If Desolation Bouleveard isn't a perfect rock album, it certainly deserves accolades as one of the greatest and most influential records of the seventies. Sweet is an entity not quite the same as of Desolation Boulevard what existed before breaking free on their own from a sugarpop-smacked tag-team of songwriters who might've kept the group flying on their jets longer than this album if they'd stayed in the picture. Then again, we would very unlikely have Desolation Boulevard. As they say, things happen for a reason...
The legend of Sweet (originally known as Sweetshop) is the group was originally the brainchild of songwriter/producers Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who hired rock guns to whiz out their silly yet edgy pop tunes in competition with the original wave of British glam rockers. "Little Willy," "Funny Funny," "Blockbuster" and "Wig Wam Bam" were some of Sweet's earliest hits, yet the group cried anarchy and rolled out on their own (while some original members simply rolled out period), leading to the pivotal Desolation Boulevard.
Little would anyone realize the far-reaching impact of this gem in 1974. While retaining the hook orientation of Chinn and Chapman's influence, Sweet truly became their own band with far more texture to give their elevating falsettos aerodynamic flight courtesy of reverb, synthesizers, tubular bells and backwashed riffs. This album could've backfired as a Who-whored (you can't deny Pete Townsend's grace all over "No You Don't" and "Sweet F.A.") new Renaissance of modern rock--modern by the standards of the day, that is.
Today Desolation Boulevard sounds appropriately dated as an early seventies slab, yet Sweet were well onto something with this album, taking inspiration from English glam and American acid rock, in turn influencing a wide range of artists from Judas Priest to Elton John. You can hear ticks of early Rob Halford in "Into the Night," while Elton John at his most aggressive is all over "Sweet F.A." straight down to the warbling synth breaks.
Even Ace Frehley, who would go on to cover Sweet's "Fox On the Run" evolved his own gravelly tough guy timbre through this group. Hell, Sweet's version could've been sung directly by Ace it's that effectively translated by the latter. While Sweet would continue to hoist from their original benefactors Chinn and Chapman with "Ballroom Blitz," a tried and true anthem gaining leverage from Krokus' stout remake in the eighties, there's no denying "Blitz" kicks Desolation Boulevard off in rowdy fashion as much as any rock band has.
While we're on the subject of covers, Sweet's "Set Me Free" was hijacked by eighties thrashers Heathen. Sweet's version gets the better end of the duke for bravely setting the original course with rapid strumming, a snaggletoothed rhythm and bottlerocket guitar solos. Heathen did pull off a very savvy headbanger's delight with their own version, much as Flotsam and Jetsam did by ripping the tar out of Elton John's "Saturday Nights Are Made For Fighting."
Desolation Boulevard hardly lets up with complicated progression ala Queen fused into the fabulous "The 6-Teens" while there's almost nobody out there who can resist the old-time rock 'n roll slide of "AC/DC," if not for its steady, amp-decked pulse, but the hilariously rude lyrics about banging a chick who bangs a chick herself. Even "Into the Night" sets its own precedence (and Priest's, for that matter) by shouldering dirty riffs on the verses in one of heavy metal's earliest incarnations, then about-facing with peppermint effervescence on the spritely choruses. Let's not fail to mention an ear candy solo from Andy Scott who might've looked rather comfy next to Brian May on this one.
Sweet would quietly drift into the proverbial night after this rock masterpiece which is only slowed by the overly ambitious "I Wanna Be Committed" as Kiss would go on to rule the planet with more than a few nods taken from Sweet along with the New York Dolls. Despite respectable efforts following this album with Sweet Fanny Adams and Give Us a Wink, Sweet couldn't compete as heavy metal only got heavier (after Rainbow emerged, Sweet might well have packed it in but to their credit did not) and punk, new wave, disco, funk and country buried them into near-obscurity. Ted Nugent perhaps stole some of their thunder for his brazen personality and reckless fretwork which rawked the entire country during his madman campaign in the seventies. Of course, Sweet continued on for many years and were constantly uttered from the lips of metal musicians who followed in their wake.
If you've not yet taken a walk along Desolation Boulevard, have a go at once. As much as Rainbow's Rising, Judas Priest's Stained Class and Hawkwind's Hall of the Mountain Grill (also released in '74), Desolation Boulevard is a bona fide rock and metal history lesson. Chances are you'll get addicted in your studies like the rest of us.