Saturday, 8 August 2009
Cher - I'd Rather Believe In You
After the stark failure of 1975's Stars, Cher's follow-up from 1976 was another fine album called I'd Rather Believe In You, which was something of a return to the familiar narrative style of her biggest 70s hits. Cher's voice - a throaty elixer of hot lead and ash, so deep it sounds as if she has swallowed herself whole - is on reliably fine if unspectacular form throughout. Recorded whilst pregnant with Elijah, the album did not chart anywhere despite being badly promoted, with Cher rightfully sulking years later that the label were hopeless.
The album's sole single Long Distance Love Affair is a solid opener, re-activating Cher's gritty signature grimacing lyrics, presumably attempting to re-establish her star image. However, the title track is the album's real winner: sad and joyful in equal measure, the gorgeous piano rouses Cher's anthemic 'yeah, oh yeah' fist-in-the-air 'it's only us' style chorus.
I Know (You Don't Love Me) is a fun stumbling, jazzy affair also built on a solid electronic folk foundation. Cher yo-yo's between octaves on the tender Silver Wings & Golden Rings, a MOR middle of the week tale of meeting lonely companions at the bar. The languid Flash Back is a slow-burning Dark Lady-esque dilema perhaps too dramatic to warrant much description but is compulsive soundtrack music - Cher embraces her storytelling, but sadly she has done it so many times that by this point the facade is no longer hiding what is underneathe.
It's A Crying Shame is another arms-wide showtune number giving her cushion of straight pop some vintage poof. Early Morning Strangers is an alluring judgement-dilluted, gin-soaked lament to faceless libidinal interest and longs for something more meaningful or at least more regular.
The obvious song to look out for is Knock On Wood (yes, that one), thriving on Cher's visceral charisma and dodging disco for a more mainstream pop appeal, it's not too dissimilar to her version of Rescue Me. It certainly does not light the fuse towards Take Me Home, but proves her effortless ability to capture what is popular and never lose the essence of Cher.
She soars on the syrupy country-tinged Spring, another explicit 3rd person narrative - the lyrics are beautiful and baffling in equal measure. Borrowed Time is slightly apt given the nature of the LP, but is a radiant gem unleashed right at the end. I'd Rather Believe In You is a fine record, but not an exceptional one. Cher doesn't put a foot wrong - jazzy showtunes were the singer's well-worn stock and trade on her TV shows - but, despite reliably embracing and connecting to the material on offer here, the vivid emotion conveyed on Stars is sorely longed for.
Nevertheless, Cher is a cement-cracking architect of her own material despite hardly ever writing any of it: she wastes no time with uncertaintly, and her 'deadpan' portrayal is what makes her so real - if the Cher of Stars is supressed here, her vamping glory is the burning flame that's never diminished. I'd Rather Believe In You might not hit the sublime groove of its predecessor, but the sheer poetry of Cher's vocal is adequatey impressive.