Another installment of a disk I have enjoyed over the years. I’m trying to keep the Record of the Month posts to be fairly new releases. Classics are going to be ones that are at least 5 years old.
Here’s an album I can almost guarantee no one else owns or has possibly ever heard – or heard of. Rachel Sweet’s second disk – Protect the Innocent, released in 1980.
It’s a good album though. But first – a little background:
Sweet was a native of NE Ohio and actually attended the same high school as Chrissie Hynde – granted a few years after Hynde. I think some of the members of Devo went to Firestone too.
Sweet found an audience in the UK in the last ’70s with the rise of Stiff Records. Stiff, was on the cutting edge of music releases back then: Any Trouble, Elvis Costello, IanDury, Lene Lovich and the likes. She was like an early LeAnn Rimes – but in a good way. Not country – just a 15 or 16 year old with a voice of a grown-up, singing grown-up music.
Her first disk made little in-roads in the States, but I got it – and it was good. Singing all covers, she did a respectable job on “B-A-B-Y” and “I Go to Pieces”. But she countrified Costello’s “Stranger in the House” to really great level. Don’t get me wrong, there was some quirky stuff too – but stuff I really liked: “Suspended Animation”, and “Who Does Lisa Like”. Lovich even sings on those last two tracks.
It is safe to say, Protect the Innocent did nothing to further her image in the U.S. Produced by Martin Rushent (Generation X, XTC, Spandau Ballet), it was darker and edgier, especially for someone only 17 years old.
On paper the disk is all over the place – covering Elvis Presley (“Baby, Let’s Place House”), the Damned (“New Rose”), Robert Palmer (“Jealous), Lou Reed (“New Age”) and Graham Parker (“Fool’s Gold”). She even does one of her own songs. Yeah – all over the place for sure, yet it kind of works – I think mostly due to Rushent.
I am a big fan of all the aforementioned songs, but the rest of the disk seems to work too. Nothing that ever became a critical or commercial success of course, and naturally you cannot find it on CD except for expensive import.
As for Sweet, she did have a little commercial success – her duet of “Everlasting Love” with Rex Smith and writing and singing the title tracks to John Waters’ Hairspray and Cry-Baby.
After that she kind of dropped off after that – or so I thought. I kind of remember her hosting a segment on an early version of Comedy Central. A quickinternet search says that she is a fairly successful tv producer. Who knew?
Musically though, I don’t think she did better than Protect the Innocent.