Sea Level – Southern-Fried Elevator Music

If the last thing that comes to mind when you hear the onerous term “Southern Rock” is jazz/fusion, then you’ve not been listening to Sea Level.

Formed by sometime-Allman Brothers keyboardist Chuck Leavell (get it? Chuck LEAVELL? C. Leavell? Yeah, I know, but I couldn’t resist), Sea Level made a few albums in the late 70s/early 80s that were Southern in lyrical sensibility, but closer to Spyro Gyra than the Allman Brothers.

By now my embarrassing propensity toward elevator music is evident. So if you enjoy lite jazz/fusion/Muzak with a Southern accent, then by all means enjoy…

Nothing Matters But the Fever
Dare I say this one is… funky? Just a little? I like the slightly-ominous piano, the sinuous guitar, and the drawn-out lyric. Interesting that this is from a band called “Sea Level,” as parts of it sound as though it were coming from underwater. Not to mention that this is probably as close to sexy as poor old Sea Level ever got.

A late night, cigarettes and bourbon, post bar-hopping classic, also my favorite Sea Level song.

That’s Your Secret
A little more upbeat, but no less enticing. I’ve listened to this song countless times, and I still don’t know what the secret is. I think that’s the whole point.

Lyrically, I liken Sea Level to Dire Straits – I’m not sure if the lyrics are deeply profound, or profoundly ridiculous. I guess it depends on one’s mood.

Cagey lyrics aside, this song has a nice rolling rhythm, with some really interesting drums. The organ is a nice touch, as well.

Glacier Gardens
This instrumental does more than most of Sea Level’s work to belie the band’s origins with the Allman Brothers. A gorgeous guitar piece, “Glacier Gardens” puts me in mind of “Little Martha,” surely one of the most beautiful songs Duane Allman ever played on. It’s almost country, almost folky, very Southern, yet there’s nothing Skynyrd about it.

Sea Level did a number of instrumentals, most good, including a version of Scarborough Fair that’s almost unrecognizable – possibly due to another Allman-esqe guitar – but still an interesting, very jazzy piece.

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