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Sweet - 1978 Level Headed




ARTIST: Sweet
ALBUM: Level Headed
LABEL: Polydor
SERIAL: POLD 5001
YEAR: 1978
CD REISSUE: 1991, Repertoire, REP 4234-WP * 2001, One Way Records, 31954 * 2005, Lemon Records, CD LEM 59

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Brian Connolly - lead & background vocals * Andy Scott - guitar, synthesizer, lead & background vocals * Mick Tucker - drums, percussion, background vocals * Steve Priest - bass, synthesizer, lead & background vocals

Additional Musicians: Geoff Westley - keyboards, string arrangements * Ronnie Asprey - brass * Richard Harvey - winds * Stevie Lange - vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 California Nights * 02 Silverbird * 03 Dream On * 04 Fountain * 05 Love Is Like Oxygen * 06 Anthem No. 1 * 07 Strong Love * 08 Lettres D'Amour * 09 Anthem No.II * 10 Air On 'A' Tape Loop

WEBLINKS: www.thesweet.com


Background
Following 1977's 'Off The Record', change was in the air for Sweet and 'Level Headed' was indeed a radical departure from their wham-bam glam rock past. According to interviews the group was 'tired' of the driving hard rock pop they were famous for and wanted to mix it up a bit, bringing in keyboardist and arranger Geoff Westley and flirting with baroque prog rock and softening their sound. Released in January 1978, Sweet on paper seemed poised to reclaim commercial status they hadn't seen since dropping the songwriting hit machine Chinn/Chapman 'Ballroom Blitz' days. This was glaringly evident in America where the band, management and labels were prone to dropping the proverbial ball, including inexplicably passing on a large tour the year previous with Aerosmith and a mish-mash of overlapped albums and singles, not to mention imports that confused buyers, not to mention frustrating the band who believed they should have been way ahead of the game at this point or at least as big as their legendary rivals Queen.


The Songs
For many fans, 'Level Headed' was a sign Sweet were slowly sliding down Crap Mountain but it's certainly not as bad as that, in fact three quarters of the set is quite good. There were two versions of the album with different track listings and art but I prefer the Stateside release with its superior cover and cool gatefold sleeve which always impressed the heck out of me as a pimply teen and while 'California Nights' might have been a little too Eagles for some, it resonated with programmers in the States, giving the band a surprise minor hit. Follow-up 'Silverbird' is a fairly typical Sweet rocker, nothing to write home about but from here 'Level Headed' becomes a Queen meets Yes extravaganza unlike anything heard before. Andy Scott's 'Dream On' is high on syrup with heavy orchestration that resembles KISS' 'Beth' although is not nearly as enduring. 'Fountain', again with Scott on lead is an acoustic driven prog rocker with a dazzling harpsichord finale, but nothing compared to the albums cornerstone and biggest hit 'Love Is like Oxygen'. The first time I heard this masterpiece played as an import on the radio, it was climbing the British charts and for good reason. I was floored; killer hooks paired with a devastatingly gorgeous prog intermezzo it was everything I've ever wanted in a song. An edited radio version was released on 45 in the U.S. although the only reason to own it back then was for the non-LP single 'Cover Girl' which has since appeared as a bonus track on the Repertoire reissue several years ago. On to side two and serious ELO/Queen-ish pomposity with 'Anthem No. 1 (Lady of the Lake)' as well as half-ass disco with 'Strong Love' which is so incredibly awful I wonder why they bothered? Back on track with the catchy 'Lettres D'Amour' which features guest vocals from Mutt Langes' wife at the time Stevie Lange who would appear a year later in GD faves Night. 'Anthem No. II' reprises the earlier track as an instrumental utilizing a full-blown string quartet while 'Air On 'A' Tape Loop' sounds like a neo-prog version of Pink Floyd and is serious fun.


In Summary
Of course with Sweet there was always a dark cloud on the horizon and this time there was no avoiding the storm. Brian Connolly's substance abuse was wreaking havoc on what should have been a successful U.S. tour. A major set of dates with Bob Seger found Connolly unprepared and falling about on stage and further unruly shows with Rainbow, Foghat, Alice Cooper and Cheap Trick forced the group to make the most significant decision of their career; firing Brian and moving forward as a three-piece. Sweet was never the same again.


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Comments

#1 | sabace on May 09 2012 14:52:31
I would'nt be a sweet expert but I have the DESOLATION BOULEVARD and SWEET FANNY ADAMS lps and I love them both . My fave release is the HARD CENTERS compilation chock full of classic tracks .
#2 | Eric on May 10 2012 01:54:07
We'll get to both 'Sweet Fanny Adams' and 'Desolation Boulevard' as well as 'Give Us A Wink' in due time.

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