Thursday, 9 October 2014

Tammie Brown's best moments - RuPaul's Drag Race Season 1 & All Stars

The song featured is Genevieve Waite's cover of Femme Fatale, available on her kitsch cult classic sole album Romance Is On The Rise.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Shannel Watkins' best moments - RuPaul's Drag Race season 1 & All Stars

Divine's grotesque glamour and a PWL pounding was a match made in heaven, hell and countless questionable gay bars.

Gia Gunn's best moments - RuPaul's Drag Race season 6

How is she, though?

Song: Elize - I Can Be A Bitch

Genevieve Waite - Pink Gin & Lime

Enjoy the idiosyncratic adorablity (yes that is a word) of RuPaul's Drag Race season 1 contestant Tammie Brown, before the clip sinks into a song that very much fits the same description.


Interview clips, and a montage video accompanying an 'oldie but goodie'.

There's Nothing I Won't Do - JX

The pinnacle of 90s dance?

Cyndi Lauper - Higher Plane

Whether you think it's a clunky mess, Living Proof dregs Cher wouldn't holler an F-bomb whilst on her motorbike over, or sublime disco chaos, Higher Plane showcased Cyndi's renewed pop energy on her sadly squandered Shine album (the label folded, the songs leaked online, etc).

Youth - Foxes

It might sound silly to say, but the first time I heard this song (as a free download 1 or 2 years before it became a top 20 UK hit thanks to being used on an advert), I immediately imagined the dancing of Rita Hayworth. I could ramble on about how much I love her, but hopefully this montage, more than the other ones I have made for Dietrich, Davis and Crawford, will do a better job getting across exactly why that is.

Face To Face - Siouxsie & The Banshees

Of all the Golden Age movie stars, none were more dedicated to protecting and maintaining their projected star image as Marlene Dietrich. Whether she took time to act in them sometimes or not, her films are works of art and her face and how it is lit, or her costumes, being far more important than unimportant things like, you know, dialogue or a gripping story-line.

Losing My Mind - Liza Minnelli

It's almost impossible to consider either Joan Crawford or Bette Davis without the other, but in doing so is a disservice to two very distinct careers. Both were unrelenting in their determination to remain on top, so it was unsurprising that they would collide in a number of ways throughout the years. What they both have in common, besides the obvious, is that they adapted as they got older and never looked back in the process. Joan held onto her 'star image' for longer, which meant that in the 1950s her films showcase her vintage traits with increasingly bizarre and 'camp' results. And speaking of results, Liza's album boasts a number of dramatic turns and indeed torch songs (least I mention Joan's unforgettable flop tour de force Torch Song, which one could argue was her All About Eve), and so Losing My Mind seemed like the obvious, and only, song choice to soundtrack Crawford's demented and determined screen turns (wherein she is often driven to despair and utter madness). An awful woman, monstrous and powerful, she made every second on screen count and as uncomfortable as it is to admire such an unfortunate individual, she remains one of the ultimate movie stars.

Bette Davis Eyes - Kim Carnes

I can't say I'm familiar with Kim Carnes's career, but she's still at it I see. Something I like to do to amuse myself is make montage videos, and combining my obsession with Hollywood's Golden Era actresses compelled me to make this video. It contains around 40 of Bette's 100-plus pictures, and even cramming in 'only' that many was a challenge, but labour of love.

Spice Girls - Wannabe (Motiv8 Vocal Slam)

Things around here are probably about as quiet as Emma Bunton's booking diary. The Motiv8 sound was formulaic as hell, but when on form the sound felt like the vanishing point of dance-floor euphoria. The dynamics of the Spice Girls, their sheer carnage and charisma, struck a chord (for lack of their vocal ones) in a way that will probably never be replicated. Although this montage is a little out of sync in places, there are some nice sequences and it hopefully encapsulates their inescapable appeal. 

Monday, 4 November 2013

CHER - Closer To The Truth (2013)

Is the music no good without vocoder? Can Cher turn back time - to 2001? Flamboyant gentlemen, your album of the decade has arrived.

Love hurts...
You're lies, they cut me
And now your words don't mean a thing
I don't give a damn if you ever love me


Blasting the title lyric like the editor of Woman’s Own magazine undergoing a nervous breakdown after taking a dodgy batch of ecstasy tablets supplied by Denise Welch at a Loose Women Christmas wrap party might not be the most accessible way of reminding the gays that you invented them, but the thumping tuneless havoc proves once again that Cher isn't scared of being, and in fact has had flops way before Beyoncé and Madge got in on it. For all the huffing and puffing, it might not blow the house down for everyone, and she certainly should have been singing "have a truth" for starters, but as personal favours to Hilary Clinton go, this is right up there with getting personal favours stains out of little black dresses, and I for one have been blowing my load to this for the best part of a year. On a sad note, Chaz probably now feels more alienated from his mother than ever. Talk about Cher having a habit of slapping people in the face. Apart from the newspaper wig, the video was a bigger disaster than Chastity (the film).

But we rise again to face the truth


Taking advantage of her butch vocal presence, this is a more memorable lyric and bigger deal in terms of overall package, and ought to have been lined up as the first single to flaunt the considerable allure of the strident exuberance here. The deluxe extravagance is so extreme that when it briefly pauses for breath (or wig adjustment) on its lustrous middle-8, it pretty much swallows itself whole and spits itself back out again with Cher going even harder on the closing choruses. The contagiously deranged “we do it better” assertions are torrential. Not only does she require you to “take it” but when she yells “how does it feel?” it’s the confirmation that we’re all basically her bitches. A dazzling mixture of vintage glitzy italo-disco motifs and early 2000s Ibiza trance (rewind back to the luxuriously intoxicating middle-8 again), her vocal ferocity exposes the less daring attempts of the genre such as Kylie’s pedestrian tinkles on the shrill Get Out of My Way. Her wayward vocal shenanigans (she is grappling almost from start to finish) are the centre of attention, the eye of the storm, but everything about this track is like being drenched in poppers and various other fluids you're much too high to focus on. The vocoder is a tad unnecessary during the verses (especially since lines such as "I went from A to Z, blew off reality" blow the dust off the usual clichés one might expect from an empowering diva anthem), but the mutilation going on with her voice during the gravelly-textured middle-8 is superb (the dizzying rhythms accompanying the line “on and on, on and one we’re going” make me briefly flash back to Mr President and Jam & Spoon, and are pure indulgence for a 90s dance junkie like myself). A full-pelt and full-throttle stampede of piano keys, glowing italo-disco flourishes, adamant lyrics that don’t make much sense and don’t need to as there’s no time to think about anything beyond staying alive for the 3 minute duration solely to 'take it' all in, and Cher’s sturdy timbre being stretched to the very limit of its 67 year old range, all combine for an unrelenting and unexplainable sensory disturbance. Sounding like having a stroke inside a club playing Madonna’s Confessions and Kylie’s Aphrodite both at the same, backwards, this is legs to the ceiling amazing. For raving homosexuals, in more ways than one

I'm dazzled by the beauty in front of me


The shimmering Metro radiance of My Love is a plaintive number, favouring a poised vocal assault that is as free as the love she had on 1995’s bluesy romance elixir One By One and makes use of her tender falsetto to elevate this performance as one of her finest. With a mist of euphoric dance vapours, producer Taylor pours more than enough inventive inflections into what could have been a by-numbers re-tread of their earlier work together (Believe, All Or Nothing, Love Is A Lonely Place Without You), and Tina Cousins will be crying herself to sleep when she hears this. The undulating embellishments that kick in just before the chorus gets into gear set me off every time. Her notably lower register on the furlong and robust chorus, where she is staunchly defending her feeble object of affection, makes me think Alice Deejay on steroids meets Tina Cousins on cloud 9, and right on cue we have a rave flare up that is very much a celebration of life with just a hint of mourning. Her transgender-treacle (or vocals as you might want to call them if you're traditional that way) commits to a lustrous aura that gels beautifully with the thumping yet spacious, agile and ambient soundscape being inhabited here (her exotic allure really shines on this one). The echo-before-the-vocal effect is magical, and one of the many subtleties that have me tingling with awe at this 15 year old formula feeling fresher than even Cher does when coming to on an operating table, and if it had any more glimmering twinkles it would be a Nicola Roberts middle-8 (for those not in the know, check out Call The Shots by Girls Aloud for evidence). The pure, bell-like sounds of the piano key chimes capture the intimacy beautifully.

I’m on the loose – you’re in my sight


Making a 'change' from going for just the usual mutton, this is one big frolicking hot mess from start to finish. With its choppy, synth-riddled sense of calamity, Cher’s one size fits all vocal attack is fully immersed in the tacky thrills on offer. With each stabbing “to kill, to kill, to kill, to kill, to kill” she’s sentenced to life as a gay icon (this being her 3rd dance album, we already know she’s a repeat offender). Bursting at the seams with tough-edged power pop steel, you’re getting exactly the ride you paid for or illegally downloaded. Although we all know the definitive verdict will come from Chantelle in her OK! Magazine column anyway (for non UK residents, D2K was originally performed by a small-time indie pop star by the name of Preston, and the Chantelle reference might go over your head I'm very sorry to say).

Floating lost at sea with sharks around our bed


Quite simply, Red is Cher's best shade since "WTF is MDNA?" This song has truly brought my life to a stand-still, at least for the 25-30 minutes a day I spend listening to it anyway, and the colour has yet to fade. The most sure-fire number from the get-go, I'd have chosen either this or TILAM as the album's lead. Think ‘Evacuate the Dancefloor Playing Aqua's Live Fast Die Young (RedOne Remix)’. Cher's pugnacious agitation on the rattled and raspy verses is more than excellent, the growled and howled chorus is exceedingly eager and preposterous (“red from my lips when you told me you were done”), and each successive hook propels you onto the next without any hesitation. Gigantic bass-lines, gigantic Cher and gigantic whiplashing beats – 2003 is back! The trance that blasts out with no vocals is yet another example of her producers pulling the right tricks at the right time, and of how these tracks sound far more meticulous than they will probably ever be given credit for.  

Such a triffle sacrifice


Cher’s love song for a vampire was originally a much slower ballad intended for the Interview With A Vampire soundtrack, but 20 years later emerges with much more vitality than before, and is quite the disco massacre (imagine Sinitta pulling out a rifle at G-A-Y and you’re still not even close). The demented intensity and uncompromising Hi-RG present a highly rewarding blitz of 80s thuds, chugging bass, thrusting momentum and a particularly euphoric segment of ripples at a particular moment where the track really could go on forever when it seems there isn’t a dance song not available to suck the energy from. As she bellows “surrender to me noooooooooooow” for one last oxygen-depriving-and-defying time, she holds on to the note for longer than most of her relationships. If you should faint or crash your car at this point then at least you will go down in flames AS a gigantic flamer. The song’s fatalistic tint is conveyed through not only the dizzying impact of the production, but the many ridiculous lyrics. I am particularly partial to the way she sings “many mortals who have drained their souls for less” but take your pick. The dynamic synergy of berserk euro-dance would make an earthquake during Melodifestevalen sound like Dido Unplugged, and there’s even a brief burst of heavy metal gusto that I at first mistakenly assumed was the remains of the original version. Nope, Cher’s invention knows no bounds, no taste barrier and the unexpected sonic surprises are as drastic as each of her other kind of face-lifts.

There’s an anger as I get closer to the truth


Capturing the theatrical spirit of some of her 70s hits about women with a past, Cher has rage and fear, howling at the moon, and a banjo that suggests “WTF is MDNA?” was answered after all. Her biggest dosage of rock on the album is a stomping strut, and was co-written by Pink of all people (beer-slugging, pool-playing lesbians will love this). The swift and rowdy chorus laughs and dances, and is both crammed-full and outstanding. The funky thusa of the "there will be no fade out" climax is also wonderful. "I hear the thunder, but I won't back down" even gets a little groovey as she stumbles into the wrong side of town in a way only dark ladies of a certain age do (ie clearly on purpose, having told their black-limousine driver exactly where to head). Her invigorating knack for phrasing is as sharp, domineering and furious as ever. This would have been one of my choices to be a single had they not botched it up with the first 2 (edit - this review was written some time ago and I Hope You Find It has been a huge and lovely surprise in giving this album legs thus far).

But there's a time to dance, time to laugh, time to cry, time to go, time to grieve, time to cope

Well I've still got time to fold, time to hold, time to play, time to grow but for now I gotta walk alone

The lost avenues


Quite simply, the passionate and solemn grace of Sirens is one of the greatest things she has ever done. Her husky timbre laments gently with a ghostly, significant air that recalls her sombre masterstroke It’s A Man’s World. When she soars for two magnificent wordless outpours, it’s an outer body experience. This is the song I have been waiting 18 years to hear from her. Those humongous ad libs at the end carrying the song on home create a rousing rock performance that has for too long eluded her. So much so that the tiresome accusations of her undifferentiated emotions when she sings/hollers/barks (whatever you want to call the unique noise that she and only she, the female Elvis, can make) can end right now. Her smouldering presence on any song is unmistakable, but here her raw sincerity, vulnerability and self-possession are more potent than ever here. This is a deep, spiritual, slow-burning, weeper of a ballad. Her torch-song bender blues activate emotions that haven’t even been invented yet. What gives it so much emotional oomph is that she reins it in, which emphasizes her sublime phrasing, her every sigh (those “oh oh” vocals are majestic), and the softness of the lyrics brings out in her voice both the epic and her humility. The airy surfaces, elegiac guitar solo and her husky perfume all create an intensity that makes the performance one of pure soul. In fact, this is not just a performance, it is felt. Her rich and lush tones inhabit the song with a contemplative calm that gradually builds into something huge beyond what I can put into words. The way she sings the closing lyrics – I have never heard her sound like that. This is truly a bookmark of her entire career.

Take your heart back off the shelf


Cher's taut celebrity skin will no doubt have taken a few bruises and then some over the years, but FS is more about being life's doormat, a 67 year old mattress, and having both the balls and Believe royalties to live through it and still be more or less in 1 piece. Her chops are well equipped to agonize over oversized emotions and the pressure we put on ourselves trynna hand-glide with no defence, etc, all the while weeping with soothing enthusiasm for it all as if she wouldn't have it any other way. The gliding finale is just the smooth landing she's seemingly after. With its gorgeous hooks more angular than her Cherokee cheekbones, the arty melodicism has a funky new-wave momentum that is a refreshing setting for Cher. Far from wounded, she studies her emotional baggage and wears it on her sleeve. It marks (pun intended) an unforgettable deviation from the voltage of her dance-pop that works its way into your soul more subtly than vocodered quips about being "you are what you are" however snappy and cheery they may be. It's fairly obvious she is revelling in this song, which is a brave title given her cosmetic addiction if nothing else. A major prize among a whole host of them.

Oh-oh, I never felt nothing better


I can hardly belie-eee-eeeve that such a gliding, giddy stream of Euro-pop embellishments would ever have come from Timbaland ('shock value' indeed), although it’s not too far off the Katy Perry song he did. The jittery intro reminds me of the house music propulsion of Dannii’s Jump To The Beat, with beats as camera flashes, before it settles into a mid-tempo groove that ATC would be proud of and gains most heat from the soaring chorus, which scoops you up like ice-cream. This collaboration had been rumoured for years, which could mean it was actually recorded quite some time ago. More than a bonus track, it’s absolutely essential.

We can still believe


The most classic splurge of Disco-Cher for me is the wailing fantasia of Pride. Moving into unclassifiable campery in much the same way of When They Money’s Gone was so to the point of no return. However, this is closer to Song For The Lonely, and “we can still believe” even recalls yet another cultural moment for her. The grinding, glossy finale is every bit as Cher-quenching one could hope for (and so much more, etc). Not many ageing female pop stars are willing to take such a risk by singing dance music aimed at the gays, but the clichéd sentiments are so gutsy and infectious that if this doesn’t put a lump in your throat, then nothing will. “If it was our last time to shine” particularly stands out on a record that not only reaches the summit of what any dance-pop record has ever achieved, but could realistically be her final pop album.

I hate that you left without hearing the words that I needed you to


Cher's emotional upheaval continues (rewardingly). She clearly hasn't heard of facebook stalking – I can only assume this guy’s privacy settings go beyond the singer’s famously skilled internet abilities. The corn syrup is poured generously, and yet this could fit on pretty much any of her albums from the 70s onwards (I Paralyze in particular). The waltzing verses are soft, conversational, bereft, deflated, and just lovely. The chorus is a big old country-tinged gloop-fest (or the most depressing line-dance ever), but I can't say I don't let myself be swallowed completely whole in all its overwrought glory. On what could be quite a faceless MOR offering, Cher’s intimate flair really brings it to life. Admittedly, the emotion of Cher’s barnyard howl quickly overflows with all the grace of a blocked toilet, but that isn’t unexpected. It really does flow like an actual letter - I just dread to think of Miley's original reading.

Oh, fuck, just lie to me


Who knew Pink could be so beige? Once again, she writes one of her trademark lugubrious broken-girl anthems, this time in the form of a ballad, which at least has a Spanish gypsy aroma to keep it going. It's nice to hear Cher sing "babe" again, especially since the last time that comes to mind was with Beavis & Butthead (“well, yeah”), but the lyrics are owning up to cheating from both sides - why not TELL THE TRUTH and just have an open relationship? Cher's dating a former Hell's Angels member, I'm sure there are worse ideas they could think of. "The truth is overrated" indeed. For jarring with the album's concept alone this should have been ditched faster than the script to Faithfull. (Edit: in the month or so that has passed since I wrote this review, I now consider this to be rather effective and Cher's passion is palpable).


I'm not even going to wait for the song to end. Dreadful, and it doesn’t count quite frankly.

I was broooooouuuuuuuuught down to my knees


The Dave Aude remix (above) gets a much higher pass than the clunky original, with the chunky trance take-off usurping the Warren-schmaltz into something magical.

Closer To The Truth more than re-boots the Living Proof formula. The lava flow of searing dance rhythms and melodies that are even bigger than her wigs are her best lifts since her late 80s procedures, and unlike her 90s ones go too far in a good way. Quite simply, this is the best dance-pop LP since, well, LP. Of all the living legends, CHER, with her unknowable exotica, graduates to the very top (just not of the charts). The truth is out there – go buy it.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Hole - Celebrity Skin (1998)

If she feels that way about it, why doesn't she just slit her throat and shut up? That's a Cristina Monet line from her deliciously sardonic reading of Is That All There Is? Love will never shut up, and here are the reasons why I am grateful for this.

Almost as if reeling from the shock of Hollywood acceptance, the inescapable title track is like a crusade to create the ultimate rock song, and succeeds. The slick and fiery temperament quite literally flows through her veins, and should have been her biggest hit of all time. It's also over before you know it, making it marvellously addictive. It sums up someone's if not her own arrival, success and tragedy in Tinseltown, but it's far too glamorous and ferociously sardonic to be morbid. She had always been out there, now she was up there.

 But Britney, I'm a little bit older than you. The dizzy delirium of the spangly Awful is deliciously sugar-coated. I do enjoy the subject matter of terminally tedious teenagers of whom she couldn't be more insanely jealous of and marvel at endlessly if she tried, like Stevie Nicks meets Queen Grimhilde. The sweet texture's still carry a powerful sting, and if it's all a bit cute, Love still sounds like a thistle is stuck in her throat. The shiny pristine surfaces do not make us lose out on Love's rotten-to-the-core core. Sweet cherry - it ripens with every listen, each section bursting out yet more juice.

 The hazy guitar bruises of Hit So Hard may be in debt to He Hit Me & It Felt Like A Kiss, but the haunting Gothic wordless middle-8 is luxurious and unnerving. Love's strange exhilaration always feeds off morbid dissections of this nature anyhow.

 In contrast to the dizzy peaks of CS and Awful, the cinematic Malibu is a song of soft regret, Baywatch fantasies and isolation. The more obsessive lyrics elsewhere dissipate into raw deflation, miserable radiance and almost unbearable pathos. Plaintive ecstasy - it all dissolves into perfection. Pacific Coast Highway was the return ticket.

 The California surf-pop sheen can only continue for so long. Not quite diving back into grunge, Reasons To Be Beautiful injects from a different needle and cleverly blurs the lines between singing of love and/or herself. Her tremendous chaos as coherence rock babble, guttural delivery and a rash of guitar blemishes every bit as aggravated as one could ask from her.

Dying. Whilst not quite a (cabbage) patch on Doll Parts, the two really shouldn't be compared. Building up until emotionally it feels like unlocking a damn for water to tumble out from.

Use Once & Destroy. The 'worst' song on here. It certainly creates a bit of a stench. The title comes from an old t-shirt Love designed herself back in the early days of the band. You can't go back now and you have to see this track through - it has stubbornly become essential. It's not as if I'd swap it for the fabulously shit Be A Man (So Impotent 12" edit) or anything.

Northern Star. For me, this was the iconic performance of Glastonbury '99. Love's panto villain act on stage, before exposing herself with such a brutal vocal was unforgettable. 

 The sublime unreason of Boys On The Radio strums and gristles across the highway-headed horizon as it unwinds into "endless Summer nights". The lyrics are so picturesque that the song positively describes itself. Music being performed, imagined, remembered, inhabited and most of all felt. The middle-8 is to die for, which aren't words I use lightly regarding Ms. Love. When the camp-fire cackling chorus crashes back in like waves, and it all just submerges gorgeously, the California coastline and sense of escapism couldn't be any more alive. 

 The sparkly Heaven Tonight, with its chugging guitar shimmers and fluttery sense of adoration for Frances, awakens a pop thirst she had always threatened to unleash before. Uh hu, uh hu.

 The only song to sound a tad dated, Playing Your Song is also the only song to flare up into the full-pelt scorn and snarling vitriol of old, only with some "are you listening Madge?" Eastern stylings). A blistering exercise in loathing, restlessness, grandeur and narcissistic tyranny. Courtney is at her freefall most. This was a teenage angst classic for me.

Petals. My goodness the strings. Such lavish attention to detail is too meticulous to ignore. Not surprisingly, it's the same guy who Madonna used on Frozen who did them. 

 Does any other rock star enchant, arouse, intrigue, disturb, disgust and perplex as much as Courtney Love? NME said it best, she would never make another record as good as this ever again. No one else will either (well, if we're talking rock here).

Monday, 29 July 2013

Deee-Lite - River of Freedom (1994)

One of the more emphatic numbers from the sensual opus Dewdrops In The Garden (a dense hybrid of hip-hop, funk, house, jungle and rave). When the rippling trance-reverb kicks in and Kier's diva rotale sharpness pierces through with all the right sensations, I can't help but think that they missed a trick not releasing this.

Sadly, the Runaway video (which is a cute clip) was just not downloadable it seems, but Deee-Lite was such a visually rich act, with Kier's innate flair resonating and 'riding on through' no matter what she did, where and when.

She's back on the PA circuit, and that fine voice of hers continues to blossom, now with a soul-mamma rasp that we always knew she had in her anyway. I just hope we eventually do get a solo album: "on our way" indeed.

I hope Deee-Lite fans enjoy this should they stumble across it, this song in particular captures my imagination. Kier's quote that "our music was a hopeful escape, diffusing day to day reality" couldn't sum up my feelings any better.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

A quick thought: who did it better - CHER, Ms. Ross or Tina Turner?

They wrote the book on endurance and can still cause a scene if and when they want to. They don't have anything to prove, having extended their careers well beyond periods where it looked over, spilled over to the big screen with critical and commercial success (in one way or another), with different eras in their careers illustrating exactly why they are legends. Madonna carved her own template (with a little inspiration from Ms. Harry), but figures like Beyonce are complete pastiche to what we have here from these three leading ladies.

Cher was very good friends with Diana for a brief moment (when Cher's career wasn't so hot and Diana's was as good as it got for her), but Diana really cannot be friends with other women. I used to think it was the Gene connection that blew it, but Simmons was Cher's hand me down and they shared another man before, designer Bob Mackie, and Cher never understood why Diana just suddenly disappeared. I do love the quote that Diana supposedly said "oh she's such a tragedy queen for sure" about Cher, but they both rolled their eyes at the other's self-inflicted predicaments. "Who cares about Cher? She'll go to the opening of a hot dog stand!" When Cher's friendship with Diana and Bette Midler (a long-running rivalry there) cooled off, Cher included drag queens impersonating them in her act. Diana's excuse for being furious was she could no longer wear a particular ensemble.

Cher and Tina have a very good showbiz friendship (it's not like Cher flew to Europe for Tina's recent wedding), but they performed a few times, most notably on Cher's highly-rated solo TV gig, and then on VH1 divas live. They refused to appear on stage with Whitney for the finale supposedly because of the drugs, but maybe also because the show just emphasized her more. Cher did pose with Whitney at the '99 Brits, so maybe that was enough. Cher recently introduced Tina's annihilation of competition winner Beyonce at some awards do or other.

As seen on Double Platinum, Diana's Every Day Is A New Day was an rn'b record that seemed to get caught in the storm as far as its two singles seemingly required to undergo dance treatments just to get noticed (the comedy Hex Hector remix is stunning). The Metro edit of Not Over You Yet would have been an understated standout on the Believe album, so it doesn't matter to me if it was blatantly turning up 5 hours late to Cher's house party (let's not forget Take Me Higher).

Diana wins the 60s as part of an ensemble, Cher wins the 70s, Tina sticks her head through the door in the 80s but Cher had a momentum that neither Diana nor Tina had ever experienced on their own, and Cher literally has the 90s and her face sewn up despite a notable slump, and Cher kind of wins the period since as she's toured extensively and successfully stays in the press without resorting to DUIs or looking like a bag lady without her make-up.

Cher's 70s work is underrated though: song-wise and vocally, Stars outshines the other two too easily to warrant any discussion quite frankly. However, Diana's singles were often actually much stronger, albeit as stand-alone tracks. Both Diana the album and Private Dancer are certainly better than Cher's 80s output. I just don't know much of Tina though.

Obviously Cher has had more success at the movies (and even she didn't reach her full potential despite bagging numerous awards, not least the Oscar), but Diana wanted to be the leading lady and wouldn't settle for anything less (least of all stoop to blaxploitation or be caught dead doing ensemble - am I wrong in thinking she was offered Witches of Eastwick? Even if not, that would have been the best film of all time for the 'chemistry' alone). 

I barely know anything about Tina apart from Private Dancer, the Lulu ballad and the absolutely awesome When The Heartache Is Over (again, not much of a dance album despite pumping up the lead single to do a Cher). I really don't ever want to hear The Best ever again - it reminds me of Rangers football club and John Menzies.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Madge Montage

A little something I made to pass the cruel hours. I haven't given up my Cher project, but a little gap in before writing about her last 4 studio albums seems necessary as I was overloading on her for a while (not a bad thing, but there is so much new music for me to enjoy right now).

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Agnetha Fältskog - Dance Your Pain Away (2013)

Create an illusion, cause some confusion
Lock your tears inside and show some pride

Turns out that Agnetha really did have one more ace to play, which might explain the significance of calling her forthcoming album A, but in particular I am talking about her new offering Dance The Pain Away. Wasting no time (having not released original material in over 25 years), after the swanky scuttle of what is known in the music industry as a drum beat, we are quickly thrust into a nervous overload of overflowing disco fantasia. With a swift momentum of sweeping strings and a dollop of 'been there, done that, got the royalties' panache that only an old timer who was there first time around can convey, her passionate diligence escalates into a dizzying whirl of sharp lyrical discretion, disillusioned rejoice, stoic defense strategics and flat-out plaintive 'legs to the ceiling' rapture.

In a long line of cubicle betrayals, number 1 priority is to dance. "You caught him in the rest room ... with another one" could very well be the shadiest powder-room antics since Sophie Amogbokpa got protective over a bowl of lollipops. With a drizzle of disco deposits smeared all over the joint, Dance The Pain Away is about flushing it all out your system and coming out of it smelling of roses, all the while spectators of the show are expecting your very worst. A-ha! Agnetha doesn't seem to think so.

The lift-off from the chorus is a solo-career best. If unsure whether to laugh or cry, "let there be rumours, pay no attention" pushes the singer to the limits of her integrity. Not since Dusty Springfield's Village People-esque Reputation have vicious whispers been so decadently dismissed in such rich musical surroundings. Going full-pelt, "nothing, he got nothing, he got nothing on you" rains down from the heavens, simultaneously echoing a familiarly shimmying guitar riff from Does Your Mother Know (lightly salting the occasional with a welcome bite of irony). Lyrically concise, depicting being cheated on as a mere cardiovascular/choreography challenge works for me, whether it is dancing as desperation or dancing as survival, there doesn't have to be a difference. The rhythmic shifts are exhilarating, including some exquisite piano work (particularly just before the song hits its final stride), merging disco and discord with glorious, heartfelt aplomb. 

The voice is still magic: delicate and no less compelling, a gaggle of backing vocalists do some heavy lifting at the end, but your feet won't even be touching the parquet floor by then. The initial wariness and fragility of the singing has subsided into bittersweet celebration on the chorus. The intensifying pop momentum is revved up so high it soars over its own complexities, and if catching lovers in the bogs isn't a universal concern, the heady grasp of gasping disco specifics can't be denied. The instant you listen, it's like she has never been away. Fältskog has never been more tuneful and charming than when having misery and a disco-ball to contend with, and "don't run for the dorr, get back on the florr, don't give them what they're waiting for" is just one of the many lyrical gifts.

Overall, the lavish ornamentation transforms the curiosity of the singer's shy, hesitant gloom of the verses (which are a massive departure for this one of course), into perfectly inhabitable moments of madness that keep going on and on and on long after it has finished, and my feet keep dancing.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Cher - Love Hurts (1991)

But baby even so...

US #48, UK #1, AUT #1, IRE #1, NOR #1

Whilst for some, Cher's three stellar Geffen records were more scrap metal than authentic rock, on Love Hurts her pop definitions were more pronounced than ever. Despite swamping the songs (of a much the same nature) in lushly orchestrated rock arrangements, the style saw the singer fall slightly out of favour with her American audience and yet European music lovers couldn't get enough, boosted immeasurably by the success of The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss). 

Whereas the Turn Back Time video (cavorting wantonly in front of sex-starved seamen in a next to nothing Bob Mackie ensemble) was a stroke of genius, for the Love Hurts campaign, the singer tried to do one better in the fabulously embarrassing promotional clip for Save Up All Your Tears (imagine a transgendered Siouxsie Sioux impersonator with a recon profile), but sadly the kids just weren't into the whole grumpy S&M granny thing. However, the goodwill towards Cher in the UK was tremendous: Love Hurts spent 6 weeks at the summit of the charts, a further 5 weeks inside the top 3 and became the biggest-selling female album of the year, perhaps owing much of its success due to the decision to include the previous year's It's In His Kiss on European pressings of the album, which also warranted an alternative front cover. The song was her first and only UK solo chart topper at the time (25 years after I Got You Babe), staying put for 5 weeks and selling over 500,000 copies.

Whilst promoting the album, Cher famously stopped by Terry Wogan's TV show, and in between dabbing sweat off her face with the back of her hand, and dodging incisive plastic surgery questions, went on to mention something about how she had called some newcomer on the scene the C-word. Pay close attention to screen-cap #3 where Cher clearly invents the passive aggressive beverage sip that Madonna would steal 20 years later to throw some 'shade' on Lady Gaga.

Do you go jogging like Madonna?

"Well... You mean like my best friend Madonna?"

I thought it was a subtle way of dragging her in.

"Why don't we drag her in by her hair?"

You're not that keen?

"Well. you know, what it's really got to be blown out of proportion. The newspapers here have been having a field day."

"When I was in America someone ASKED me. I mean, it's not like I go about saying "this is how I feel." Someone said to me 'what do you think of Madonna' and I said 'she's unbelievably creative', because I'm amazed at the amount... I mean in my day I did a pretty good job at doing the same thing she's doing, but she does it so much better."

"Shes's not unbelievably talented. She's NOT beautiful. She's rude. She's creative, but rude."

"And then I used another word, and they bleeped me."

"I do respect that she goes much further than anyone should go, and I think that's interesting about her, that she does whatever she wants to do."

Well, you've done what you pretty much wanted to do and been very successful.

"Yeah, I'm happy with that."

With sweeping disco strings and piano aplenty, Love & Understanding is at first an alert departure from her barrage of rock baggage entanglements. The song is seamlessly uplifting with a surge of dance energy that steers her back to her beloved discotheque (further exploited on the Jr Vasquez remix). Although lyrically weak, "hearts never can wi-hi-in, OH!" never fails to put a smile on my face. Even if she looks amazing (let's ignore the middle-parting of the wig and denim-leather ensemble that would make Gloria Estefan swim BACK to Cuba for), the video is the unfortunate daughter of Blue Pearl's Naked In The Rain with a clumsy sense of rhythm. Cher does her best to look as if she's dancing whilst not (she's clearing just on the look out for another agile young boyfriend to get over what's his face), and the ultimate cringe comes when she waves like a grandmother playing peek-a-boo over her grandchild's cot.

My favourite L&U-related moment is Cher kindly shushing the backing dancers in her CherFitness: A New Attitude VHS (Gothic tutu sold separately) when she wants to hear her own song and plug the album. Ironically, not long after she wrapped up her 1992 tour, she passed on a number of high profile scripts (among them Thelma & Louise) when she became afflicted by the Epstein-Barr virus, meaning she no longer had the CherFitness or new attitude for major projects. The solution to earn (LOTS of) money through advertising somewhat backfired at the time, or at least inspired many parodies such as Late Night With David Letterman and Saturday Night Live, which sadly gave her a temporary complex of sorts. As she told the influential Ladies Home Journal: "Suddenly I became the Infomercial Queen and it didn't occur to me that people would focus on that and strip me of all my other things". Back to the song, the repeated bursts of piano sit well with me, but it doesn't endure as a standout to warren(t) much of a frenzy beyond sporadic plays. It would be nice if the song suited her natural range as well.

5 months later Cher was a gal in trouble when Save Up All Your Tears (US #37, UK #37) failed to replicate the success of her previous hot n' bothered power-ballads, but has endured as a fan favourite. From the instant those trembling piano keys spiral down with all the grace of Chaz descending a fireman's pole, it is clear we're onto a winner here. The chorus is a huge one, paraded with sardonic pride and a glint of rueful caution and other emotions chipping away at her like some of her favourite surgeons. The weight gives way when her hefty rage subsides for the aching middle-8: "you don't know it now, you don't know it now, you don't know it now" echoes louder and louder as Cher reaches bursting point agony, and on the side-spliting final choruses the immense vocals quite literally take the rough with the smooth.

As if protesting that the only scars she has are ones of the heart, Cher re-records the Nazareth number Love Hurts, which was originally performed by The Everly Brothers and now becomes the title of the new project. Gone is the enchanting, meditative and entrancing ripples of the acoustic version found on 1975's seminal Stars, and instead the loud thuds here paint a more grandiose picture: the choir are on fire and Cher punches the sofa. Like some of her fans: initially fragile and bewildering, time has resulted in a bulked up framework eager to throw its weight around to make itself feel wanted in a fickle environment. 

The singer's vocals shoot at full-pelt on Fires of Eden, which is another emotional fire of sorts. With Cher's finger on the pulse as usual, David Cassidy co-write I'll Never Stop Loving You was originally recorded by Heart. Although it wasn't like her to sing a cover, she gave it a go and the problematic subject provoked one of the clumsiest songs she ever committed herself to. Teaming up with singer-songwriter Richard Page, One Small Step is a soft-rock clatter of dance rhythms, and her husky timbre is a good match for Page. It sounds like the Baywatch theme tune. 

The album was dedicated to all the men who had made her cry, and the smoldering A World Without Heroes was a cover originally written and recorded by former flame Gene Simmons' band Kiss. Cher's softer vocal inhabits the expansive texture of the production, and it's one of the standouts on offer.

Don't you think I need a man here?

Showing no ex in particular what he's missing on the perky reading of Bob Halligan's Could've Been You (if those outfits didn't already), this vibrant power-pop rock slog has a sleek tough girl swagger to the strutting verses ("oh baby baby") and jaunty enough chorus ("just remember baby"). Of course she gets herself into a tizz about it all, but the sensations of Cher bellowing flagrantly beyond definition are exactly what make this album so enjoyable. That it bombed (UK #31 with no lift-off in the States) meant the singer fired her new manager at the time  Overlooked as a single, the plaintive When Love Calls Your Name is a flighty surge of romantic urges of familiar persuasion. 

Belatedly released to US radio, the somber When Lovers Become Strangers (adult contemporary #15) became a minor success at the very end of the era's promotion. Despite taking the opposite stance to 90% of her fan-base, it's been touch and go again for tragedy queen Cher and the floaty atmospherics work well with her inescapable expressions. Should have definitely have been a European single. Not taking those surgery rumours lightly, the sugary guitar pop of Who You Gonna Believe targets more scintillating synths, and Cher's bait-biting delivery is particularly flavoursome: "now TELL me". With an opening acapella that practically kicks you up the backside as Cher blurts out "does he love me? I wanna know / how can I tell if he loves me so?The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss) is uninhibited camp escapist nostalgia and good cheer, with a gutsy campaign to find out what body part throbs with the most genuine feelings. 

Squeeze him tight to find out what you wanna know.

It's somewhat baffling that Love Hurts would be Cher's final Geffen studio album. It managed a respectable 600,000 copies domestically (some way short of Heart of Stone's 3 million of course) and sold more globally than Cher (1987), having became her 2nd biggest ever seller internationally. Her Greatest Hits: 1965-1992 spent 7 non-consecutive weeks at the top of the UK album charts, proving she was still a hot commodity. Discounting her Shoop Shoop, the album lacks the haunting bursts of soft-rock fury that proved so vital to the success of its predecessors, but the sensual warmth simmers with more accessible hooks than before by way of compensation. After Shoop Shoop stalled just outside of the top 30 in America, Cher simply had no more tricks up her leather/lace/PVC/leather-nets sleeves and yet the set finds the singer in relaxed and confident form, and the lavish and opulent arrangements (although sounding dated now, lacking the Gothic grit of Cher and overall rock resolve of HOS) are more clear and crisp than before. Arguably, her most accessible schlock rock, but time has been surprisingly kind to this era in terms of the songs all packing a melodic punch. The theatrical complexities of her climate-changing 70s journey are swapped for a one-size-fits-all approach, but the vocal strength has hit its peak and all three albums capture the singer in ravishing form, whether its literally looking a million bucks or sounding louder and more Cher than ever before. The Love Hurts tour remains unreleased, but despite the production being scaled down from the Heart of Stone trek, the Bob Mackie gowns were to die for. A major prize for 'rock Cher' fans, and one of her most lavishly packaged outtings.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Cher - Heart of Stone (1989)

Caress my soul and set it right

Heart of Stone (1989)

US #10, UK #7

The 2nd of her imperial blockbuster/balls-busting schlock rock comeback phase, Cher was selling for millions now. Recording the album was a swift affair once she got started, having became ill in the beginning of the year and being unable to start filming Mermaids earlier as planned. Once the album was out, she was dedicated to promoting it and undertook an extensive world tour. The LP yielded 4 US top 20 hits (a feat well beyond her reach before), and remained in the charts over a year after release. Initially, the cover art was a fabulously 'ugly' painting of Cher positioning her body in front of a cracked stone, using the lines of her limbs and blackness of her wig, to complete the illusion of a broken skull (perhaps a metaphor for her loudly furious rock vocal). It sold 11 million copies, becoming the best-selling LP at that point. It was her first US top ten and first international number one (Australia). 

With her 1980's first foray into rock on the Black Rose project, Cher was quite literally barking up the wrong tree in some people's mnds. Her 2nd signature tune If I Could Turn Back Time (AUS #1, US #3, UK #6, IRE #6) may have had its impact diluted over the years by obvious punchlines about the ageing process (which is of course something Cher continues to defy at all costs, etc), but from the instantly recognizable guitar chords and sultry verses, it is clear the song is a gleaming treasure before even the galvanizing glory of the chorus. Her stubborn ambition to come a rock diva of sorts finally paid off. Thriving on the presumption and possibility that someone out there feels the same (despite Cher's pot mouth saying a bunch of stuff she probably DID mean), and sheer crackling energy, her aggravated/exaggerated reflection stumbles through Warren's cliche's like a blind and drunk drag queen in a china shop.

Far from sounding sad, the sentiment might have appealed to Cher's stubbornness (she was famously reluctant to even record the song), with the uplifting refrain updating every cliched pop lyric going. The endless chorus was one of Cher's most easiest songs to package, complete with an iconic video that sparked a renewal in Cher's image and status. The Bob Mackie ensemble had long been part of Cher's act (for almost a decade), but here it is refined and even tamed down by a leather jacket keeping things elegant, although the video was still banned bt MTV. As the song builds, her teeth-shattering grit creates a genuinely anthemic and triumphant single. Perhaps the biggest achievement of Turn Back Time is that it stands out from the Diane Warren assembly line predictability that arguably dominated half the material on Heart of Stone. The song's brisk velocity shows off Cher in full-on, clothes-off, wanton rock goddess mode. and the stormy intensity of I Found Someone is given a smoother vehicle to shine. It doesn't so much offer you a melody as it hits you over the head with it - walking out at the VMAs almost 20 years later in the same ensemble, the world is still stunned by Cher being Cher. The chaotic soft-rock dissolve of brutal heartache, self-preservation and rueful endurance could have been sung by anyone, but no one else could have made it more than just another generic power-ballad. Cher stands outside of time.

The country-tinged Just Like Jesse James (US #8, UK #11, IRE #10) was the third single and third US top ten in a row from the Heart of Stone album, helping the record shift 3 million copies in America alone. Cher brazenly admitted that she initially thought "this song is kinda crap" and that after going away on tour and other promotional duties, much to her facially-detectable surprise, it became a huge hit. Perhaps due to her dislike for the song, or even her busy schedule (Mermaids had finished shooting late in '89 and she was on an extensive tour), there was no official video for the single apart from a montage of recent promotional footage and some silly scenes shot involving cowboys shooting at each other. On her Farewell tour DVD, she prepares herself to sing the number by warning her fans the track "is not my favourite" in a manner that only she could ever get away with. Nothing like taking people's money and then telling them they have no taste! The shower of Cher dollar bills that then fell onto every audience was probably more ironic than what first met the eye. The track itself connects her 80s rock to her vintage 70s commercial peak of similar narrative pop tracks via a plethora of country-flavoured and sturdy "come on baby" heckles, and an ample ammunition of not so subtle double entendres. "Come on baby show me what that loaded gun is for ... I'm ready baby aim and fire" is the last chance saloon of a different kind.

Her wounded pride takes aim at someone who it seems must have an ego almost as big as her own. She antagonizes and challenges some youthful gun-slinging outlaw lover to take her on as his biggest challenge yet since she's not like the other "women folk" driven wild by his wanton ways. However, she would have a more convincing argument if she didn't sound as if she was simply angry at clearly being last in the queue for criminal cock. Cher's world is never anything less than absurd, and although I'm not a fan of Diane Warren, I'm prepared to bite the bullet with this one. Both Warren and Desmond Child appear to have had a lot of fun penning the song especially for Cher and her uniquely engaging way with a gun-related pop song. "If you can give it, I can take it" she snarls in what is starting to sound like a one-sided mating ritual where some poor guy probably just walked into the bar with a banana in his pocket and doesn't have a clue what's hit him as soon as Cher, with a drink in her, sniffs a bit of fresh meat. Who says love is dead?

The title track (US #20, GER #23, UK #43, IRE #24) was a change in tempo somewhat from her other hit singles from the era. Some might say she was literally a new woman, but it should be obvious by now I am above recycling such cheap plastic surgery jokes. The biggest anomaly of the whole LP this acoustic-driven number showcased a softer tone with some stunning lyrics imbued with hauntingly stark tenderness and might.

Look at the headlines:


Do you lose and win, or win and lose?

This hefty sore-point section must have struck a chord for her, since she was rarely out of the headlines. Clearly relishing every last syllable, the sarcastic seizure is one of grimacing empowerment. The raw and ravaging howl of "how long is love supposed to shine?" sounds like it must have been an outer body experience for her. The song itself was somewhat spruced up a bit for its release, adding some poignant guitar steel during the pre-chorus. These sleek additions are brought to life wonderfully in the touching promotional video where Cher sways back and forth as if she's bursting for the toilet all the while in front of a backdrop of projected home movies featuring a very young Chastity and Elija, and even some vintage Sonny & Cher clips, which increases the pathos tenfold. This is a wonderful spark between visual and sound: Cher has claimed this period was the happiest in her life, and it must have been a proud moment for her to look back and feel content. On a side-note, she never looked more effortlessly beautiful and NATURAL than in her magnificence close-ups here. By the time she is singing at her loudest, the quivering vibrato is used to stylized effect, shuddering and quaking with intense testifying that sounds both like hippy mumbo jumbo and genuine gospel soaring. As the song settles into a sturdy rhythm, a strong line of backing vocals separate to Cher's parts offer yet more push and pull to the thrill and the heartache. Whether this is bad technique or not (ie the loudness), she certainly is grappling with what she has got and using it to full capacity. Yes, there are growls and shouting, but she sure knows exactly how to do this to maximizing effect.

As all fans of the TV show Record Breakers can attest, Bucks Fizz sang the song first. I'm not overly familiar with them, but they have more substance to their work than usually given credit for. It wouldn't surprise me if anyone said this version was their favourite, even if they would be more wrong than Chaz in a dress.

The wistful girl-group goo of the Love On A Rooftop was a faithful cover of fellow 60s pop queen survivor Ronnie Spector. Sadly Ronnie's voice is more shot than some of her love rivals, so Cher's full-bodied bellowing delivers a bolder outline than, well, some of Ronnie's love rivals. The thin rasp of the iconic 'bad girl' of the Ronettes is worth looking up because she obviously knows how to deliver her idiosyncratic magic, but the drama Cher conveys deepens the effect. The slightly dark, stylized romanticism of the production isn't really matched by the lyrics, of which are pure pastiche and little else. Though it's some way below her reading of The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore, the 'wall of sound' production echos her 90s tribute, and provides the album with some much needed variety. As a stepping stone between her schlock rock sway and 60s symphonies gone by, she gives it enough muscle to not be trite and the marvelous "whoooooa-whooooah" gasps are as convincing as any vintage 60s pop jewel Diane Warren and Desmond Child clearly had their sights set on. An interesting comparison would be Cher's single Rudy from the I Paralyze album. The cheesy sax finishes me off completely.

Slickly persuasive European single You Wouldn't Know Love (IRE #29, POL #16, UK #55) doesn't know when too much is too much. It certainly boasts an alert rhythm and structure, and Cher's vocals are a smooth glide in between the sky high choruses, but this is song doctor Diane Warren conveyor-belt power-balladry at its most frustrating - it sounds rushed, as if it's dying to burst at the seams to prove what a bad ass rock rogue she is on the relentless kitchen-sink overkill of the chorus, rather than be tweaked into something less deranged for no apparent reason. It deservedly missed the UK top 40, but isn't a complete write-off for fans of this sort of fodder. 

Bunsen burners would have trouble matching the volcanic ferocity of the overblown Emotional Fire, an outtake from Michael Bolton's 1987 album The Hunger. It's completely ridiculous and I wouldn't have it any other way. It would have been a hoot hearing this live, for her backing vocalists scream the house down, but sadly on the Heart of Stone tour Cher skimmed her Geffen album's hits only and did MOR covers instead of ploughing for non-singles highlights such as this. The epic and menacing chorus might require paracetamol, but you get what you ask for. 

Familiar agonies hit their ongoing stride on Still In Love With You, another unsurprising defensive assault, but one of the better ones. Finally a chance to catch your breath, Cher's smooth quiver ripples over some shiny soft-rock surfaces on All Because of You, and the chugging guitars give her verses some added grip. It's not long before things get aggravated, but it's comparatively graceful. Does Anybody Really Fall In Love Anymore? Who Knew Dating A Buff Bagel Boy Could Be So Damned Hard? Sadly only one of these questions is a genuine song title. I say hey. Hey-hey-hey is a Cher-ism I can't ever get enough of.

Although completely faceless, the semi-fast semi-funk of Starting Over is uptempo and light enough to make it easy to sink your ears into. I never thought a song could make the salsa rash of Body To Body sound like a classic, but Kiss To Kiss is one big raspberry. Going gushy at the end (who'd have guessed?), the metal-pop preening is put aside for corny passionless pleasantness.

Renowned player Peter Cetera found an opening in his busy schedule to record with Cher on the tender movie soundtrack country ballad After All (US #6, CAN #5), which was another million-selling top 10 US smash for her. A rather syrupy love song, the gentle intro has became iconic in the tradition of Cher showing montages of her Hollywood movies whilst she changes costumes on tour, or else just nips out for a quick fag, before re-emerging as Dolly Parton's younger transsexual brother in daytime drag. Not getting to perform the song at the Academy Awards (it was nominated for best song) was the second biggest Oscars-related injustice for Cher after not being recognized for Faithful, where she played a woman tied to a chair instead of an operating table for a change, when nominees did not perform at the ceremony that year. Modern Talking singer Thomas Anders was originally set to record it with the US vamp (which perhaps would have increased its chances of a European release), but ultimately the song was a commercial success albeit one limited to the US and Canada. It seems odd that a song that was a hit had no video or proper release outside of these territories. Personally, I'm just gutted it wasn't a duet with Cybill Shepherd (the star of Chances Are). Cher clearly must hate the song, having performed it on the Heart of Stone, Love Hurts and Farewell tours, as well as the low budget sideshow Cher at the Colosseum.

Overall, Heart of Stone packs much the same power-ballad density as Cher (1987), with the mass-pop mode stretched even tighter than her face. The singer herself mildly complained that the record wasn't guitar-orientated enough, and there is indeed an added pop sparkle. It was her biggest commercial step yet, and a fascinating final entry in a decade where her music career had more gaps than some of her favourite outfits.