Rachel Sweet was born in Akron in 1962 !
The exclamation mark is there is because this is Rachel's third album and it's from 1981.
Teen stars aren't unusual but Rachel's voice is full and forceful and certainly sounds older than her years.
Allmusic: Rachel "began her singing career at age six, doing everything from singing commercial jingles to touring with Mickey Rooney and opening for Bill Cosby's Las Vegas act. Between 1976 and 1978 she recorded a few failed straight-ahead country singles for the local Derrick label ("Any Port in a Storm," "Paper Airplane," and "The Ballad of Mable Ruth Miller and John Wesley Pritchett") and a handful of demos for songwriter Liam Sternberg, who shopped them to Stiff Records. Stiff signed the young singer and debuted her on The Akron Compilation. She recorded her first album, Fool Around, with backing from the Rumour in 1978. She promoted the album on the Stiff package tour (The Be Stiff Tour) using the Records as her band. The album didn't sell particularly well, but it did receive a fair amount of critical praise… The attention was short-lived, though, and Protect the Innocent, released through Stiff/Columbia, went virtually ignored the following year. She switched to Columbia in 1981 for …And Then He Kissed Me, an uneven album that nevertheless featured the Top 40 hit "Everlasting Love," a duet with Rex Smith. After one more album, 1982's Blame It on Love, Sweet retired from the music business to pursue an education, returning sporadically, most notably to sing the title track to John Waters' Hairspray, as well as Cry-Baby".
She went on to graduate from Columbia University in French and English Literature in 1988 and has since focused on establishing an acting, writing, and producing career.
Putting aside that there is something decidedly Lolita-esque in her marketing. Well it was the 70s (and early 80s) …. teens were all over the place – from David Hamilton books, to album covers. It was different time and culture, decidedly different.
I'm sure we can judge that era but I'm not sure if we can pass judgement.
Rachel however hasn't been totally sexualized the way The Runaways were or even some of the more recent girl singers are.
Perhaps it's because there was some belief in her abilities beyond exploitation as a female late teen.
She can sing, and sing well.
In reality she is probably no younger than the girl group singers she covers from the 60s.
It is clear that Rachel loves Bruce Springsteen and Phil Spector (though Springsteen himself loves Spector). This album comes across at that strange point where the mainstream hit the new wave where Springsteen, because of his straight ahead rock 'n' roll and Spector because of his life in another time were considered to be new wave. The new wave eschewed prog rock, soft rock and disco and just about everything in favour of classic rock sounds. It was easy to see why those new sounds from the past, which were out of step with current trends, were popular to the new wave.
Given her pedigree it is not surprising that Rachel ended up on England's premier new wave label, Stiff records, for her first two albums.
And that's not surprising also because the English new wave was devouring "retro American sounds" from Velvet Underground, The Stooges, to girl groups and surf music and Rachel with her retro-ish perspective fit into that perfectly.
She became another one of those American's that the English adopted (and made famous) in the late 70s … Katrina and the Waves (well Katrina anyway), Chrissie Hyne, Stray Cats, Lene Lovich, The Flamin Groovies (made famous again) …
This album was her major debut on Columbia (CBS) and featured tight New York back up session musicians rather than (her previous backup) Stiff bands The Rumour or The Records …she would have been better with them to my ears. There's nothing wrong with the playing (guitarist Rick DiFonzo was in The A's and Greg Scott was in Breakwater whist the others were blooded session musicians) but the band may have put more pressure on the producers, Rick Chertoff (on five songs) and Pete Solley (on 4 tracks) to turn in something a little more ragged.
A slick sound that cuts through all the songs.
American Chertoff was a hit maker but very slick, Pete Solley was more sympathetic to retro sounds but his sound was equally slick (though perhaps more tasteful) .
The company should have got Dave Edmunds or Nick Lowe in.
Most of it works though there are hints of the mainstream rock sound that would ruin the mainstream 80s.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Shadows Of The Night – (David Leigh Byron, Rachel Sweet) – D.L. Byron wrote this though it doesn't appear on his only (?) solo album from 1980, "This Day and Age" (which is commented on this blog). He was a above average power popster but this song comes across as very Bruce Springsteen (and a little Jim Steinman). The song is quite good (Rachel added some lyrics) though very "big" in that Bruce Springsteen way prior to "Nebraska". As I said elsewhere", the song was covered, in 1982 "by Pat Benatar which went on to sell over four million copies and win a Grammy (big wig)" who did a bombastic version which was more Jim Steinman than Bruce Springsteen.
- Then He Kissed Me / Be My Baby – (Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry) – "Then He Kissed Me" was originally done by the The Crystals (1961) and "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes, both in 1963 and both written by the same trio. They are cornerstones of the Spector sound. Rachel suits the song and the band are similarly sympathetic. Not many of the bad 80s sounds had intruded. Everyone has done these songs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Then_He_Kissed_Me http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be_My_Baby
- Billy And The Gun – (Rachel Sweet) – slow and dramatic – another Bruce Springsteen-ish song. Rachel is slightly whiney on this one.
- Party Girl – (Rachel Sweet) – more Springsteen though this one works perfectly.
- Two Hearts Full Of Love – (Eddie Schwartz) – Eddie Schwartz is a Canadian musician and wrote this song for his first solo album, Schwartz (1980). Oddly enough he also wrote "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" which became a hit for Pat Benatar in 1980 (#9US). Full bodied rock.
- Little Darlin' – (Amanda Blue, Holly Knight) – Spider was an American rock band from New York with a female vocalist, Amanda Blue. This track comes from their first album, Spider (1980). A great track ….and almost as good as the original.
- Fool's Story – (Rachel Sweet) – a good big beat ballad
- Everlasting Love (with Rex Smith) – (Buzz Cason, Marc Gayden) – "Everlasting Love" is a song written by Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden (both prolific in music)for Robert Knight in 1967 (#13). As wikipedia says " Ultimately "Everlasting Love" was released as an A-side for Knight and reached #13 in 1967. Subsequently the song has reached the U.S. Top 40 three times, most successfully by Carl Carlton, who peaked at #6 in 1974, with more moderate success for remakes by Rex Smith and Rachel Sweet (#32 1981) and Gloria Estefan (#27 1995). Thus, "Everlasting Love" is one of two songs (the other being "The Way You Do the Things You Do") to become a Top 40 hit in the 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s.and since remade several times". Co-singer Rex Smith was a 20 something teen idol who replaced Andy Gibb as host of (the duff) "Solid Gold" in 1982 and also starred in the TV series Street Hawk (1985). This is not as bad as the later versions, surprisingly. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everlasting_Love
- Streetheart – (Rachel Sweet) – hmmmm, a taste of what would become the mainstream in 80s rock.
Not perfect but certainly above average … I'm keeping it.
1981 Everlasting Love The Billboard Hot 100 #32
1981 …And Then He Kissed Me The Billboard 200 #124
1981 Everlasting Love The Billboard Hot 100 #35
Then He Kissed Me / Be My Baby
an Elvis cover (a good one)
- Rachel appeared in the 1992 Seinfeld episode "The Contest" as George Costanza's cousin …Are you 'master of your domain'?