Sweet - Desolation Boulevard - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Sweet - Desolation Boulevard

by Jeff Penczak Rating:8 Release Date:1974-11-01
Sweet - Desolation Boulevard
Sweet - Desolation Boulevard

Sweet dropped the definite article and swapped half the tracks from the UK version of their third album with the best tracks from their previous record (Sweet Fanny Adams, unreleased in the US) and in the process cobbled together the best album of their career. A veritable greatest hits, the US Desolation Boulevard is stockpiled with their classic genre-defining singles ‘Fox On The Run’ (the UK album version swapped for the shorter “single version” in the US) and ‘Ballroom Blitz’ (omitted from the UK version) – the pinnacle of glam /glitter rock, along with successful attempts to move in a more straight ahead, hard rock direction via killer rifforamas, ‘No You Don’t’ and the coy, gender-bending stomper ‘A.C.D.C., which Joan Jett and The Blackhearts covered to great effect, suitably awash in all its wink-wink, nudge-nudge drama, and the teenage rock opera, ‘The Six Teens’. Chinnichap (i.e., Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn) once again manned the controls for one of their crowning achievements.

‘Ballroom Blitz’ starts the party hearty with Mick Tucker’s rolling drum solo, as Brian Connolly takes roll call and beckons the lads to “Let’s Go!” Hundreds of film and TV soundtrack appearances hasn’t dulled its impact one bit. Next up is Chinnichap’s teenage rock opera ‘The Six Teens’ which provides the album title and details the highs and lows of six teens in 1968 (Julie, Johnny, Suzi, Davy, Bobby, Billy) extrapolated to the romanticized dreams of teenagers (“sixteens”) who may make it one day.

‘No You Don’t’ finds the band attempting to shed their teenybopper glam image with almost Sabbathian sledgehammer riffs and a rare lead vocal from bassist Steve Priest. Andy Scott’s guitar runs up and down his guitar neck also add to the nails-on-blackboard tension. ‘A.C.D.C.’ is just about the most fun you’ll ever have listening to a glam album, from its bi-sexual storyline and Priest’s rolling, rollicking basslines (presaging Nick Lowe’s ‘I Knew The Bride’). Scott pulls off another ferocious solo, reminding us how great a string bender he really is.

‘I Wanna Be Committed’ is a strange knockoff that the band enjoyed recording and was slated to be their next single before RCA (UK) backed out. The version heard here is the rare shorter version, since RCA would add a longer take with an extended instrumental jam to the compilation half of the live/studio double album Strung Up in 1975 (which was not released in the US). It’s pretty much a hodgepodge of goofy effects, distorted vocals from an insane man begging to be committed, spoken word segments and a few other kitchen sink implements lying about the studio. Heck, parts of it boast rather impressive Queen-styled vocal harmonies.

Side 2 kicks off with the title track from the UK-only Sweet Fanny Adams, ‘Sweet F.A.’, a rare band composition (Chinnichap were still penning most of their songs) that reveals a strong Sabbath influence (‘Paranoid’ comes to mind). Scott’s powerhouse riff also lays the blueprint for Heart’s ‘Barracuda’! It does tail off toward the end and at 6 minutes is too long by half, but it shows the lads are trying to come up with material on their own, a move that will find a fuller expression on future releases. It also tosses in a cute little synth riff that sounds amazingly similar to ‘The Rockford Files Theme’, currently airing on US TV!

'Fox On The Run’ is another one of those classic rock tunes you either never want to hear again, or never tire of hearing. I’m in the latter camp – it kicks ass, from its swirling synth intro to stomping backing, Connolly’s echoed vocals and more Queen vocal effects to get everyone with a rhythmic bone in their body onto the dance floor. In the glam universe, it doesn’t get much better than this.

‘Set Me Free’ is an adrenaline rush of Scott’s nitro-energized riffing and Mick Tucker’s atomic skin pounding. Toss in some nifty phased histrionics and the lads are off and running for the finish line. By the time we reach ‘Into The Night’ you’ll wonder if you stumbled on to a Queen album, as the multi-tracked, echoed vocals have become a tad tiresome and Scott’s riffs are starting to sound too close to May’s. It’s not bad, it’s just not too original, particularly the return of the insane dude from ‘I Wanna Be Committed’! The album ends with ‘Solid Gold Brass’, which also completes the band-penned side of the album (Chinnichap wrote all of Side 1). And boy howdy, it’s another headscratcher, part Gary Glitter, part Queen, but with proggy Yes interjections and a jazzy middle eight softshoe shuffle that return to the kitchen sink aspect of some of the arrangements.

Overall, the US version combines the best of their 1974 UK releases Sweet Fanny Adams and Desolation Boulevard and is all the better for it.

 

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