Angel Air Records (label)
06 April 2015 (released)
24 April 2015
This is what you get when established rockers like SWEET decide on various cover versions and ‘sweetify’ the chosen tracks in the process: a feel-good album that not only rocks but manages to churn out some kick-ass surprises!
Strictly speaking, ‘New York Groove Plus’ has been out for a couple of years under the title ‘New York Connection’, but this re-release boasts some bonus tracks, hence the slight change in title.
When SWEET guitar slinger extraordinaire Andy Scott decided it might be time for a new studio album, the stars didn’t shine too bright upon the initial idea – thanks to new talent given the majority of airplay. Well then, enter Andy’s son Damian who by default inspired his dad to come up with a studio album alright, albeit one that is crammed full with cover versions. Oh, did I mention that most of them are NY-related in one way or another? As if you didn’t know.
To put it upfront, even the more usual suspects are given a fresh and unique touch when performed in Sweet-style, while the album’s surprises prove that here is a band that is perfectly able to turn someone else’s hits into their own!
Opener ‘New York Groove’ was a stomping hit for 70’s UK glamsters Hello, through Andy Scott’s outfit crank it up by adding slightly rockier tones and the brief use of a police siren effect at the start, though bassist Pete Lincoln’s powerful lead vocals are harmony pure.
Next we’re entering contemporary fields with a cover version of ‘Gold On The Ceiling’ by Ohio rockers The Black Keys. Oh me oh my, that’s a difficult one… the Keys original version is certainly worth gold what with its fuzzed-up guitars, but our SWEET nonetheless manage to boil the alchemist’s pot to the right level of heat.
Now on to a band whose sleeve work and graphic art is utterly up my alley and deserves mega exhibitions as far as I’m concerned: Electric Frankenstein! How’s that for a sizzler? We’re talking electrifying punk n roll, and it’s a bit of a bold move for Andy and Co. to tackle Electric Frankenstein’s hit ‘It’s All Moving Faster’. Mind you, they do a great job with it despite the fact that the gut-raw punk spirit of the original is amiss.
If you think that taking on Electric Frankenstein spells fearless, then wait for the ultimate surprise cover on the album - we’re talking one-hit wonder Dead Or Alive’s one-hit-wonder ‘You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’. SWEET’s version is not only a vast improvement on the original though here, you really feel like spinning around as the dance-floor is ablaze. Yeah, you heard me Big Mouth Burns!
In between, we also get treated to one of Sweet’s own compositions, ‘New York Connection’ and it rocks for all it’s worth. Another surprise is a brilliant rendition of the 60’s Yardbirds classic ‘Shapes Of Things’, as expected slightly rockier than the original but all good!
The Bruce Springsteen-penned ‘Because The Night’ was not only THE hit for Patti Smith Band per se, but seems to be a cover version favourite… from Natalie Merchant’s 10,000 Maniacs inspired unplugged take complete with harmonious strings, to heavy-rockers Keel more hardcore version. As for our four rocketeers, it goes without saying that they do the song justice by keeping it full-on in the energetic Patti Smith spirit thanks to keyboardist Tony O’ Hara’s raspy lead vocal work.
No album with NY-inspired songs would be complete without a composition by Lou Reed / The Velvet Underground, and it’s the almighty Andy Scott himself who takes over on main vocals for a scorching ‘Sweet Jane’!
As for that other New Yaawk institution, The Ramones (oh how we love them!) the choice of song is ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, for which drummer Bruce Bisland takes on the lead vocals. Cheekily, the SWEET throw in the famous riff from ‘Ballroom Blitz’ amidst the Bop, and the whole shebang rolls across punchy and pacey. Twang!
The antidote arrives with the ole Drifters smoothie ‘On Broadway’, a tune composed by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil – suffice to point out that despite maintaining plenty of soul we get a lotta rock too.
Last it’s The Who’s ‘Join Together’ which gets a makeover – keeping the song’s clap-your-hands and anthemic vibe perfectly.
The three bonus tracks are another round of ‘You Spin Me Round’ – this time live, an acoustic version of ‘New York Groove’ and a remix of ‘It’s All Moving Faster’ though it somewhat lacks bite.