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RACHEL SWEET (Buy CDs by this artist)
Fool Around (Stiff/Columbia) 1978
Protect the Innocent (Stiff/Columbia) 1980
... And Then He Kissed Me (Columbia) 1981
Blame It on Love (Columbia) 1982

The proverbial little girl with the big voice, Rachel Sweet burst out of Akron, Ohio in her teens under the watchful eye of producer Liam Sternberg. An integral component (along with Lene Lovich) of the second Stiff Records signing blitz, Sweet recorded an impressive debut on which Sternberg figured prominently as both writer and producer. In its original English release, Fool Around is a great-sounding record that has Sweet voicing Sternberg's vision of the hip girl-child. The American version — remixed, re-ordered and with two different tracks — has less verve.

Protect the Innocent shows Sweet forsaking Sternberg's new wave-cum-country sensibility, muddling about in search of a focal point. Dolled up in black leather and singing songs that run the gamut from Lou Reed's "New Age" to Elvis' "Baby, Let's Play House" to the Damned's "New Rose," Sweet seems the victim of somebody's half-assed marketing goof.

And Then He Kissed Me is Sweet's third horse change in the middle of a career busy going nowhere, a Spectorish stab at MOR rock. Devoid of the freshness that was her most obvious asset, the LP contains her first genuine American hit, "Everlasting Love," a duet with teen dream Rex Smith.

Blame It on Love shows signs of revitalization. Though it sounds Tom Petty-influenced, Sweet wrote the entire album's worth of catchy material. She may never regain the youthful charm of her debut LP, but at least this LP shows her regaining control over her musical direction.

The diminutive powerhouse was not again heard from until early 1988, when John Waters tapped her to record the title song of his film, Hairspray. Sweet entered the TV world in '89 with a daily show on cable's Comedy Channel and wound up (reportedly) doing the voice of Barbie on a Saturday morning cartoon.

[John Walker/Ira Robbins]