Sweet is one of the seventies’ iconic rock bands. Isolation Boulevard, recorded between UK lockdowns in the fall of 2020, is primarily, though not entirely, a reworking of many of the original tracks on the various editions of the band’s Desolation Boulevard album; it also features a few songs that can’t be found on any of Desolation Boulevard‘s releases. Led by guitarist Andy Scott, the only surviving member from the classic Sweet line-up, this version of Sweet carries on the band’s legacy with talent, skill, and hook-laden aplomb.
Sweet’s heyday was just barely before my time, so this is actually the first Sweet album I’ve ever owned. Sure, I know a lot of the songs from hearing them on the radio. And I know a couple of the songs thanks to cover versions by ’80s rock favorites Krokus (“Ballroom Blitz”) and Black ‘N Blue (“Action”). To be honest, I still prefer Krokus’ “Ballroom Blitz” to the very well-performed versions on this disc. (On “Action,” I like different things about each band’s rendition.) Indeed, I love this album. The entirety of Isolation Boulevard is raucous, hooky, memorable and fun, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to really get to know these songs with repeated listenings over the last few months.
I love that the album begins with “Fox on the Run,” a song that sounds both classic and current at the same time. The explosiveness of Scott’s guitarwork and the sharp drum-driven tempo make “Fox on the Run” timeless. Sure, the harmonies and straight-ahead, powerful tempo give this away as a classic-era rock song, but it’s absolutely one worth maintaining on your personal playlist.
Another favorite of mine on this album is “New York Groove.” It’s a classic song that charted in the 1970s for both Hello and Ace Frehley. Its first appearance on a Sweet album was on 2012’s New York Connection. It has a bit of a funky rhythm and, to exceptionally cool effect, transitions in and out of Alicia Keys/Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” If you want to find a cool mash-up of classic and modern on Isolation Boulevard, “New York Groove” is your song, probably my very favorite on this record.
You know, this is Sweet, so I can’t really bash any of the songs on here, nor would I want to. Top to bottom, this is a kick-ass, newly recorded classic rock album. However, in addition to those I’ve already mentioned, there are some other tracks that stand out for me. I mean, you know these songs, so I’m not sure what my descriptions will add, but…
“Still Got the Rock”, the first single from Isolation Boulevard, has the cool syncopated drumming and rhythm in its bridge. “Love is Like Oxygen” has that soaring vocals, grounded by a crunchy guitar riff. “The Six Teens” is one of those cool, tense, storytelling rockers. The update of frantic, melodic speed rocker “Set Me Free” was also released as an Isolation Boulevard single; the fast-paced guitar noodling during its bridge is pretty cool. And “Teenage Rampage” is pure energetic, anthemic fun.
I’ve skipped a few songs that’ll, I’m sure, be someone else’s favorites. Seriously, this re-recording of Sweet faves doesn’t disappoint.
You can catch Sweet live in the coming months. The band will be undertaking a rather extensive UK tour from November 25th through December 20th, and you’ll find a smattering of 2022 dates currently scheduled in Germany from May through November. For more information on these performances and others, as they’re added, see the “Dates” page on Sweet’s website.