Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rachel Sweet - Fool Around

I grabbed the white vinyl Stiff Records version of this when it came out in 1978 and always dug the girl-group vibe and catchy pop tunes (written and produced by Liam Sternberg). Surprisingly, this record, while a critics' fave, never really caught on, even after her tour with the band, the Records, backing her up. Still, this is a classic poppy/new-wave record.

It opens with a cool, laid-back groove in "Just My Style", which shows off Sweet's younger-girl, Lolita-esque, vocals - she can really sing and has a sultry edge, which is almost disturbing, as she was still a teenager at the time! Carla Thomas' "B-A-B-Y" follows and is a terrific update on the tune, mixing a modern feel with a fine Stax-like horn section. "Who Does Lisa Like" is a nice, guitar-oriented new-waver with some round-like vocal trade-offs with fellow Stiffs Records artist Lene Lovich followed by a string-laden ballad, "Wildwood Saloon" - still strong, even though a slower number - really cinematic string arrangement and melodic guitar solo. Another keen cover is "Stay Awhile", showing off Rachel's girl-group style (aided again by Lovich) and then a slightly off-kilter new-waver, "Suspended Animation", with its especially lascivious double-entendre lyrics.

An additional oddity is "It's So Different Here", with combinations of Caribbean melodies and new wave/pop sounds, before we get into the weirdest one of them all, "What's in the Cuckoo Clock" - a high-energy bit of wackiness that is pretty much impossible to describe (maybe marginally like Ian Dury), but still works. The guitars are brought up a bit more for the country/rock/pop of "Pin a Medal on Mary" and goofiness reigns supreme in "Girl With a Synthesizer". I always favored her version of Elvis Costello's country tear-jerker, "A Stranger in the House", where pedal steel guitars meets honking saxes for an album closer.

The American version of the album had a couple of different cuts - one more 60's number, this time Peter and Gordon's "I Go To Pieces", along with a cover that I'm not familiar with, "Sad Song", with vaguely country touches.

Crossing 60's girl-group sounds and 70's new-wave, this is an excellent release of cool pop!