|Steve Priest's Sweet - 'Are You Ready?' (Varèse Vintage)|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Friday, 23 December 2011 05:30|
The story of Sweet - or The Sweet to give them their proper title - is the stuff of heavy rock legend. After all, they were one of the acts that gave birth to the whole glam movement - and, it could be argued, without them there would no Kiss. They enjoyed global stardom with a string of smash hit singles, albums and tours. Then, inevitably, they imploded and went their separate ways, in 1982, after a little over a decade of successful excess.
There were several attempts to get the classic line up of the band back together (not least in 1988, when a full-length album was actually recorded, only to apparently lie covered in dust in a record company vault somewhere in New York). With the deaths of iconic frontman Brain Connolly (in 1997) and drummer Mick Tucker (2002) - leaving bassist Steve Priest as the only surviving original member (guitarist Andy Scott didn't join until 1970, two years into the group's career) - any more recent attempts to revitalise the brand have understandably floundered - and we now find ourselves in the situation (as with some other bands from that era) with two different versions of the band known as Sweet - both with completely different members, of course!
Steve Priest's version first surfaced at the start of 2008, and since then has enjoyed moderate success in the US and Canada, and this live album dates back to August of that year, recorded in front of a packed house in Morongo Casino, California.
The result is a basic, no-nonsense run through of Sweet's greatest hits from their chart-topping years - pop rock classics such as 'Fox On the Run', 'Hell Raiser', 'Blockbuster', 'Wig Wam Bam', 'Teenage Rampage', and 'Ballroom Blitz': an "if that's what the fans remember and want, then that's what we'll play" stance. Priest has put together an accomplished line up of musicians, not least Stuart Smith (the only other British native in the combo) on guitar, while frontman Joe Retta delivers a more than passable of Connolly's vocal nuances while still stamping his own presence on fondly remembered songs. The production is spot-on, capturing the essence of what sounded like a high-energy show, although there are some problems with the editing between songs (there's a sharp cut between 'Wig Wam Bam' and 'The Six Teens', for example).
Andy Scott has his own version of Sweet, based out of Europe, while Priest seems content to milk the American market: with the former now cropping up on TV adverts for van insurance, it would make an interesting debate as to which is the more successful, or credible, latter-day incarnation.