I heard the sad news today that Steve Priest(R.I.P.), the bassist most famous for being a member of Sweet(also known as The Sweet, The Sweetshop) passed away a few days ago at the age of 72. I always though he was a very underrated bassist, just as Sweet was always an underrated band. Many people consider them a bubblegum, rock-light band, that faded into obscurity with only a few hits under their belts. I say don’t judge a book by it’s cover (even if this album cover was done by Hipgnosis). Of note, there are different track listing in different countries. I will be reviewing the North American (and Japan) version here. The original 1974 UK version had different songs, and as sometimes happens when a band from one country starts to gain popularity elsewhere, the record label releases a different version with different songs.
Ballroom Blitz – Speaking of hits. This song is definitely a hit. Steve not only contributed the “..Uh huh..” after he is asked “Are you ready Steve?”, but contributed backing vocals and played his bass brilliantly. This song has been a staple on rock radio for over 45 years for good reason.
The 6- Teens – The first time I heard this song I thought the lyrics were ..’you`re allllll, part of the 60’s..”. This was just one of the obstacles we faced in the days before the internet kids. This song has definite Ziggy Stardust era David Bowie elements. In other words, it was pretty damn awesome.
No You Don’t – Brian Connolly suffered an injury to his vocal chords after being beaten up outside of a bar (which caused the band to miss out on an opening slot on The Who world tour). This forced the band to find a temporary lead singer to finish the album Sweet Fanny Adams. Luckily Steve Priest was up to the task. The first time I heard this song I thought it was a Nazareth song. Steve sounds almost exactly like Dan McCafferty, and the song has a Nazareth element to it. There are also hints that Pete Townshend (who was a huge Sweet fan) gave his approval for Sweet to borrow his signature guitar style, and The Who classic sound on this one. A real hidden gem. I say search it out.
A.C.D.C – No Australian ass kickers here. Just a song about having to share your woman with another woman. A bit of 70`s era Slade-like tongue in cheek to go along with some really cool guitar, drum and bass work. I like the original, but Joan Jett did a pretty great cover of this song.
I Wanna Be Committed – I can only figure the Ramones used this song as a springboard by replacing committed with sedated. Some Queen like vocals mixed with distorted vocals. Not an amazing song, but still pretty good.
Now we flip the record, and we go all Sweet. The songs on side A were all penned by the songwriting duo of Chapman & Chinn. By 1974, Sweet wanted to try and move away from the bubblegum image, so they wanted to write for themselves, and rumour is that Chapman & Chinn were not easy to work with. one last difference to the UK version is that Fox On The Run, was the shorter, single version.
Sweet F.A. – I can only imagine Rush heard this song and used it to influence their early sound. The drums (Mick Turner even uses a gong) and guitar all sound sound so Rush. The vocals and bass work sound more like Queen. Not a bad combination if you ask me. Perhaps they even influenced Love and Rockets with the song title.
Fox On The Run -One of the singles from this album, and rightfully so. It is a really great song, that I am certain Prism used as inspiration for Spaceship Superstar. It has some of the elements of their previous hit Little Willy, but the keys give it a spacey coolness. Of note for me in the video below is the dude in the pimp hat, the young lass in the yellow outfit dancing up a storm and that blue suit Brian Connolly is wearing. There is photographic evidence of me and my brother wearing matching blue suits like that from the 70`s that no one ever needs to see.
Set Me Free – Covered by Saxon, Heathen, Vince Neil and others. The guitar work has elements of a early 70`s funk song mixed with a NWOBHM song. Probably the heaviest song the band ever did. It would make the list for greatest hidden gems of the 70`s.
Into The Night – Military like drumming precision mixed with some Sweet guitar work start this one off. Then the song morphs into a sort of Alice Cooper meets Queen slab of goodness.
Solid Gold Brass – If the Beach Boys wanted to go heavier, this may have been the result. It also reminds my of when a certain group of brothers went heavier for one album (which I will review one day, but I digress).
Duff McKagan considers this album as one of his all time favourites, calling it “the blueprint of rock fantasy”. I have really enjoyed re-connecting with this album after a long hiatus. Even though members of the band all went their separate ways a few years after this, and formed different versions of Sweet, this album could be seen as a high water mark for the band. Different versions of the album. Different versions of the band. I guess it is just more to enjoy. Rest In Peace Steve. You will be missed.
9.5 out of 10.