible. It makes sense with the Allman connotations, but the chorus is certainly mired in AOR territory. 'Living In A Dream' moves back to atmospheric AOR, this one quite advanced for 1978 and up there with the likes of Pablo Cruise and Player for the best of the era. It has the same kind of smooth, yet hard edged tone, as undercover as you like. 'A Lotta Colada' throws up sounds reminiscent of Pablo Cruise once again, the imagery of beaches and tropical paradises heard in the jazzy guitar work and congas. At the risk of sounding redundant 'This Could Be The Worst' is a dead ringer for anything off Pablo Cruise's 'Worlds Away' or 'Part Of The Game.' I had to make sure I was listening to the right band for a second or two. The guitar work is astounding, some of the best heard in this genre during the late 70's. The classy AOR of 'Uptown, Downtown' is a diamond in the rough, the sax work throwing up images of the later material of England Dan and John Ford Coley. 'Electron Cold' could almost be mistaken for The Alan Parsons Project or The Atlanta Rhythm Section on their funkier excursions, or even the excellent Crimson Tide outfit of the same period. Sensibly the band round out matters with another dynamic instrumental, 'On The Wing' a showcase for their prowess, with the flurry of activity by all concerned making this a minor West Coast masterpiece. They had the sound down to an art form like few other bands.


In Summary
The band seemed to spiral downwards following this album and despite a couple more efforts they called it a day in 1980. Most of the band drifted off into session work, heavily in demand. Sadly Williams died in 1983, his death attributed to Agent Orange which he got while serving in Vietnam. Over the years it seems as if the bands work has become obscure and remembered by few except their fans. All their albums have highlights, but 'On The Edge' is their most melodic and accessible work in my estimation. West Coast fans in particular will be delighted with this.


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Comments
#1 | gdazegod on June 13 2016 21:38:25
Sea Level - 1978 On The Edge (Full Album)
YouTube Video:


First track of the album actually starts at the 6.30 min/sec mark.
#2 | gdazegod on June 13 2016 21:39:38
I would also add Shakatak to the list of comparisons.
#3 | Eric on June 15 2016 17:25:58
I owned all the Sea Level stuff at various times and I thought the debut was excellent but I felt the quality dropped with each release although this is a fine album and nothing to be ashamed of.
#4 | whiterook on June 20 2016 16:53:56
This band has been a perennial favorite of mine since the late 70's. They opened for a lot of the Southern Rock bands at the time, and were uniformly excellent. All their studio albums are wonderful, but this and Cats On The Coast are their best, IMO. They should appeal to any Doobie Brothers/Steely Dan fan.
#5 | gdazegod on June 20 2016 22:58:43
Agreed. I am going to track own all their music from the Net, starting with the Soulseek community.
#6 | akimboalogo on June 22 2016 23:36:24
One of my favourite band of all time, too. Indeed their direction changed from their debut to their last one, 'Ball Room', which was less jazzy oriented but more AOR wise, but everything was done in style.
Unfortunately these days Chuck Leavell is best known for his work as the Stones sideman, should be remembered much better by his work here or with the Allmans. Bramblett and Causey are still working together, whereas Jimmy Nalls sadly suffers from Parkinson's Disease.
#7 | rkbluez on September 02 2017 00:41:52
Love Sea Level all of their albums are great IMO...the musicianship is stellar...glad to own all of them on CD now that BGO has recently done Ball Room.
 
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