Sweet had a long road to respectability as rockers. Like a lot of young acts in the U.K. during the late ’60s and early ’70s, they made a bid for music business success by allowing managers and producers to determine how they sounded on record. At first, they weren’t even allowed to play on their A-sides and had to settle for sneaking their own songs and performances onto B-sides. Their early singles were pure bubblegum but their subsequent output moved into a glam-rock direction, aided and abetted by band-driven b-sides that got tougher and heavier with each outing.
Sweet Fanny Adams was their second album. It was their most crucial, the album that found them taking control of their destiny by writing two thirds of the material and consolidating their changes into a style that was half glam rock (in the English ’70s sense) and half hard rock. Opening track “Set Me Free” throws down the gauntlet, with a bashing power-chord intro paced by thunderous drum fills before gives way to a taut, speed-riffed rocker. Massive, operatic vocal harmonies, the secret weapon of the Sweet sound, give it added heft at chorus time.
Another highlight here is the title track, an epic rocker with a layered, almost progressive rock arrangement that offsets fast, metal-worthy guitar licks and drumming with grandiose harmonies and soaring, spacy touches of synthesizer. The lyrics offer a tough, sometimes lusty depiction of street life that was light years away from the group’s singles. Other key tracks include “Into The Night,” a mid-tempo cruiser whose jazzy drum intro was sampled by the Beastie Boys on Paul’s Boutique, and “Heartbreak Today,” a credible stab at a heavy boogie tune that gets a shot of melody from those big vocal harmonies.
And that’s just the band-penned stuff. Sweet’s management/single-writing team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman add a couple of choice rockers of their own in “No You Don’t,” a dynamic piece that pits guitars against gang vocals to thrilling effect, and “AC/DC,” a stomper with amusing lyrics about a guy utterly bemused by his bisexual lover.
The album’s track-for-track quality and consistency is even more impressive when you consider that features none of the group’s contemporary hit singles – and that’s a big consideration because they were knocking the U.K. charts dead around this time with enduring faves like “Ballroom Blitz” and “Teenage Rampage.” It doesn’t even draw on the b-sides from these hits, which shows just how much good material the group was producing at this time.
Sweet Fanny Adams offers the best of both worlds: it has the tough sound and well-constructed songs that hard rock fans expect from albums of this era but the band’s well-honed pop smarts ensure that there are plenty of hooks amidst the riffing. This adds up to an album that is as catchy as it is hard-hitting – and that combination ensures it remains a winner to rockers of all ages.