Stuck in Paradise

Sweet Marie

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Stuck in Paradise Review

by Stanton Swihart

The early '70s were intriguing times to be plying your trade amid the fauna and flora of Hawaii, if you happened to be a rock band. It might've had something to do with the exotic climes and locales of the islands melding perfectly with the chemically enhanced strangeness and surreal vibes of the era (or maybe there was just something in the water?), but Hawaii played home to fiercely unique bands like Mu and expatriate psychedelic trailblazers like John Cippolina, as well as serving as an important pit-stop for Jimi Hendrix and other heavy, heady artists. Sweet Marie was yet another Hollywood combo who emigrated to the isle, and they quickly became one of the hottest bands on Oahu after having a nationally successful first album, buying a nightclub there, and packing it nightly. The trio continued their popularity and success with a second album, Sweet Marie, reissued here on Gear Fab in its original form. And it's not a bad album at all; in fact, it's a pretty strong, occasionally exciting effort. Sweet Marie's music was close in many ways to the bottom-heavy, groove-laden blues and rock amalgam of Buddy Miles Express (even Band of Gypsys on the version of Phil Ochs' "Changes") but with a cooler, more languid pace and darkly mystical undertones that closely recall their contemporary, Spirit, particularly in the harmonies. The album features some really superb melodic moments, as with "It Ain't Easy" and "I Want Your Woman," while "Do Do (Find Me a Way)" is fine, soul-tinged hard rock and "Stella's Candy Store" amusingly innuendo-laden and jazzy. But Sweet Marie didn't have that distinctive spark that allowed their music to stand out or that ultimately separates them from their era. It certainly suffers in comparison to the extravagant, alien hybrid arrived at by Merrell Fankhauser and Jeff Cotton. And some of the ideas -- "Hortense the Hippie" (a rewrite of "Octopus' Garden"), in particular, and "Drum Solo" -- have aged less than gracefully. Nevertheless, it's a fine recording, and one that would be well worth grabbing for fans of off-the-beaten path '70s hard rock.

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