Cher's 1975 masterpiece Stars is a bit of a tart - it's all over the internet just begging people to give it a go, and boy is it worth the effort. Even Cher would chuckle her heavy-duty Santa Clause laughter in welled-up emotion, appreciating it as one of life's many luxuries. But that's enough introduction.
Cher's balls must have dropped for this album (and she did in fact attend vocal lessons to sadly lose her vibrato for which she was ritually mocked for by critics), with her shreiking melancholia evident on many of the tracks here, as her voice breaks under the athletic strain of her buoyant passion. Like all torch song benders, once you have started you won't be able to stop.
Cher tackles her tackle with blues, gospel, rock, ska and heavy eyelids. The earthy Bell Bottom Blues is a gorgeous battle against downtrodden, drunken piano-ladden sadness. Cher sings with rare grit and passion that someone like Pink would saw her dick off for - Cher acted the drunken tatooed bissexual bike long before the 'Most Girl' Marie Fredrikkson wannabe came along. 'Do you wanna see me crawl across the floor to you' is sung so convincingly that one imagines her having a Heather Mills Twice scenario going on with her legs, but is also sung like a shooting star with an exhaust pipe. Her poor throat though - Cher sounds like she's giving birth through it, as we witness the creation of one very special album. Her final throat-ripping squak comes right at the end of the track, as if it stops to put the poor dame out of her misery - this is her real Oscar winning performance here.
Above: Elton didn't mind Cher singing a few a songs similar to his own so long as she gave him the address of a good wig supplier.
The folksy opener Love Enough is a thing of whimsical beauty. 'Won't be long' is so swoonsome and cradles your heart with horrific tenderness. As stated similarly before, her final chortle here is a violent synge as the the track cuts off. The pensive These Days is a mellow fresh start, a soaring vocal peeks through reminiscent of The Gunman recorded for her It's A Man's World album 20 years later; country guitar lines shine light through as Cher croons to keep it together. As the song drifts to completion, a wilting orchestra folds over like lace curtains inside her gypsy caravan. The sensitive piano keys are like aching nostalgia shooting through the soul with velvety strings healing the damage. Throughout the softer moments, Cher's voice glides like flowing ribbon, and the lush web of strings would even make The Verve regret Bittersweet Symphony.
Mr Soul finds more lip-licking energy, and Cher sings with her uniquely familiar swaggering side-smirking derision. The growling 'I was doooooown' is Cher shuddering whilst letting the music lead her astray. She could start singing Stuck In The Middle With You and one wouldn't even notice. The arresting attitude is over-the-shoulder looks of come hither. Just This One Time is a ballad sung with the hint of a yawn creeping through - its arm-waving chorus is fluffed with some nice strings, and contains a rousing chorus not dissimilar to Cher's 1995 UK#1 charity single with Neneh Cherry and Chrissie Hynde, Love Can Build A Bridge. A choir threatens to steal Cher's thunder before the dark lady brings out her rare and privileged falsetto. Cher's mountain climb of a vocal is jaw-dropping. It does have one hilarious lyric, 'check my face for lies' which could easily be misheard as 'for lines'. 5 drinks later, Geronimo's Cadillac is Cher's rousing gospel-country version of 'oh lord won't you buy me a mercedes benz' and reportedly her great hope for chart success. With eyes clinching up to the sun for mercy, it is hard to disagree.
Having bought herself tickets to Jamaica, Cher wastes no time getting to know the locals to make sweet music with. The Bigger The Come The Harder They Fall is a smart-talking carribean spare jib: 'I know that when you're dead, man you're done' and 'it makes you feel so fine.' Cher would re-record Love Hurts for her 1991 album of the same name, a standard wherein she proves her vocal worth admirably. A midnight love song of soft regret where cold and confused eyes reflect haunting flames burning bridges. Swirling piano keys ripple to the surface whilst Cher's stream-like voice trembles delicately like running water gently pouring.
The jaunty slumber number Rock And Roll Doctor pushes Cher's bissexual-vibe androgyny to the limit with all the symptoms of a woman ready to move forward, whilst the track rattles with Cher's ferocious bait-biting delivery. Album closer Stars is a gorgeous finale, sung with a private grace, sweeping away the last traces of days gone by. Its sharp and crisp arrangements are perfect for a song gripped by desolated loneliness. On this very fine album Cher puts one on a gripping journey, her songs wrap themselves in tender arrangements and are sung like recieving a huge hug at just the right moment.
Below: Cher just loves her fags.An album for stagnant misery perhaps, but Cher lights up the skies with the furious Bell Bottom Blues, and throughout the album displays a poingnant maturity she is rarely given credit for. Teary-eyed drawling torch ballads are evidently her calling card. Should Cher get her leather on again for a return to music, I hope her lingering foghorn, jazzy and quivering lovesongs are not completely pushed aside. A natural mix of poppers o'clock dance trash, softcore cougar rock and sleepy torch ballads is the way to go. With vocals of steel, Stars is exhausted and unequivocally a soaring artistic triumph of alarming beauty, dissarming characterization and profound dignity. Above everything, Cher's voice has never been presented more perfectly - this album is her real autograph.
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