Sunday, 30 December 2012

Cher - The Sonny Side of Chér (1966)

US #26, UK #11

Taking forever to release more music, Cher finally released another album 4 months after her debut. Leaving so long between operations has something she's tried hard not to repeat ever since of course. On her second solo shot, the clear stand out is Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) (US #2, UK #3). The song is brittle and fully-loaded with atmospheric strings, chilly flourishes and a casual off the cuff quality, all the while the lyrics drag with adulthood disappointments of a graphic nature. It boils my blood whenever Cher's original version (which was a major hit to boot) is overlooked in favour of the more "fashionable" Nancy Sinatra version. You could say we have the template for the broken woman anthems, of which I am sure she has referred to as "the whore ballads" (ie, her big US pop number 1s Gypsies, Half Breed and in particular Dark Lady).

Bono's wistful Where Do You Go (US #25) does a good enough job trying to be Bob Dylan. Tackling the subject of a broken family, the close to home forecast is evident in hindsight with Cher's gentle but lingering coos and the juxtaposition with the jaunty arrangement seemingly magnifying the real life outcome.

A European influence breezes through Our Day Will Come: the vocal still lacks the subtlety she will master in the 70s, but the sharper edges remain pleasing and a unique pleasure.

Ellusive Butterfly flutters with much the same arrangements. For those unfamiliar with the original, like myself, this is serviceable if not terribly exciting.

Excavating Dylan's songbook yet again, Like A Rolling Stone is tremendous. The arrangements ache and echo with the kind of melancholia waltzing through some of Sonny & Cher's hits.

Come To Your Window (US #23) is more smashed in and clattering arrangements. I'm fond of it whenever it comes on, but I can't deny it's 'framed' (okay I'll stop) with much of what you can hear on any other song from the period.

Slightly disappointing, The Girl From Ipanema really needed a gear change in Cher's vocals. Instead her drawl just sounds bored, which is a shame as singing more quietly and expressively could have made this rather special.

I get no satisfaction from It's Not Unusual. Similarly naff, Milord must have sounded dated even then, but has a quaint charm to the speed increase during the chorus and the velvety story telling of the verses, which make it good fun for what it is.

Bang Bang is magnificent, Cher has a stronger and more confident presence and the arrangements are seeking influences from further afield. Another important stepping-stone in her 30 album + career. Taking Cher at face value has always been her problem, but her early albums cannot be denied their merit.

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