Sunday, 30 December 2012

Cher - All I Really Want To Do (1965)

US #16, UK #7

Like any shy young docile man with a deep throat hiding behind an older man's shadow, going solo (with a future of fake tan, Oscar winning performances and a penchant for a wig every now and then) was only a matter of time. But onto Cher, let's rewind back to when it all began. The clink-clank Spector-influenced pop of Cher's Dylan cover All I Really Want To Do (US #15, UK #9) was her first major hit as a solo act after a few experiments under different pseudonyms. Sonny Bono was not quite a protege of Phil Spector, but the connection is evident in his own approach of using intricate production layers and doubling up specific parts. The starry-eyed moment is understandably adorable and precocious: catching a glimpse of the singer at a particular moment in time, right at the start, and with the benefit of hindsight the song is soaked in a nostalgia that makes every flaw going seem as though it couldn't be more perfect. I'm really partial to this era of Cher music, but the repetition of this sound will wear thin on subsequent albums. Cher's dense vocal quality is basically the cement that holds everything together - a solid substance that pretty much renders all of her recordings as structures to be admired whether what's going on is pleasing or not. Cher's voice of steel is strong, but she sounds as if she doesn't quite no how to fully utilize it on this opening song. Here, her brazen approach benefits the lyric, which is in turns shy and defeated, then bold and determined the next. Dipping into the songbook of Bob Dylan was something of a habit for Cher in the 60s (much to the suppressed irritation of the man himself), but the overrated curmudgeon should be grateful as they are wonderful readings.

The same dreamy density of production is applied to I Go To Sleep, but with slightly more whimsical flourishes. Again, Cher's drowsy drawl is captivating in its most raw form, and sounds both naive and appalled by unthinkable nightmares at the same time.

Folk-pop classic Needles & Pins is a by now familiar Cher sensation: Cher's burning voice is especially haunting and wayward. A missed opportunity as the Sonny Bono co-write became a hit in the UK, but not for Cher.

My very favourite early Cher song of all, Don't Think Twice, It's Alright is a plodding, pavement-gazing number. The vocal is in turns pure, plaintive and pouring with her distinctive passion. The gentle Blowin' In The Wind is restraint and beautifully makes use of the harsh sandpaper texture of her voice.

Switching the gender of the original faster than Chaz armed with a staple gun, He Thinks I Still Care is predictable, but endearing and fully committed to the style of the record. You know what to expect.

Oh here we go. Dream Baby was one of her solo false starts, but this is fueled with all the familiar 60s Cher splashings of Spector, a hold-steady girl-group tempo to the sensual rhythm of the verses ("and I ... feel so good") and a sing-song sensibility in the trail of The Beatles.

The Bells of St Rhymney is yet more startled, sparkly, strummy folk-pop. With a voice so androgynous, it sounds as if that throat of her's is like a caldron that could cough up coal, or maybe one is just stuck there.

I'll group together Girl Don't ComeSee See Rider and Cry Myself To Sleep. They're pretty perfunctory filler. Curiosity value only.

Back on track, Come And Stay With Me never fails to put a delirious smile on my face. The stop-start thumps give the song an amateur feel, with Cher's unflinching conviction seemingly oblivious to the slightly rushed and clumsy clatter of sound clouding around her.

Many of these songs offer the same chimes and overall style, but it's a record that stands up as a bold and casual introduction for Cher as a solo threat. She's anything but subtle, but her approach is exactly what renders the whole affair so engaging.

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