Sound: Also known as the 'Strategy' album, 'The Early Tapes' captures the raw energy of new musicians having one hell of a time. Originally released in 1980, this 2007 re-issue (one of many throughout the years) is chock full of fan favourites such as 'Mr. Pink' and '88' as well as the 2007 edition's bonus tracks which mostly consist of live performances. The album itself is well mixed and produced and it's use of quiet dynamics suggest major jazz influences. The live tracks however do not have the same effect. To many, 'Mr. Pink' was always better live but it's second appearance on this collection does not back this up. The poor rendition was rather disappointing but all the other live tracks were acceptable. We must remember however, this is 1980, they had a third of the technology we have today. // 9
Lyrics: Mainly made of instrumentals, there isn't much room for vocals. However on things like 'Love Meeting Love', 'Autumn (Paradise Is Free)' and 'Wings Of Love' some stunning vocals are in the mix. The latter however sounding like the vocal track was recorded in a dustbin but still the vocal is pretty flawless. Lindup is right up there in the mix with his vocal cutting through like a Bowie contacting Lurpak Spreadable. // 8
Overall Impression: 01. Sandstorm - the best possible opener. It sets the standard for the rest of the tracks and includes a wild 'King Gibberish Rap'.
02. Love Meeting Love - wonderful musicianship and instrumentation but lacking in freshness compared to the rest of the album.
03. Theme To Margaret - if you were looking for a bassline to learn on this album then this is it! Slap at it's very best. The fingerstyle work also shows off Kings talent even further.
04. Autumn (Paradise Is Free) - It's one of those you need on a long night journey in the car. A little tense keeps you interested (or awake).
05. Wings Of Love - again, lovely bass work but not much room for anything else. Reminiscent of '70s disco, clearly when King was inspired by the great bass players.
06. Woman - my personal favourite. it's a New York jazz piece. Paints that picture anyway. Night time, detectives, filthy nightclubs. Would have made a perfect TV theme.
07. Mr. Pink - lacking the energy of a live performance but it's one to have in any bassists repertoire.
08. 88 - an African vocal opening and maybe the simplest opening bass line you will hear on any early Level 42 album. Great tune.
09. Mr. Pink [Live] - dreadful. The energy is there but the overall sound is rather sickening. It does get better however.
10. Sandstorm [Live] - this is what live funk should sound like! Better than the studio version.
11. 88 [Live] - no African vocal on here but still grooves like nothing you've ever heard!
12. Wings Of Love [US Mix] - the US single version. Shorter by about half a minute.
13. Love Meeting Love [Live] - it's the kind of performance that make you like the original. I can't put into word how beautiful this is. And remember that note in the first verse that you thought was flat? it's meant to me. He pulls it off every time.
All in all, quite a buy for any bassist. Quite possibly the finest introduction to the band you can get apart from a 'Best Of' compilation. // 9