Despite being part of the Stiff Records roster, Rachel Sweet didn't really have anything to do with punk, or even new wave -- but then again, if more teenage pop music had been like Protect the Innocent in the late '70s, we might not have needed a new wave so badly. Rachel had a big, big voice and a refreshing degree of smarts about what to do with it, able to sing pop, rock & roll, and country-accented stuff with enthusiasm, taste, and gale-force impact, and she was never in better form than on Protect the Innocent. Martin Rushent and Alan Winstanley's production is sharp, clear, and keeps Rachel's pipes up front at all times, and the backing band (uncredited, but said to be Fingerprintz) sounds lean, spunky, and tuneful. And Rachel? Well, it's not every 18-year-old girl who can tackle Lou Reed's "New Age," Elvis Presley's "Baby, Let's Play House," and the Damned's "New Rose" all in a row and sound convincing on all three, but Ms. Sweet manages that hat trick, and sounds mighty fine on the album's other nine cuts as well. She also does well with her three originals on the album, especially the energetic pop rocker "Tonight" and the slinky sneaking-your-boyfriend-into-the-house number "Tonight Ricky" (if Britney Spears had dared to sound half as sexy singing about high-school seduction, the FCC would never have let her on the air). Remember Mad Love, that album where Linda Rondstadt was trying to sound "new wave"? Listen to Protect the Innocent, and you'll hear Rachel do what Rondstadt was shooting for, and do it lots, lots better. Easily Rachel's best album.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming