Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rachel Sweet - ...And Then He Kissed Me (1981)

Released: 1981 (Columbia)
Produced by: Rick Chertoff & Pete Solley
Peak on the US Billboard 200: 124

Side One Side Two
Shadows of the Night
Then He Kissed Me/Be My Baby
Billy and the Gun
Party Girl

Two Hearts Full of Love
Little Darlin'
Fools Story
Everlasting Love

Wow! What a voice.  Only 19 years old when this was released, this was Sweet's third(!) album and her first on a major US label (her first two were on the UK label, Stiff Records).  Trying to capitalize on the '60s girl group sound that Sweet brought to her first UK hit, a cover of the 1966 Carla Thomas song, B-A-B-Y, the label attempts to recreate Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" throughout this album.  Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don't. A few of the songs capture that sound while, at other times, it sounds like the label was trying to push Sweet into the same mold as Pat Benatar.

The album has multiple producers, writers, arrangers, and engineers, which suggests that the Columbia record A&R guys kept meddling with this one before releasing it.  According to Sweet, when she submitted her own songs intended for the album she was told something along the lines: "we'd like you to cut some more songs. And we'd like it if they weren't yours." Columbia was hoping that augmenting Sweet's songs with outside material produced by Rick Chertoff (producer of Air Supply) would provide Sweet with a commercial breakout.  Bad move. Not surprisingly, the result is a bit uneven and even questionable at times, but Sweet's powerful voice somehow holds it all together.

I was 15 when this album was released and was unaware of it at the time.  If I had owned a copy of it back in 1981, I'm sure Miss Sweet would have received several fan letters from me, expressing my everlasting love.  Unfortunately no longer singing, I understand Rachel currently works as a TV producer. 

  • Shadows of the Night: Released prior to Pat Benatar's hit version.  I never cared much for this song until I heard Rachel sing it. 
  • Then He Kissed Me/Be My Baby: In case you didn't get the fact that Columbia wanted to market Sweet as a return to "Wall of Sound" production of the '60s, they hit you over the head with this Phil Spector medley. Because of the obvious artist manipulation I want to hate it, but it's so good I can't, mainly due to how well the material suits Rachel's voice.  Released as the second single from the album, it inexplicably failed to chart.
  • Billy and the Gun: Written by Sweet, this tense song is about a game of Russian Roulette gone wrong.  Heady stuff for a teenager.  Yikes.
  • Party Girl: Another Sweet original, this takes the feel of Be My Baby (complete with chimes and glockenspiel) and turns it into a fun rocker.  Sounds like something Tracey Ullman would have put on her albums a few years later (even though Ullman can't touch Sweet as a singer).  The third single released, this one also failed to chart.

  • Two Hearts Full of Love: A solid power pop song from Eddie Schwartz, who also wrote Hit Me With Your Best Shot - not surprisingly, the two songs sound quite a bit alike.  This one isn't much of a challenge for Sweet, but she does the best she can with it.
  • Little Darlin': More power pop filler.  Enjoyable, but not much to it.
  • Fool's Story: Penned by Sweet, she fully expresses the pain of heartache in this soulful ballad.
  • Everlasting Love:  This cover is completely out of place here.  I try to put aside the fact that this duet with Rex Smith is a love song between a 26 year old man and a 19 year old girl and try to enjoy it.  It's a great song and, of course, Sweet completely upstages Smith, even though she didn't want to record it.  She played the game and this single peaked at #32 on the Billboard Hot 100 despite a terrible synth solo line.
  • Streetheart: For some reason, this sounds to me like something Ellen Aim and The Attackers should be singing in Streets of Fire.  I dig the verse, but the chorus is a bit earnest for me.

  1. Then He Kissed Me/Be My Baby
  2. Shadow of the Night
  3. Fool's Story
  4. Party Girl
  5. Everlasting Love
  6. Two Hearts Full of Love
  7. Little Darlin'
  8. Streetheart
  9. Billy and the Gun

Here's a bonus clip of Rachel guest starring on Seinfeld as George's cousin, Shelly:


  1. Mark, I picked up this one a few years ago - I liked it along with the rest of Rachel's category. Thank you so much for the Seinfeld clip too - I think I might have missed that episode.

  2. Y'all know I'm johnny come lately to the Rachel Sweet party and I am a fan but this is a C+ album at best. {ducking for cover}

  3. I'm at B minus, you're at C plus. Pretty close.