Music Review: The Sweet, Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be

Published on February 27th, 2015 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, Reissues, Retrovirus, Reviews |

By Melissa Bratcher


Cherry Red Records continues to release some of the most fascinating compilations and reissues with a two-disc version of The Sweet’s debut album, Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be. The reissue, 28 tracks of music that range from bubblegum to The Sweet’s much heavier B-sides, is a mixed bag. On one hand, listening to the evolution of the band as they go from Archies-flavored pop to some quite heavy rock is fascinating. On the other, some of the songs are painful. Still, The Sweet were a great band, even when they were churning out silliness.

What made The Sweet great? Aside from gritty guitars and frontman Brian Connolly’s pure rock voice (one of the finest, really), their harmonies set The Sweet apart. Their three- and four-part harmonies, high and pure, elevate their songs past simple glam to these shining, glorious bits of magic. Perhaps that’s hyperbolic, but the classic Sweet songs endure and catch the ear in such a specific way. Sure, they were sometimes campy and their lyrics drifted into absurdity, but as the liner notes (written by Sweet scholar Dave Thompson) for Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be point out, “Queen were discovered lifting a large part of their own vocal arsenal from the Sweet.” The Sweet were incredibly influential. They also wore capes. Capes are good.

Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be was guided by tastemakers Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who often didn’t share the same tastes as The Sweet. Some of the songs on the album, like the middling “Honeysuckle Love” or the slight “Sunny Sleeps Late,” are filler. There are interesting covers, like the Supremes chestnut “Reflections,” which is saved by Connolly’s fine voice and the delicious harmonies. Worse is the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream,” relaxed to the point of being lackadaisical but buoyed by a Hammond solo.

Things get quite bubblegummy on the hits, “Funny Funny” and “Co Co.” The former could be a 1910 Fruitgum Company song, and the latter, while still chewy and sticky, has a tropical feel with steel drums and a smart glissando of guitar. The chorus is deeply goofy.

Still, the evolution of The Sweet begins here, with heavier tracks like the stalkery “Spotlight,” which boasts massive guitar from Andy Scott and crunchier rhythms. The following track, “Done Me Wrong Alright” is substantial, too. With wailing guitars on a bottom heavy boogie and gruffer vocals, you can hear how they influenced a generation of metal musicians like Def Leppard and the like.

The hits are here: “Wig Wam Bam” with the complex clapping pattern and shrill (but not annoyingly so) high harmonies and “Little Willy” (my favorite song as a child. I don’t know that I’ll ever love a song as much as I loved “Little Willy” when I was 6) with its start/stop rhythm and shuffle. The finest part, right before the chorus kicks in to the fade out, where the song breaks down to “Little Willy, Willy won’t/Willy won’t, Willy won’t” in a layer of vocals? Brilliant. The wee pause before the chorus comes in? Even better. What a band.

The songs from the earlier years on disc two are more bubblegum gooiness. The harmonies on “Slow Motion” are pretty, but the song is lightweight. “Lollipop Man” is more sweet absurdity, as is the saccharine “All You’ll Ever Get From Me.” The band fares pretty well on a cover of the Archies’ “Get On The Line” that fades into some sweet falsetto, but you can tell that as a band, they bristle to do something better. And thank heavens they did.

Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be was released by Cherry Red Records on February 16.

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