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Cher Records: 1965-2002

Folk Pop Period (Atco and Imperial)

Look At Us: Sonny & Cher - 1965

Ahmet Ertegen of Atlantic Records discovers Sonny & Cher for the Atco label and in 1965 Sonny & Cher follow up the success of the summer hit "I Got You Babe" (#1) with their first long-playing record. Minor hits include: "Just You" (#20) and one of my long-time favs "Why Don't They Let Us Fall in Love" (#2). Cher covers "Unchained Melody" with her 60s brand of raw innocence. Also covers of "Then He Kissed Me", "500 Miles", "Let It Be Me", and Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a Hold On Me". "You Don't Love Me" is a groovy listen for that humorous paisley-wallpaper/ go-go boots 60s sound. Very strong debut for a happy-hippie buying culture. 

Non-album single hit: "Baby Don't Go" (#8)

 

All I Really Want to Do - 1965

As Sonny & Cher were debuting on Atco, Sonny finagled a solo deal for Cher on the Imperial label. Although The Byrds had a competing version on the charts, Cher's version of Dylan's "All I Really Want To Do" (#15) scored higher on the back of the summer phenomenon, "I Got You Babe". If his biography No Direction Home is to be believed, Dylan was apparently pissed off about it. Sonny & Cher were just not cool...even then. But Cher loved to cover Dylan and her run starts here with three songs including the title cut, "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "Blowin' In the Wind". Many Cher covers fall short of their originals ("He Thinks I Still Care", "The Bells of Rhymney, "Come and Stay With Me") but the Bono-penned "Needles & Pins" sounds much better under Cher than it did as a hit with The Searchers. Also of note: Ray Davies' "I Go To Sleep" (later a hit with The Pretenders), Cher's version of the Bono-Greene-Stone written Elvis staple "C.C. Rider", and Bono's take on his former employer's famous Wall of Sound with the song "Dream Baby". The album has a folky spin to differentiate it from simultaneous Sonny & Cher fare. Cher wavers a little on her own at this point. Very raw. Not one of her 60s best. 

 

The Wondrous World of Sonny & Cher - 1966

The second Sonny & Cher record on Atco is not nearly as strong as their first. Hits include: "But You're Mine" (#15), and their cover of "What Now My Love" (#14), but no song is memorable enough to recapture the thrill of IGUB. Many more pop and r&b covers: "Tell Him", "Bring It On Home to Me", the Zombies "Leave Me Be" and another Ray Davies song "Set Me Free". Sonny takes a stab at fashion protest with his minor solo hit "Laugh At Me". He also starts to tinker with show tune standards here, covering Gershwin's "Summertime" with a groovy folk-pop arrangement. This album is a rough mix of everything.  It's got real unlistenability.

Non-album charting single: "Have I Stayed Too Long" (#49)

 

The Sonny Side of Cher - 1966

Now, as Sonny & Cher albums take a step back, the next Cher album is a nice improvement from her first. French influence is starting to creep in with "A Young Girl" and "Our Day Will Come".  The album is most remarkable for the Sonny penned Cher hit "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" (#2). Minor hits include the Dylan-mimicked Bono tune "Where Do You Go" (#25) and "Come to Your Window" (#23). Other covers: "The Girl from Impanema", another Dylan cover, "Like a Rolling Stone", another standard, "Ol' Man River",  and Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual". As a kid, I loved the Michael Merchant penned song "Time" and Cher's meandering version of "Elusive Butterfly". On these tracks, Cher's got more confidence and it shows.

 

Sonny & Cher: In Case You're In Love - 1967 

Again, not as good as Look At Us but much much better than what we got in '66. This album immediately redeems Sonny & Cher with the classic "The Beat Goes On"(#6). Covers include a not-so-terrible "Groovy Kind of Love", "We'll Sing in the Sunshine", and a surprisingly swell version of "Stand By Me". There's the personal sounding "Cheryl's Goin' Home" (but penned by Bob Lind, not Sonny Bono), "Living For You" (#87) and "Podunk", an awfully painful song to sit through but a haunting premonition of a variety show shtick to come. To this day I still love Bono's very jaded "Love Don't Come", their quiet, bass-strewn version of "Stand By Me" and the tenderly exotic love song "Little Man" (#21).

Non-album charting single: "A Beautiful Story" (#53)

 

Cher - 1967 

There's more French influence here and more folk. The album starts with bare simplicity in the stripped down "Sunny". The only hit generated from this album was her version of Burt Bacharach's "Alfie" (#32) from the Michael Caine movie. But Cher's version didn't fare nearly as well as the Dionne Warwick version, now considered the definitive although Cher's version was on the soundtrack. Covers include: "The Twelfth of Never", "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me", "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", "Homeward Bound", "Catch the Wind", "Until It's Time for You To Go", "Cruel War" and Dylan's "I Want You". Sonny contributes a song about unwed pregnancy, "I Feel Something in the Air". Again, we find many covers a step behind their originals. It's hard to compete with Dusty Springfield and Simon and Garfunkel, although it's Cher's "Alfie" I think about whenever I slip "what's it all about, Alfie" into regular, day-to-day conversation.

 

With Love - 1967 

This is the best Cher solo recording of the 60s in my humble opinion. Full of great cuts like "Behind the  Door (#97), "Look at Me", "There But For Fortune", and "I Will Wait for You" from the movie The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Cher also scores another hit with the switch-sexed version of Sonny's "You'd Better Sit Down Kids" (#9). When I was little, I loved Sonny's melodramatic "Mama (When My Dollies Have Babies) but it's hard not to snicker over it these days. It's the word "dollies" I'm sure. But that song aside, this album has many gems: Sonny's passionate "I Can't Love You More"; even her version of "Hey Joe" passes muster. Then there's the obligatory Dylan cover, "The Time's They Are A-Changin" and another show tune, "Sing For Your Supper". Cher sounds great on these tracks. Her voice is smoother and stronger than ever. 

 

Sonny & Cher: Good Times Movie Soundtrack - 1967

1967 was a busy year for Sonny & Cher. They made a studio album, put out two Cher albums, released a movie and this movie soundtrack full with original Bono material. Per Colonel Tom Parker's advice, Sonny & Cher decide to make a light-hearted romp of a movie about themselves! The movie bombs but we get a a nice gatefold-covered soundtrack that includes my favorite Sonny & Cher song, "It's The Little Things" (#50), two newly reworked versions of "I Got You Babe", and the skirt-raising western musical piece, "Good Times" (another precursor of the variety numbers to come on TV). Nice laid-back version of "I Got You Babe" at the end but this album is mostly for-fans-only fare. 

 

Backstage - 1968 

Cher goes Bacharach a little on this album with songs like "Carnival", "A House is Not a Home" and one of my favorite songs by anybody's cover, "The Impossible Dream". Cher also stays folk a little, groovy a little with covers of "Reason to Believe", "Do You Believe In Magic", "I Wasn't Ready", and The Moody Blues' "Go Now". This album fails to produce hits but these covers are a notch above the run-of-the-mill. She records another Dylan tune, a scathing and deadpan but passionate take on "Masters of War". This has always been one of my favorite Cher covers of Dylan. I loved it even when I was 9 years old and had no clue what it was about. This album has a real sophisticated turn of mood about it, from the first track to the organ laden "I Wasn't Ready" to the mature-sounding spin on girl groups, "Take Me For a Little While" to the the last two tracks, Cher's unusual cover of Miriam Makeba's "The Click Song" and the heart-aching "Song Called Children". The first real overlooked Cher album.

 

Chastity Movie Soundtrack - 1969 

Sonny writes a movie and produces it independently. Cher stars in the movie. The movie bombs bigger than Good Times did. But Chastity was conceived during the making of it and becomes its namesake. Mostly this is an instrumental soundtrack, with one new Cher recording to the opening credits, "Chastity's Song (Band of Thieves). 

 

3614 Jackson Highway - 1969 

Up to this point, Sonny has been at the helm of all Sonny & Cher and Cher material. Imperial has now dropped Cher and Atco gives her a one-album solo-shot but only if Sonny relinquishes power. Soon after Chastity is born, Cher is packed off to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to work with famed producers Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin and Jerry Wexler, the very same producers who put together the stupendous classic Dusty in Memphis this very same year. Frustratingly, these producers struggle with Cher and she struggles with much of the material here. For all their good intentions and possibility of the project, the low points detract from some very striking highlights, which include two Dylan covers, "Lay Lady Lay" and her solidly sultry cover of "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You". Covers of "For What It's Worth" and "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" seem highly unnecessary and awkward, as does her final Dylan cover (from a whopping 5-year total of 10!) "I Threw It All Away". The worst track is "Cry Like a Baby". But Cher's version of Dr. John's "Walk on Guilded Splinters" is one of my top-ten favorite Cher songs and her version of the Aretha classic "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" is passable. But it's hard not to imagine what might have been: Cher's version of "Son of a Preacher Man"!

 

Narrative Ballad & Torch Period (Kapp/MCA)  

Sonny & Cher: Live - 1971

After the failure of the movie Chastity, which Sonny had sunk all their earnings into, and the non-successes of Cher's last two albums, and the advent of acid rock that rendered their act obsolete, Sonny & Cher found themselves in extreme debt. Sonny redesigned their image and their act and put them on the road in 1970. By 1971 their new image had secured them a summer replacement spot for a television variety show. To capitalize on their new fortune, Sonny & Cher released this Kapp label live recording which captures the early raw quality of their 1970s on-the-road variety act. The album is very enjoyable for what it is, a kind of hotel nightclub comedy and music act with lounge versions of "The Beat Goes On", "I Got You Babe", "What Now My Love", and "Laugh At Me". Three Beatles covers include a passionate version of "Something", "Gotta Get You Into My Life" and the first version I ever knew of "Hey Jude". Highlights are Cher's foray into the very torch genre she would reintroduce for television consumption: a beautiful version "Danny Boy", "Someday" and the Judy Garland standard "Once in a Lifetime". There is a remarkable change in Cher's sound from 1969 to 1971. She has acquired a new drawl and the rough edges have been rounded off. Many fans of the rougher sound, like rock critic Robert Hilburn, will drop off at this point, annoyed with the repackaged sound of Sonny & Cher, which is newly targeted to attract not kids but their parents. The folk-pop sound has been abandoned for adult contemporary and some fans smell a sellout. But a new legion of fans steps aboard during this phase, attracted by the colorful glamour and narrative ballads, a budding legion of little girls and gay men who love Cher's newfound deadpan confidence and the amplitude of her new vocal style.

 

Cher - 1971 

On her new Kapp label, Sonny was again removed as producer. This time Snuff Garret was introduced to redesign the Cher sound for her first comeback. The result was the second smash number-one hit of her career, "Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves" (#1). "The Way of Love" (#7) became Cher's highest charting torch song and the rest of the album was fleshed out with adult contemporary narrative ballads and covers including a slightly off-tempo rendition of "Fire and Rain" and a strong version of "He Aint Heavy He's My Brother". Much of the rest of the album is melodramatic filler material, songs with maybe an interesting bridge or gimmick but nothing memorable, nothing to compare to the exotic magic of "Gypsys Tramps and Thieves", often considered, if not the signature Cher song, the signature Cher song of the 70s. 

 

Sonny & Cher: All I Ever Need Is You - 1972

As the 1971 Cher album became Cher's comeback album, the Kapp album All I Ever Need Is You served as a comeback for Sonny & Cher. I loooove this album. This was the album I dug out of my parents record collection when I was about five or six years old. It's full of my favorites: "All I Ever Need Is You" (#7), Sonny's "A Cowboy's Work is Never Done" (#8), Brotherhood of Man's "United We Stand", and my #1 fav Cher song, the Bono-penned "Somebody". I love it I love it I love it! Sonny does his own version of "You'd Better Sit Down Kids" and the rest is full of fun easy-listening covers like "More Today Than Yesterday" and "Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling". This is the best Sonny & Cher album because it captures exactly what they were about in the early 70s (not unlike Look at Us  did in the 60s) down to the cover art. 

Non-album charting single: "When You Say Love" (#32)

 

Foxy Lady - 1972 

I first reported that Sonny produced this album, but I remembered incorrectly, as Dale Fox recently notified me via email recently:

"Cher  Scholar, the 1972 Album "Foxy Lady" was produced by Snuff Garret with Sonny as a co-producer on only three tracks "Song for You", a remake of Cher's 1969 Atco Single "The First Time" & "Don't Hide Your Love". These collaborations were so stress filled that Garrett resigned as their producer after the LP was finished. Sonny then went on to produce Cher's Bittersweet White Light album [see below] which of course was a commercial flop. MCA Then approached Garrett to return to record Half Breed, He accepted with the condition that Sonny not be within 10 miles of the recording studio." Dale1953

Possibly it was due to this tug-of-war between Garrett and Sonny that doomed the record. Foxy Lady starts strong with "Living in a House Divided" (#22) but with this effort isn't slick enough to compete with her other early 70s solo records. Covers include an okay version of Three Dog Night's "Never Been To Spain" and a memorable version of "Song for You" but most of the material is ballad filler.

 

Bittersweet White Light - 1973 

Due to the success of Cher's solo torch spots on the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour with the likes of "My Funny Valentine" and "What a Difference a Day Makes", Sonny decided to produce an album of standards for Cher, but with modern arrangements. Songs here range from Gershwin tunes ("How Long Has This Been Going On" and "The Man I Love") to Al Jolson's "Sonny Boy" to Judy Garland's "The Man That Got Away" to Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad and That Aint Good". Critics gave Cher a hard time for this album because she didn't pull Billie Holliday out of her hat. I think she does fine with these songs and believe, in this case, many critics missed the forest for the tree.

 

Sonny & Cher: Mama Was a Rock and Roll Singer, Papa Used to Write All Her Songs - 1973

If All I Ever Need Is You marks the best of the Sonny & Cher, this one marks the worst. Someone's heart wasn't in it and I think that would be Cher's. Sonny and Cher were in the middle of breaking up behind that proverbial fourth wall. Like Liberace's true sexuality, what were we thinking? It's very obvious. Sonny spells out the drama of their relationship in his title opus "Mama Was a Rock and Roll Singer, Papa Used to Write All Her Songs" (#77) clocking grievances against Cher for over nine minutes! Hellooooo. Bad covers include: "It Never Rains In Southern California", "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show", and the worst Sonny & Cher track in history, The Doobie Brothers' "Listen to the Music". Their version of "I Can See Clearly Now" isn't so bad, but beyond kitsch factor (and I actually like some of the kitshy crap on this thing, but I know that's just me), there's not much of real quality here. We miss the "and if our backs are should ever be against the wall, we'll be together" quality of All I Ever Need Is You. We really do. 

 

Sonny & Cher: Live in Las Vegas Vol. 2 - 1973

Things deteriorate rapidly with Live in Las Vegas Vol. 2. They're playing a big Vegas room at the Sahara when that was something pretty special but they're barely interacting any more and when they do, there's a nasty bite to it. Sonny performs "You'd Better Sit Down Kids" and a particularly venomous version of his own "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)". The record opens with their concert staple "All I Ever Need Is You" strangely off-tempo from the record. In fact, everything is a little off...right from the beginning where the announcer says "Ladies and Gentleman, Sonny & Cher" and the band starts too soon...to when Cher starts singing before Sonny makes his macho exclamations like "Do it". Throughout the whole show, Sonny & Cher are not on the same page. And then there's the problem of Sonny...he's gone Elvis all the sudden (as the cover of the album indicates) and it's highly annoying. Bad covers include: "You've Got a Friend", "Where You Lead", "Superstar" and "You and I". We miss the intimacy of Live Vol. 1. We really do.

 

Half Breed - 1973 

Snuff Garrett is brought back to work hit magic for Cher as he did in 1971 with another narrative ballad album. They strike gold with "Half Breed" (#1). Like all of Snuff's records, this one is slick and well-packaged. A good example of Cher circa 1973. Decent covers include: "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart", The Beatles' "The Long and Winding Road", and Paul McCartney's "My Love". David Paich (see Toto) contributed a song for Cher called "David's Song" and Cher contributed lyrics for a reworked version of a Seals and Crofts song "Ruby Jean & Billie Lee" to create a beautifully lilting version called "Chastity Sun". Good moderate pop fare, complimenting what you'd expect from the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour TV show and "Carousel Man" has always been one of my favorite Cher tunes.

 

Dark Lady - 1974 

Producer Snuff Garret followed up the success of Half Breed with this album, another combination of narrative ballads and torch songs. A little glossier, this album produced another smash with "Dark Lady" (#1) and includes the raspy "Train of Thought" (#27), a delicious cover of The Great Gatsby theme song "What'll I Do" and some fine ballad material with "I Saw a Man and He Danced with His Wife" and the countrified "Just What I've Been Lookin' For". She does a very campy tribute to the Divine Miss M on the retro "Miss Subway of 1952". This album shows what Cher can do back in the mid-70s, at the height of her popularity. She's  in good form on these tracks and attracts many young fans during this period of her career for her unique style of glamour pop.

 

The 70s Rock Record (Warner Bros.)  

Stars - 1975 

A lot of turmoil and scandal surrounded Stars, Cher's first album on the Warner Bros. label. The tabloids have played out stories of various Cher-sploits, including her divorce from Sonny and subsequent hookups and dalliances with David Geffen and Gregg Allman. Geffen pulled a miracle for Cher, extricating her from Sonny's financial contracts, negotiating for her a new TV show and lucrative record contract, including one where Cher could finally make music she felt passionate about: rock and roll. Jimmy Webb is chosen to produce what most fans consider Cher's finest album. Lush yet rockin' arrangements fill this album with covers of some of the most prominent players of the mid-70s: Eric Clapton's "Bell Bottom Blues", Jackson Browne's "These Days", Buffalo Springfield's "Mr. Soul", Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come", Janis Ian's "Stars" and Cher favorites, "Geronimo's Cadillac" and "Love Hurts". Completely ignored, this is Cher's most overlooked jewel.

 

Narrative Pop Revisited (Warner Bros.)  

I'd Rather Believe In You - 1976 

Because Stars was such an abysmal financial failure, Cher was put back with narrative pop songs on her next album. She gives it a good try. "I'd Rather Believe In You" is a particularly fine track and she rocks a little when she can with songs like "Long Distance Love Affair". "Flashback" is another interesting listen but there's nothing earth shattering here, mostly because we're on the trail of Stars. 

 

Cherished - 1977 

Because I'd Rather Believe In You didn't fare much better than Stars, Snuff Garrett was brought back in to work his narratives magic. He tries to recapture "Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves" with "Pirate" and "Half Breed" with "War Paint Soft Feathers". Although I loved this album when I was eight years old for the melodramatic storylines of sagas like "Pirate" and the song about the Hollywood casting couch "Send the Man Over", and although I still feel nostalgic about "He Was Beautiful" and Peter Allen's "She Loves to Hear the Music", overall, these songs are pale imitations of the songs on Half Breed and Dark Lady.

 

The 70s Rock Duet Record (Warner Bros.)  

Allman and Woman: Two the Hard Way - 1977 

Who knows how this project got green-lighted. It was doomed from the start, not because it's bad. It's actually kinda good. Allman and Woman was doomed because it was silly. Love cannot conquer all, as it turns out. I can hear someone sitting in the dark offices of Warner Bros. saying "It's just so crazy it might work!" If you can get past the cover and the concept, you'll find some good stuff here. I can only take Gregg Allman in small doses myself but luckily you only get a small dose here so it's really very palatable. This combination of Allman's scratchy voice and Cher's syrupy one compliment each other in an odd way on songs like "I Found You, Love", "I Love Makin Love to You" and a version of "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" which throws us back to the first Sonny & Cher record. Not an album I listen to very often, but overall, not as bad as you'd think.

 

Disco Period (Casablanca)  

Take Me Home - 1979 

After Allman and Woman, Warner Bros. had had enough with four Cher albums of non-hits. The next company to pick her up was Casablanca, primarily a disco/KISS dichotomy of a label. Much to Cher's chagrin, she was pressured into recording a disco album. From the project came a kind of second comeback hit, "Take Me Home" (#8). This is a nicely produced disco album with smooth melodious tracks like "Say the Word" and "Let This Be a Lesson to You". The heartfelt belting on the ballad "Love and Pain" foreshadows a decade of rock ballads ahead and Cher even contributes a self-penned song about her failed marriage to Gregg Allman on the closing ballad "My Song (Too Far Gone)".

 

Prisoner - 1979 

Although Cher hates disco, Casablanca tries to capitalize quickly on the success of Take Me Home with this second disco album. And then Cher tries to sneak rock songs into the mix. This album doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it disco with tracks like "Prisoner", "Hell on Wheels" and "Mirror Image" or rock with songs like "Boys & Girls", "Holy Smoke" and "Outrageous"? As the disco songs go, "Holdin Out For Love" is probably the best. The rock songs aren't very good. But all the tracks are interesting on one level: they were all written specifically for Cher. This album is practically a little biography of Cher, with songs like "Shoppin" (she loves to shop, you see), "Outrageous" (Bob Mackie even makes an appearance), and "Mirror Image" about her life under the tabloid's eye.

 

The "I'm With the Band" Record (Casablanca)  

Black Rose - 1980 

After 15 years of stardom, Cher tries to sublimate herself within a band. This is Cher as supergroup. She comes out of the hair closet with her short shag doo and tries to be an anonymous chick lead. This is all an attempt to be taken seriously by the rock establishment so she can finally sing the songs she likes. I hate to rain on her parade but most fans are starting to wish she'd go back to singing "Don't Rain on My Parade". Honestly, the album might have fared better as a legitimate debut rock album. But considering this was Cher we're talking about, everyone had over a decade of pop and ballad albums to measure this one against. The shift from disco to this is almost shocking. Although her vocals are a little garbled, Cher makes the transition with the help of Les Dudeck and her other band mates.  Although I have no idea what she's screaming, I've always kinda liked the songs "Julie", "Young and Pretty" and "Fast Company". This album wasn't destined for anything but criticism (these guys were very brave to give Cher a whirl anyway), but this record probably paved the way for her Geffen decade to come.

 

Straight to Cut-Out Bin  (Columbia)  

I Paralyze - 1982 

New label, new producer. Cher's got a movie career cooking (Silkwood's in the can when this album comes out). Olivia Newton John's producer comes in to create Cher magic. Lots of synthesizer 80s-ness. Cher seems to overpower 80s lite-pop like "Rudy", Desmond Child's "The Book of Love"; and "I Paralyze" sounded dated as soon as it was released as a single. This album has a shoestring budget sound to it. There is a humorous cover of The Babys' "Back on My Feet Again". The funniest thing I can say about this album is that my friend Christopher bought it as a cut-out recently and came to me wanting his dollar back.

 

The Schlock-Rock Period  (Geffen)  

Cher - 1987 

Cher's movie career really took off between 1982 and 1987 (three movies alone were released in 1987: Witches of Eastwick, Suspect, and Moonstruck would be released by Christmas). John Kalodner talks Cher into making another album. Although it was good to hear Cher on the radio again in the fall of 1987 after so many years (all of my high school years, actually), this was a bittersweet victory for me. Although a new generation of fans step aboard for Cher's new sound, I wasn't so thrilled with the new record of Hard Rock Lite. She sounded like Bon Jovi to me (Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora even wrote and produced material on the record) and so I took to calling this phase her Bon-Jovi-Schlock-rock phase, no offence to Bon Jovi, because the songs were simplistic, bombastic and she sang them at full-throttle constantly. The songs don't show much variety, even though every two are championed by a separate producer. The constant belting from beginning to end allows no drama to build up within a piece. It's just bravado and melodrama. But very good and popular bravado and melodrama so who am I to say anything. Besides, Cher is having fun. This type of leather jacket rock is her thing and hair bands are coming up all over. She makes a third comeback with hits from the Michael Bolton-penned "I Found Someone" (#10), and Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child's "We All Sleep Alone" (#14). An interestingly assertive re-recording of Sonny's "Bang Bang" is on the record and I like the Desmond Child-penned love ballad "Main Man" but the rest of the material is Diane Warren/Desmond Child type filler. Songs with titles like "Give Our Love a Fightin' Chance" and "Working Girl" (although doing this review I re-listened to "Working Girl" and it's like a little temp version of "She Works Hard for the Money"). Although it's real nice to see Cher on MTV as a contender for Rock Chick, I soon become bored with the music.

 

Heart of Stone - 1989 

More belting, full speed ahead. Of the schlock-rock records, this is the best of the three with an even bigger arsenal of Diane Warren and Desmond Child material. We get six songs between them including "Just Like Jesse James" (#8), "Love on a Rooftop" and Warren's "If I Could Turn Back Time" (#3) which not only scored Cher with another major hit but has become Cher's second signature song, if you can have two. Cher's duet with Peter Cetera from the soundtrack of Chanses Are, "After All" (#6) also fared well on the charts. Filler includes more Michael Bolton material: "You Wouldn't Know Love", "Still In Love With You", and "Emotional Fire", and more Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora with "Does Anybody Really Fall In Love Anymore?". Can anyone really tell the difference between these songs anymore? I love "Heart of Stone" (#20), probably my favorite 80s Cher song, but what can I say about the rest. More of the same. 

 

Love Hurts - 1991 

Although Desmond Child/Diane Warren's "Save Up All Your Tears" rocks pretty hardy, her re-recording of her previous cover of "Love Hurts" (but schlock-rocked this time) is a weak imitation of Nazareth whereas the Stars version was mellowed into a surreal meditation. And Warren's "Love and Understanding" (#17) rings flat as any cliche. There's a duet with Richard Page and a cover of the KISS song "A World Without Heroes" worth a listen but the rest is more of the same  except now the spell is broken on big hair and bombastic beltways. It's the end of an era. Goodbye era. 

 

The Mellow Record  (Warner UK)  

It's a Man's World - 1996 

For almost five years we see few movies and hear no new music from Cher. Like a glass of crystal cold water at the end of a very long dry spell of silence and big hair, we get one of Cher's very best albums, certainly the best modern Cher album from her new label Warner UK. The lyrics of her new album contain a contemplative maturity than previous albums lack with covers of "Angels Running", "The Sun Aint Gonna Shine Anymore" and James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World". Other covers include "Walking in Memphis" and Don Henley's "Not Enough Love in the World". The gems are "Angels Running",  "The Gunman", and "One by One". Even the filler is nice. There are vast differences between the UK and US releases. Songs up-tempo on one release were brought down on the other and visa versa. Three extra songs were included in the UK release. The US release was repackaged with more of an R&B feel. Most fans prefer the UK version but there are good and bad things about each version. For instance, the song "Paradise Is Here" is an upbeat lyric best suited to the upbeat arrangement on the US version. "What About the Moonlight" is a song about depression and needs a slower, pensive arrangement which is found on the UK version (the funky US version detracts from the song's message). Overall, this album contains the kind of smooth mellow tracks I never thought I'd be hearing from Cher.

 

The Dance Records  (Warner UK)  

Believe - 1999 

Because her first album on Warner UK scored no hits, Warner talks Cher into recording an album she swore she'd never do (again), dance. As dance albums go, this is simple clean fun. Her vocal control is better than it's been in years and most of the songs are very catchy. The dance formula hits the jackpot with a song I didn't expect much from, "Believe" (#1) often toted as the record of Cher's career, so it may turn out to be her third signature song, if you can have three. Other catchy tunes include "Strong Enough", "All or Nothing" and her turn with the Italian lyric, Spanish-influenced "Dov'e L'Amore". Diane Warren returns with the filler "Takin' Back My Heart" and we get a bad remix of "We All Sleep Alone", possibly added as a tribute to the recently diseased Sonny Bono. Then there's the sheer poetry of "Taxi Taxi" and the floating quality of "Love is in the Groove". After some hard times, she was back on top with her fourth comeback and some pretty groovy stuff.

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The Singer-Songwriter Record  (Artists Direct/Isis)  

not.com.mercial - 2001

This album is really a schlock-rock throwback and is actually out of place in this lineup. Released independently in 2001 because Warner UK claimed it was "not commercial" enough, it was actually recorded between Love Hurts in 1991 and It's a Man's World in 1996. The album acts as a bridge, sound wise, between the bombastic late 80s material and the mellow late 90s material. Cher used the David Letterman band to bring these songs to life, songs she'd written while on a songwriter's retreat outside of Bordeaux, France, with the likes of Patty Smyth. So okay, she's no Paul Simon. But this is surely a good freshman effort. From a 17 year old we'd say, 'good effort'. But it's the Black Rose syndrome: because it's Cher we forget this is really her debut songwriting album. The impressive thing to me: it took lots of lots of guts to release a freshman effort as a 50-something and already the target of most rock critics. Overall, this album is more appetizing than the Geffen records. It's the first album Cher produced and the first full album of Cher-penned lyrics and music (other Cher co-writing credits have appeared on Half Breed, Take Me Home, the Foxes soundtrack and Believe; Cher also co-wrote a song with Elton John for his Leather Jackets album). Only two songs were not written or co-written by Cher: "Born with the Hunger" and "Classified 1A" written by Sonny in the early 70s. Cher themes include her feelings about Catholicism (the controversial "Sisters of Mercy"), American military veterans (the tight "Fit to Fly"), a kind of restlessness which might explain her need to buy new houses every two years ("Runnin"), the problem of homelessness ("Our Lady of San Francisco" which contains the unfortunate Bob Dole line), showbiz advise to a young kid ("Disaster Cake"), general heartache ("Still") and something that would have broken up the monotony on any shlock-rock 80s album, ("With or Without You"), and finally, a cynical little song about Kurt Cobain ("The Fall"). It's good Cher-speak for unbelievers.

 

The Dance Records Continued  (Warner UK)  

Living Proof - 2002 

But back to the record contract. Cher records the follow-up to Believe and it turns out to be a notch above her previous effort. More complicated grooves, even better lyrics on songs like the fabulously melancholy UK-only love song "You Take It All" and the catchy "When the Money's Gone". "Song for the Lonely", "Different Kind of Love Song", "Alive Again", "Real Love" — this album is packed with inspiring tunes. Even the two Diane Warren songs can stay! Again different releases for the UK, the US and now Japan. This is very frustrating. And maybe there's too much vocoder, as well, but the songs are very very catchy. I couldn't believe it when I first heard the album...her voice sounds great. I really dug it! Lots of re-listenability here. This album is being overlooked even as we speak.

Live: The Farewell Tour - 2003 

Recorded in Miami, Florida, in November 2002 when her live TV special was being filmed. In packaging, feels like a quicky-produced capitalization of the hugely successful Farewell Tour. Audience cheering levels vary dramatically from her other two live albums, the two nightclub shows from the early 1970s, which is a testament to how far she's come. The comparison is also a testament to how much her vocals have changed. Overall it reflects a fun and lively but un-emotional show with the good musicianship of her longtime live-band's players, including Paul Mirkovich (keyboards and musical director), David Barry (guitars) and backup singers Stacy Campbell and the late Patti Darcy Jones.

 

The Movie Musical  (RCA)  

Burlesque - 2010 

This soundtrack spawned a new number one dance track for Cher, "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" which spawned countless remixes and a Golden Globe win for Diane Warren. The only other Cher song on the album is "Welcome to Burlesque." The vocals here sound a bit swallowed and the lyrics are a forced effort to showcase the burlesque theme. "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" is generally good Cher-as-survivor fare but could have existed anywhere on any other modern Cher album. The song doesn't fit well with the movie and yet ironically the song was the most successful product of the movie. Which tells you something about the quality of this movie. The remaining eight songs were done by Christina Aquilera of which "Bound to You," co-written by Sia, is truly standout, both in the movie and on the album. The rest is cover-quality material (in tribute to Etta James) and light dance. Some almost-catchy numbers but nothing really satisfying. Most dissappointing is that the Cher and Christina numbers do not gel together and the soundtrack does not have a unifying musical theme. Rather than take the time to write a true musical, they gave us a group of random songs thrown into a movie, songs that neither further character development or arouse any emotional response. A rather sloppy musical in the end.

Read the movie review.

 

The Dance Records Continued - Again (Warner Bros)  

Closer to the Truth - 2013 

Initially disappointing despite a literal army of songwriters, the album has a way of growing on listeners with its happy catchiness The problems are some dated sounds (for a dance album), production that seems geared to Millennials, and some of the worst lyrics of her career ("Red" being the best worst example). "Woman's World" recycles too much from "Strong Enough" and "Believe." "Take It Like a Man" is catchy but vague. "Red" is full of clichés and mixed-metaphors. After the beautiful lyrics of her previous Warner albums, this feels like a regression. However, The P!nk-penned "I Walk Alone" is a critical favorite. "Sirens" and "Favorite Scars" are also highlights for many fans. The camp catchiness of "Dressed to Kill" eventually wins doubters over. Despite one line to the contrary, "I Hope You Find It" seems to want to read as a touching love song from a mother. An extended "deluxe" version featured three extra songs, the happy anthem "Pride" which feels like a cynical reach to either gay-pride or tweens, Burlesque's "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," and an 80s-sounding "I Don't Have to Sleep to Dream." The super-deluxe album version includs two remixes of "Woman's World" and another country song, "Will You Wait for Me." Of the three country-tinged songs, "I Walk Alone," "Lie to Me," and "Will You Wait for Me," the later-two do not take enough risks and seem bland. Not the worst. Not the best. Good for a rainy day.

 

Cher Scholar's Pics

Cher - With Love - 1967
This one is hard to find. Used record stores have a copy once in a blue moon. There is a CD available from France. You can find it online as an import album at CDNow

Cher - Backstage - 1968
This one is even harder to find. Used record stores have a copy once in another blue moon. This one has never been released on CD but you can find bootleg copies if you poke around. 

Sonny & Cher - All I Ever Need Is You - 1972
See above. This one has never been released on CD but you can find bootleg copies if you poke around. 

Cher - Stars - 1975
See above again. This one has never been released on CD but you can find bootleg copies if you poke around.

Cher - Take Me Home - 1979
This one has been re-released on two CDs. Take Me Home has most of the album (minus a great track "Say the Word")  plus "Bang Bang" and "You'd Better Sit Down Kids" but the import album Casablanca Years includes the album in its entirety plus the Prisoner album. You can buy this one as an import from CDNow

Cher - It's a Man's World - 1996
You can find the US version of this album at your local record store and the UK version from the import section of CDNow

Cher - Living Proof - 2002
You can find this album at your local record store. Go buy it!

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