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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Sweet

Isolation Boulevard

Review by Gary Hill

I have been a big fan of Sweet as long as I can remember. I mean, I've never been the kind of fan who follows all the members of the band (or even knows their names), but I've been the kind of fan who buys a lot of their music and listens to them a lot. In recent years, there have been a couple versions of the band around, but Steve Priest (who led one of those versions) passed away a few years ago, so I think this version of the band (led by Andy Scott) is the only one still around.

They recorded this album (creating new versions of classic Sweet songs) during isolation in response to the Covid pandemic. It was released digitally late in 2020, but the CD version didn't come out until this year. For my money that qualifies this for the "best of 2021" list, and I would bet this makes that list. They put into some great renditions of these songs, capturing the magic, but also updating the sound a bit. There are even some metal leanings here. This is just an extremely effective album.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Fox on the Run
This classic is played pretty faithfully, but it has a bit harder edge to my ears. It is a good updating of a great catchy tune. This is a lot of fun and a great opener to the album.
Still Got the Rock
This comes in with a trademark Sweet vocal part. The cut drives out into a serious metal stomper from there.
Action
There is an extended keyboard introduction on this. They fire out into a hard rocking movement from there. The lead vocal sounds a little different to me at times, but not to the point of distraction. The powered up vocal part of this cut and the hook-laden section both work so well. This is quite faithful to the old version of the song.
Love Is Like Oxygen
I have always loved this song. I remember the first time I heard it on the radio, I rushed out the record store to buy the album. This version really captures so much of the magic of that original. The vocal arrangement feels a little different, but again, only if you pay really close attention. This has always been a very special tune, and it still holds up really well.
Hellraiser
With a real classic Sweet sound, this rocks out like crazy. It's a "Ballroom Blitz" kind of accessible stomper. I like this a lot. It has some great hooks and plenty of meat on the bones.
The Six Teens
The vocals do have a different texture here than on the original of this tune. That said, it still feels completely faithful. This is another classic Sweet hard rocker. This version works just as well as the original.
Blockbuster
A keyboard part that sounds like a siren starts this number. They launch out from there into classy glam rocking sounds.
Set Me Free
This is a screaming hot tune. It seems to have almost as much Iron Maiden built into it as it does trademark Sweet glam rock. The guitar solo section in particular is full on metal.
Teenage Rampage
This old-school classic gets a bit of a metallic edge. Then again, Sweet always had some of that, so, it's more a matter of degrees. Overall this is a very faithful version of the tune. I think it still works really well.
Turn It Down
This screamer is more metallic. It has a more modern texture, but still feels like Sweet, particularly on the chorus. This is another winner on a disc with no weak material.
New York Groove
This is an interesting version of the tune. The soaring kind of almost adult contemporary break is intriguing. The song proper reminds me a lot of Ace Frehley's version of the tune. Of course, there is a Sweet angle firmly in place, and I can't imagine that Sweet wasn't an influence for Kiss, anyway.
Ballroom Blitz
This version really captures the style and sound of the original recording. This was another killer tune, and this version works well. There is perhaps just a little modernization here. The vocal arrangement feels a little different, too. Overall, though, this is the song you know and love.
 
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