Cher: The Sonny Side of Cher, A Review

Anybody that knows me or has just steadily kept up with my blog knows that I am unapologetic Cher fan. I have nearly all her albums (at one point I had all, long story), read numerous books on this legend, and I continue to buy concert tickets whenever she performs. Naturally, I would have to write about her for Women’s History Month.

img_3489Tonight, for a little nostalgia, I decided to revisit The Sonny Side of Cher. This album is important to understanding Cher’s career trajectory and how she became the artist she is today. I truly believe she is one of the best, yet underrated, vocalists of our time.

The Sonny Side of Cher opens with Cher’s biggest solo hit to that time “Bang, Bang.” This Sonny penned tune is a tale of two lovers explained as children. I love this composition. I love the exotic feel this song brings. It sounds a bit country at times, it is definitely pop, it takes advantage of 60’s folk, and there is a little Scottish flare for fun. It’s easy to see how this song claimed the number 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Elusive Butterfly” and “The Girl From Ipanema” are among Cher fan’s favorites from this era in her career, but the songs that really take the cake for this album are “Old Man River” and “Like A Rolling Stone,” a Bob Dylan cover.

“Old Man River” comes in at number 1 on this album for me, right behind “Bang Bang.” When I hear Cher sings this song I just picture tears streaming out of some bodies deeply wounded eyes. I literally feel I can reach into this song and drench myself in emotion.

If you have any interest in Cher’s career or the culture of the 60’s, this album is essential. As a bonus, this record is sprinkled with Phil Spector’s fingerprints as Sonny Bono, once Spector’s employee, produces the full album. This is pre “glam” Cher, but post “I Got You Babe” Cher. This small era in her career was a gem in her soon to be legendary status.

Key Tracks: “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” “Elusive Butterfly,” “The Girl From Ipanema”

Deep Cuts: “Old Man River,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Where Do you Go”

 

A Modern Review: Goodbye June “Danger In The Morning”

Yesterday I did something I usually don’t do. I decided to look through the new releases on Spotify. I always love discovering new music, but I’ve lost hope in a lot of the artists that are coming out today. Everything just seems commercial and superficial. A person or band can’t just sit and play anymore, they need lights, dancers, and fireworks.

Well, except for Goodbye June.

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Courtesy of Twitter, @GoodbyeJune

I had never heard of Goodbye June until I found their newly released EP right next to the Britney Spears album on Spotify. I just pressed play to see what happened, without much hope, yet I was immediately hooked.

Goodbye June is made up of three cousins Landon Milbourn, Brandon Qualkenbush, and Tyler Baker. They formed the band after Baker’s brother was killed in a car accident while on leave from the military, which lended the band their name. They began focusing on their music after this tragic, life altering experience, and it is nothing short of authentic.

The EP opens with “Oh No,” a song with a “screw you” attitude. The song starts off with a bang and Milbourns vocals quickly grabbed me. This song teeters on rock, folk, country, and metal all at the same time. It was like Mumford and Sons meets Led Zepplin meets Chris Stapleton.

The next song, “Daisy,” was equally intriguing, talking about how that one lady can drive you crazy. They then go into the power anthem “Man of The Moment,” relishing in confidence. This song and “Oh No” seem to be related. That one lady seemed to have taken it too far, but these guys aren’t ones to lay down and die. They begin to sound reminiscent of Jack White, post White Stripes, but less chaotic.

Next comes “Darlin.” This ballad song knocks right at Led Zepplin’s door. I was hooked by its lyrics initially (“Darlin’ I don’t know what you’ve done to me, but it works and I hate it”), then the composition took over. The guitar is immaculate and the vocals as smooth as silk, yet as gritty as sand paper, same goes for the content. This is my favorite from the EP.

Lastly, they close with “Danger In The Morning.” This song mixes in heavy banjo that shows the guys southern and midwest roots. That mixed with heavy guitar rifts finishes this EP with a semi colon. For there seems to be a whole new thought brewing with this song and this EP is only serving as an introduction to the music to come.

In the end this EP can be summed up by a line from “Oh No:”

“I’ll take a bow and I’ll show you how to survive.”

For this EP may be over, but there’s a lot of staying power behind Goodbye June.

Connect with Goodbye June on Twitter, Facebook, and their official website.

 

Country, Soul, and Folk…..Oh Yea.

Google defines country music as a form of popular music originating in the rural southern US. It is traditionally a mixture of ballads and dance tunes played characteristically on fiddle, guitar, steel guitar, drums, and keyboard.

May I also add its contents include whiskey, women, cheating, drinking, and the occasional loss of a dog.

Google defines soul music as a kind of music incorporating elements of rhythm and blues and gospel music, popularized by African-Americans. Characterized by an emphasis on vocals and an impassioned improvisatory delivery.

May I also add that it often gives you those dancing feet and you may occasionally utter a positive “mmm” or “get it girl.”

Lastly, since this is not a test study sheet, Google defines folk music as music that originates in traditional popular culture or that is written in such a style.

May I also add it usually has a heavy guitar influence and imagery.

Now add them all together.

Country+Soul+Folk= Justin Townes Earle

My first encounter with Earle was through Wanda Jackson. He produced her latest studio album, Unfinished Business.  He duets with Jackson on “Am I Even a Memory.” That became my favorite song off the album, and it spurred my interest in Earle. This album was produced to pristine detail.

Justin Townes Earle is the son of famed country musician Steve Earle. He has released 1 etownEP and 5 albums. I recently found his 4 album Harlem City Blues at Guestroom Records in OKC. I wasn’t exactly expecting what I heard. The album touches a wide array of subjects including suicide, breakups, loneliness, the need to leave, and coming back.

The album opens with its title’s name sake, “Harlem City Blues.” This song envokes every genre I discussed previously. The music is distinctly country, the tempo is folksy, and Earle’s voice contains the soul. This song makes me think it is touching suicide, for he states “dirty water is going to cover me over and I’m not gonna make a sound.” Although dark in content, this song possess a positive sense of spirituality.

The album then goes into “One More Night in Brooklyn.” He talks about leaving town with his woman. I love the beat to this one. It’s almost “islandly.” This is an addictive tune. You then have a hoe down with “Move Over Mama.” Next is the song”Workin for the MTA.” This song especially evokes the essence of folk music, it’s about hard work in what I believe would either be mines or the building of train tracks. It has a purpose and mission. I see a man walking lonely through a desolate area dragging a sledge hammer when I listen to this song. It’s a great slow down moment for the album.

The last song on Side A is “Wanderin.” This is one of my top two favorites off the album. For this song’s face value, it talks about wandering over areas and personal situations, but deeper then that it’s about reflecting on life and spirituality. It is a modern day “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.” You have to wonder to find home.

The pheonixMy second favorite on this album is “Christchurch Woman.” The song talks about waiting for a woman. He talks of how he is waiting for a “Christchurch woman in the rain, and the rain keeps comin, but it ain’t enough to cover the pain.” You can feel pain in Earle’s voice as he is wanting that certain someone, yet even he admits he’ll probably get tired of her later in the song. This song could be comforting to those who are waiting. Waiting gets easier with each passing day, and you might even realize it’s not the right thing after all.

The closing song, besides a choir reprise of “Harlem City Blues,” is Rogers Park. The songs opens up with a beautiful piano arrangement and it carries throughout. It is like Earle is walking through a small town park, reminiscing on his life and what could and can be. This shows the genius of Earle’s songwriting. My favorite lyric: “There ain’t no hope in leaving them. There ain’t no prayer for the poor and all that’s lost in stealing. She can’t hold me anymore.” and a choral line of “Punching holes in the dark.” Let the interpretations begin….

In the end, this record is not of any genre. The country musical influence is dominant, thebloodshot records story telling of folk is there, and Earle’s voice is extremely soulful. I find this album to be remarkable. Earle is multitalented, being able to produce, perform, and write, a musical triple threat.

Although, I’m not ready to let that ol’ dirty water run over me, I am ready for my Christchurch woman in the rain, and more importantly, I can’t wait to purchase another Justin Townes Earle album.  You have to prioritize in life.

Forever Spinning,

Gabe