BY JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
SWEET F.A. – TEMPTATION (1991)
After I found myself a little surprised to have enjoyed Sweet F.A.’s first album Stick To Your Guns, I guess it was only a matter of time before I discovered that the band’s second album was also in the Big Box of Cassettes I have to pull potential article material from.
Though the album was released in 1991, this copy that I listened to was brand new from the long defunct Strawberries record store due to the fact it had never been opened from the original plastic wrapping.
Because of various writing projects recently, I didn’t have time to listen to the album at home. Instead I listened at work and ended up with some feedback from my co-worker as well. I had joked with him that I was going to punish him for some imaginary offense by making him listen to the album with me. He likes blues, jazz and classic rock so I really didn’t think he’d like this album.
To my surprise, he actually seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. We differed on some of the songs we liked individually but his final analysis was that it wasn’t at all a form of punishment to listen to the album with me.
Which is a good thing, because like Stick To Your Guns, I was genuinely surprised to find myself enjoying much of what they had to offer on Temptation.
The album was produced by Howard Benson, who had done the band’s first album as well. He must really have been in tune with the band because they sound great and do a good job at varying their material within hard rock style. This little twist from song to song was also mentioned by said co-worker as a reason why he ended up liking what he heard.
At first, I was worried that the Indiana-based rockers might fall victim to the sophomore jinx. The first side of the cassette is rather hit or miss. It opens with the mostly fast paced rocker “Bad Boy” which has a real gritty and sleazy feel to it.
But after that, the next three songs are a bit pedestrian at best, gawdawful at worst.
The band rebounded with “Storm Is Movin’ In” which has a very cinematic feel to the music. This effect is deepened with that grittier edge to singer Steven David De Long’s vocals. The song starts slow with the combined music and singing giving the song an extra dimension. When it switches to a more fast paced rocker, the cinematic vibe is lost but the song still remains top notch.
“Vices” closed out the first side and while the pacing is good, this song ended up being one that just didn’t come completely together for me.
The second side of the album was far better in my opinion. “Please Oh Please” was a fantastic track, blazing out of the speakers. I’d venture to say that it is one is one of my favorites from either of the two albums. But the next song, “Paralyzed (By You)” really shone brightly as Sweet F.A. fashioned a song that had a deeply noir-ish feel to it. I could imagine hearing this song on a dark night filled with potential for bad things, rain coming down to further depress the scene. It was darn near ART to my ears.
I didn’t really care for “Liquid Emotion” or “Ta Kill Ya Sunrise” that much, but the instrumental “1800” that led into the latter song was really ear catching.
Paying a bit of homage to their roots, the band’s song “Indiana Heart” a midtempo groove driven track was another track that I would love to hear over and over. Finally, if you are looking for a song that is about nothing more than pure attitude, you’ve got the balls out album closer “Reckless”. It is audio adrenaline to the Nth degree.
Though Sweet F.A. recorded just two albums, I think they had something special. It might’ve not been fully refined but had they arrived on the scene a few years earlier, the level of their success would’ve been far greater. They might be consigned to the deepest section of the Where Are They Now section of musical memory for most people, but after listening to Temptation as a follow up to Stick To Your Guns, I just know that I would’ve been a fan had I actually heard them when these albums had been originally released.