If Cher continued to make flop after flop in the late 70s, she certainly was not about give up on her heroine addict husband. Greg Allman might have been a junkie, but love is the only drug throughout his collaboration with his then-wife on Two The Hard Way, released in 1976 under the name of Allman & Woman. Cher's over-ripe chugging rock would soon consume the singer well into the 90s, but this is the final thread of her meditative 70s balladry and what a discreet bow out it is.
The album's genre journey is a short trek through folk-disco, bar numbers and, YES, torch ballads. With a hazy folk-rock forumula, the songs all drip from the same tap. These two are in love with each other in every song, with little to none musical variation, which is a lot to ask for from a Dark Lady and a bad ass druggie. Nevertheless, I am grateful to hear Cher sing softly throughout and her genius here lies in the caressing sympathy and stubborn love for a gritty-voiced drawling redneck.
Her own voice is a sharp intrument with underrated precision, and its on fine understated form here balancing out the gravel of Allman, easing up on the howling to a near stand-still, but thankfully remains as vulgarly proud as ever. The conflict of their love is sadly non-existant here, but her 70s corporate 'whore ballad' persona is erased completely even if I do admit to missing her improperly excessive comedy squaks. Mrs Allman's witchy wail is perfumed into soft-rock housewife kareoke, with her drag queen confidence toned down to a strangely modest expression of desperation not conveyed any other way.
Album opener and first single Move Me is a rather decent albeit featherweight Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel affair. Because these two are so cheesey it takes a few listens for it to emotionally penetrate, but mostly this is just a giggle. Shallow and pleasant from a distance, as all the album is, there is a likeable sweetness, but beware of camp limitation from here on in.
I Found You Love is similarly jolly, with Cher soon growling to prove it. Her brassy emotionalism is a fine weapon to use, and the swoonsome backing vocals sweep the pair off their feet. The closest Cher gets to a good ravishing with some tumult in her vocal finally soaring - if fans are expecting hard-driving they might be disappointed.
The serviceable bluesy number has the kind of rueful 'you do me wrong' lyric Cher loves to howl, which she expertly dramatises with winceing and minceing delight.
The unsteady You've Really Got A Hold On Me is a faithful cover, but with crutches on - the light-footed pace is trumpeted down to a disabled waltz. I certainly love Cher singing 'I wanna split now, but I just can't quit now' but the percussion-battered plodding is rather pedestrian.
On Can You Fool, Do I Ever Cross Your Mind keyboards dillute Cher's relationship angst into a syruppy foot-tapper. We get Cher's falsetto and 'man, you can be so cruel' is just about worth it. Sweet and just a little overcome, her soulfully rubber vocals are as charming as ever. The gender-turn-around lyrics are 'every memory is a bandaid'
Cher struts back into the bar for We're Gonna Make It. Allman blows his load first, but Cher catches up and then some on the chorus with much-ado about 'we gon' make it' etc. Allman's second verse comes seariously close to crashing into the same melody as those on Cher's very own u2 favourite I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. A tangled up guitar line attempts some sense, but there's no getting through to these fools. Some butt-twitching soaring from Cher helps ease the lull.
The skippable Do What You Gotta Do is gospel-like. It's a bit of a shame the album doesn't have more bite to truly indicate their turbulent relationship, which probably identifies the public statement Cher indtended to depict them as overcoming their critics.
The jauntily inviting In For The Night has nice organ sounds, but they are meddling and may as well have hired their own private kareoke booth and got on with it. Cher has found her perfect match ('to square me') - Allman's anthemic grittiness makes it hard not to chuckle imagining this is their very own I've Had The Time of My Life.
The tearful Cher solo Island is expressively melancholy, and her rawly elegant style is reliably poetic.
Two lovers seemingly getting exactly what they are after, the shaky hooks on I Love Makin' Love To You slightly overexposing themselves when Gregg groans 'honey don't stop' and Cher comes up for air: 'I want you to fill me ... with your soul' (strewth). Cher's voice is more sax than sex, but we get the point and feel violated by its end. 'Keep me up forever, nobody does it better, come and get it while it's hot' probably kept them both happy at least.
Throughout the curtain of blurry-eyed ballads and southern folksongs, Cher translates these MOR numbers as best she can: far removed from her culture heroine status as she could possible get, if these songs are too dilluted, Cher's voice is a plot in itself. As it stands, the brand names finding a cause for themselves on this record make it perilously close to the ostrich nostalgia of Cher's rose-tinted stans. Exemplifying the limitations of good intentions, there are more than enough good reports, and Cher is obviously getting a rush from all of this, never failing to embelish every word with suppleness and a self-amusement we can all feel a part of.