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Live In America
The Sweet
Live In America
Blitz Touring Inc.
Glam/Classic Rock
Tom Stewart
2.5 stars

Wow, where do I start here? First, I am a HUGE fan of THE SWEET, I own every album they ever put out with the exception of some of the recent Andy Scott's Sweet releases which I honestly am not interested in all that much, even though I do own "A", which was average at best I'm afraid. Generic hard rock without much of the trademark SWEET sound. I'm a fan of the original line-up, and even after lead vocalist Brian Connolly left, the band continued to put out fine albums as a trio like "A Cut Above The Rest(1979)", "Water's Edge aka SWEET 6 in the States "(1980), and "Identity Crisis"(1982). This was an immensely talented band, with 4 lead singers capable of incredibly high falsetto backing vocals, rivaling QUEEN in the vocal harmony department, even claiming QUEEN used to go see them in the clubs before QUEEN was signed and 'stole' their sound somewhat. Each member of the band were extremely talented musicians as well, which would not be recognized until later on after they broke free from the early bubble gum sound and started getting progressively heavier, combining a DEEP PURPLE/ZEPPELIN/WHO template with the QUEENesque harmonies, multi-layered guitar solos, and catchy glam choruses. Albums like "Desolation Boulevard(1975)", "Sweet Fanny Adams(1974)" and "Give Us A Wink(1976)" were all classics and essential listening for anyone into 70s hard rock, glam, etc. Hugely influential on bands like early KISS, DEF LEPPARD, MOTLEY CRUE(who's nicked more SWEET riffs than just about anyone)etc. In fact, they were often referred to as the "British KISS". 2 original members, lead singer Brian Connolly and drummer Mick Tucker have both sadly passed away in recent years, and so we now have 2 versions of THE SWEET, one formed by original guitarist Andy Scott, and this version recently formed by original bass player Steve Priest. Priest has really not been involved in anything SWEET related since the band originally broke up back in 1982, and Andy Scott has been touring his version since the late 1980's, putting out an occasional studio album.Mick Tucker was also in Scott's line-up until his passing. I was lucky enough to see them live in Philadelphia in 1990 and got to meet both Tucker(one of my drumming heroes) and Scott that night. Both were friendly, charming, and eager to sign albums and chat. I never got to see the original band in the 70s, so this was a memorable night for me. They really kicked some serious ass, and Tucker was still a killer drummer-the used drumstick he gave me that night is a cherished possession of mine, it's practically the size of a baseball bat!

So it's now 2009, and I hold in my hands "THE SWEET Live In America", recorded at the Morongo Casino in California. Right off the bat, I have to say that I suspect all of the vocals were re-done in the studio, as it just sounds too clean, lacking the ambience of the music tracks... sometimes you can just tell. Maybe I'm wrong about this and it's just such an unbelievably clean recording of the vocals it sounds like it's a studio recording, I don't know. But I doubt it. All of the key SWEET tracks are represented here, from "Action" to "Fox On The Run", "Ballroom Blitz"(obviously) and surprising more obscure tracks like "Windy City" from 1977's "Off The Record". No complaints in the song selections, but unfortunately, that's where the compliments end.

The thing is this: THE SWEET had very unique, distinctive musicians in it. Mick Tucker was an incredible drummer, like a cross between Ian Paice and Keith Moon, and had a style that was totally him. His drum parts were every bit as important to the SWEET sound and the songs as anything else was. Andy Scott was also a gifted guitarist, who used multi-tracked leads, and wrote some of the best riffs the 70s had to offer. Brian Connolly was no Robert Plant, but his voice was perfect for THE SWEET and had a raspy, hard rock quality to it. The closest comparison I can think of is Dee Snider of TWISTED SISTER, who always reminded me of Connolly voice-wise. Steve Priest was (and is) also a unique individual, adding goofy vocal parts, campy stage presence, and a superb bassist. All 4 were lead singers, basically, and took turns singing lead on different songs. So for him to assemble a new batch of musicians to carry the SWEET torch is a tough prospect. Especially if they sound like your basic generic studio musicians, which these guys pretty much do. There's no excuse for guitar riffs being played wrong(Love Is Like Oxygen) or out of time (Ballroom Blitz) or drum fills to be completely ignored. Shit, if you're going to tour a version of THE SWEET, get guys who were fans or influenced by the band enough to pay attention to the details and who care enough to play it correctly. Some might argue that that is what a tribute band is for, but I couldn't disagree more. These are classics, and should be played properly and accurately. Sorry but that's my opinion as a fan of these songs. The tempos are plodding in places, there's some sloppiness in some performances, and the trademark high falsetto background vocals are largely missing.

My problem is that you can't approach this material in a half assed bar band way. There is a legendary reputation to uphold here, and just doing an adequate, competent job falls short of the mark for me. Lead singer Joe Rettahas a very laid back delivery on a lot of these songs. He can sing, that's not the issue, there's just no power in his delivery, it's very pedestrian. The only song he seems to rise above that is the new track Sweet Dream, which is slightly reminiscent of The Best Of Times from STYX, where he sort of has a David Coverdale thing going on. The guy can sing, but the older SWEET material is not suited for him in my opinion.

It pains me to say this, because I love this band in its heyday form, and I admire Steve Priest for going out and giving it a go again, I can't knock him for that. However, the word competent is about the best thing I can say about this release, like listening to a good bar band doing SWEET songs all night. I don't know, maybe I expect too much as THE SWEET is not a band that can easily be reproduced. File this under "For Completists Only".

Band Lineup:
  • Steve Priest-bass, vocals
  • Joe Retta-vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Stuart Smith-guitar, vocals
  • Richie Onori-drums
  • Steve Stewart-keyboards, vocals


Track Listing:
  1. Action
  2. Fox On The Run
  3. Hellraiser
  4. Love Is Like Oxygen
  5. Blockbuster
  6. Wig Wam Bam
  7. The Sixteens
  8. Windy City
  9. Sweet F.A.
  10. Turn It Down
  11. Sweet Dream
  12. Teenage Rampage
  13. Little Willy
  14. AC/DC
  15. Set Me Free
  16. Ballroom Blitz


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