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”

 

Cher: Cher and Tell

It all began in 2001. My mother rented a VHS at Blockbuster for my entertainment. Knowing how interested I am in music, she decided to rent a concert. That VHS was Cher: Live in Concert (The 1999-2000 Do you Believe tour).MV5BMTkzNTc1MTY0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDU5MDg4._V1_SX214_AL_

Furthermore, I immediately demanded Cher CDs and my mother regretted her decision.

This was a big tour for Cher. It was the first after her smash number one hit “Believe.” I was mesmerized into the evening as each of her elaborate sets unfolded and was confused how one could dye their hair so quickly.

Over the next few years, I collected almost every album on CD (hence, my mother’s financial regret) that I could find of this impeccable performer.  I was completely enamored  by her originality and resilience. I loved her new dance tunes from the albums “Believe” and “Living Proof,” but I equally loved her 80’s, 70’s, and 60’s equivalents.

Throughout these albums, one always stood out to me, and 15 years later I find myself still listening to it. Cher’s self-titled LP in 1987 has always kept my attention differently then her other efforts. She sounds renewed with a new energy in these songs after what was a tumultuous decade and a half in her life. She was a new Cher while distinctly being nostalgic of where she came from.

ChercherThe album opens with the anthem “I Found Someone.” This song is very empowering and Cher’s distinct vocals roll over the beginning notes with a gothic arrangement, taking the listener straight into the guitar and piano wrung “screw you” attitude.

Next is one of my all time favorite Cher songs, “We All Sleep Alone.” This song speaks a truth that many don’t necessarily think about. It’s not a ballad, it’s not an anthem, and it’s not pure rock. It’s raw emotion coming from the lonelieness in all of our souls, something Cher knew all to well. The song just glides over you, like wind rippling through sheets with Cher’s voice setting the climate.

Then there is her “remix” of sorts of the Sonny Bono penned “Bang Bang.” This new arrangement gives this song a new, rougher sentiment. Cher’s vocals are stronger than ever, yet within the song’s lyrics she is still the unlikely victim. These are brilliant, ironic vocals that only Cher can achieve.

Flipping the record to the last song, “Hard Enough Getting Over You” sends yet another message. This song conveys an optimistic message that there is always another chance, even though it’s hard to rid yourself of your past. It is a low amped power ballad sprinkled with ache with a durable spirit. She belts that she can’t say good-bye again, yet the future is in full view. This song signifies Cher closing the door, with no regrets, of her past.

6a00e54ecca8b9883301901c3000fa970bThen there is the rest of the album that I equally love. She serenades us with her tender
power ballad “Main Man,” while we have the pure rock tunes like “Give Our Love a Fighting Chance” and “Dangerous Times” and pure pop tunes like “Perfection” and “Working Girl.” Then there’s this random one that reminds me of a 1980’s aerobic class with high cut leotards, “Skin Deep.” Was Cher thinking about a future video?

Today I have nearly every album she has made, seen her twice in concert, and I might have a poster on my wall. This is always my go to Cher album. This u proves Cher’s vocal ability. It was made before the time that auto tune and various measures took over pop music. Although Cher employs these today, underneath it all, she is a pure vocal acrobat.

This album is a cumulation of bad relationships, being a single mother, and rampant lies from the press attempting to destroy her character. When you look into her history, these emotions are heard clearly in this album. This is an album of strife, tears, and success.

It’s just too good to keep to myself. If you haven’t found someone, tend to sleep alone, have a fondness for vocals that go skin deep, and yet ring in your ear like a bang from a gun, just give me a ring, I’ll Cher this one with you.

 

 

Sonny Bono, Inner Views: The Little Man That Couldn’t

In 1967 Sonny Bono did the unthinkable. He departed from Cher, the assumed star of the duo, and made his own album.

You really have to dig deep into the crate to find this one and even then it’s usually in the unorganized dollar bin. Sonny Bono’s Inner Views is not well known, and definitely not renowned, but it does deserve some serious respect.

Do you ever wonder what happened to Sonny after the Sonny and Cher show was canceled? Sure he had his own show The Sonny Comedy Review, but that barely lasted especially against it’s rival, The Cher Show. What did Sonny do for all those years before he became Mayer of Palm Springs?

One must remember that Sonny was the foundation of Sonny and Cher, although it was by accident. Their first hit, “Baby Don’t Go,” was initially intended to be a solo Cher song, but she would not go on stage without Sonny. If you listen to this original recording you will see that Sonny just sings backup. Sonny and Cher is the love child of Cher’s solo career.

Originally, Sonny was a song writer, producer/gofer, and instrumentalist for Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. It’s obvious that Sonny had an eye for talent and the penning of an occasional hit song. He met Cher in 1962, when she was 16 and he was 27. She lied and said she was 18 and thus their romantic relationship began.

By the time Inner Views came out, Sonny and Cher had already had huge commercial success with songs like “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On.” The career took a downward spiral in the later 1960’s when pop was overturned by the British invasion.

Sonny had some time on his hands between performances at state fairs and nightclubs.

By the time Inner Views was released Sonny was 32. He was past his party hey day and was actually quite conservative in nature. He did not smoke pot or partake in any other kinds of drugs of the time. I believe that his age and maturity are a major factor in the content of this album while showing some serious songwriting skills. The album is early psychedelic in genre and only contains 5 songs due to the length of the pieces.

The album begins with “I Just Sit There.” This is Bono’s version of “The Times They are A Changing.” He talks about how “everything is turning around” and that there are “trippers, strippers, hips, or squares.” This wasn’t his scene, but it still expressed his aggravation with the current political tides and the way society was handling itself.

Bono then goes into my favorite song of the album, “I Told My Girl to Go Away.” A ballad explaining how he has to tell the girl he loves to go away. He states “How could I tell her as much as I loved her we’d never be?” and then “I don’t love you I had to say and then I died that day I lied.” Was he foretelling the future of Sonny and Cher’s matrimony?

On side B, Bono sings about “My Best Friend’s Girl is Out of Sight.” A fun tune to listen to with some witty lyrics.

The real masterpiece of side B and the entire album is “Pammie’s on a Bummer.” The song begins with at least a 5 minute intro of what sounds more like a band warming up then a composition of music. It’s the story of the lyrics that really hit me. This song tells the story of Pammie, a girl who was on a “bummer…and nobody knows where she’s at,” “had her body for sale,” and how “she started smoking pot.”

This song shows the downside of what would of largely been the “hippy” mind set. The idea of free love and social freedom are solid in this piece. Bono was mature enough to see through this trend, but he attempted to come to this audience in their language explaining these downfalls. He eventually ends the song with “maybe someday she will come back.”

I have found this short collection of songs to be some of the most interesting pieces I have listened to. They are written from a completely different angle then any of the other music of that time, yet it can easily fit in with this music. This was Bono’s warning piece to those living destructive lifestyles.

Although in the end, this album did not make an impact in the music field or society. It doesn’t even have it’s own Wikipedia article. Unfortunately, with this album, he was just the little man who couldn’t….

Photo of CHER and SONNY & CHER and Sonny BONO

Cher, Dressed to Kill: There Is no “If,” It’s When

I made a mistake last Tuesday. I’m a sucker for concerts, especially of legends. I also like to take my mom to concerts of artists that were from her young days. She can tell me when she used to watch them on the television from first-hand experience! This also serves as a good veil of deception when I just want to go to a concert.

So I got on Stubhub (a terrible, terrible website, don’t go there, you will be out money). I found 2 tickets, cheaply priced for Cher’s current Dressed to Kill Tour. I used to be a Cher fan, but I hadn’t listened to her for a while. I knew my mom and I would enjoy it together. And, did I mention that they were 3rd-row center?

Anyways, I had to have them. I had seen footage of many Cher shows and knew she put on a large production and I mean, come on, she’s Cher! So after finagling money out of this account and that credit card, the tickets were mine.

Saying the concert was spectacular is an understatement. I have always considered Cher the Goddess of Pop and she confirmed my accusations.

The concert began with her most recent dance hit, “Woman’s World.” She came down offphoto (3) a large pedestal adorned with a headdress colored in what I think would be peacock colors. As she descended, she proceeded to take off her outer covering, exposing what a flamboyant Egyptian queen would wear (again in my mind). She was the audience’s Cleopatra and we were willing to do anything under her rule. She then immediately went into Strong Enough.” This song took on a vibe of its own as her dancers came out with gladiator shields showing that this immaculate diva could take you down and that she had the army to do it (and that was minus the gay men).

One of my favorite sequences was when Cher returned back to her musical foundation. She recreated “I Got You Babe” with Sonny projected on a screen directly behind her. They sang the song together as if it were 1965 once again. It was a time to reminisce for even those that weren’t alive during that generation. It was a musical time warp.

photo (2)From there, Cher went into her 3 number 1’s from the early 1970’s, “Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves,” “Dark Lady,” and “Half Breed.” The stage turned into a traveling Circus troupe with three main rings and dancers to fill them all. Cher, dressed in what only an ostentatious gypsy could pull off, proceeded into her first two songs declaring how all the men would come around and lay their money down (despite calling them tramps during the day) and how that ho of a dark lady stole her man. She then disappeared behind the center ring’s curtain. Seconds later, after what seemed to be a semi Native American pow wow performed by her dancers, she reappeared in one of her signature looks, an Indian headdress with a matching crop top, a flowing loincloth, and that jet black, hip-length, black hair.

She then went into a homage to her most recent movie Burlesque. I am sure this photo (4)was to please her younger fans. She did an awe-inspiring rendition of “You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me.” This was the vocal highlight of the show. As one who has sung and taken lessons, this song is just plain hard. Cher has also been quoted as saying she has never been accepted into the singing group or acting group amidst her qualifications. This song shows that she is a vocal powerhouse; better yet, a vocal mansion.

Then came what  I call the “down low” stage of the concert. She stripped it down for three
of her more acoustic songs “Walking in Memphis,” “Just Like Jesse James,” and “Heart of Stone.” Her vocals were perfection.

photo (6)

Then came what I think any moderate Cher fan was looking forward to. It was time for the leotard. You know that one that barely covers the “bathing suit” areas? You know that one with the thigh-high boots and 100’s of strategically placed rhinestones? Yeah, that one. She proceeded into “I Found Someone” and “If I Could Turn Back Time.” Everybody in the arena was groveling at her feet and every woman was trying to figure out why they couldn’t pull that outfit off at their age (including the youngsters).

Lastly, she performed her number one smash “Believe.” It was indeed amazing, although I felt it was her encore that solidified her as the goddess she truly is. As the lights went low and the audience yelling, a platform floated from the back of the arena and landed center stage. Once it landed, Cher emerged from the starry darkness. She had on a flowing dress and upon her head was what only a Diva Pop Goddess crown would look like (I didn’t know until then what one looked like). She was then lifted over the whole audience while singing “I Hope You Find It” from her latest album Closer to The Truth.

This was an especially emotional and moving time of the concert. Cher had said this

From Cherworld.com/ Phoenix show

From Cherworld.com/ Phoenix show

was definitely her last tour (with a wink, wink), but I think she may be serious. While she was singing the song, I felt like Cher was expressing contentment. She is accepted by people more important than the Oscar and Grammy elitist. She is accepted by thousands of fans that have adored her for 5 decades. She has finally done what we all hope to do, find it.

In the end, I walked away from the concert completely stunned. How a 67-year-old lady can perform and sing to that degree is astounding. She puts new performers to shame. For the longest time, one of my favorite Cher songs was “If I Could Turn Back Time.” Well, there was no question after the show. It was not “if she could turn back time,” it was when. The concert was about Cher, as a vocal, acting, and pop culture phenomenon without an expiration date.

photo (7)After reflection, I realized the concert sent a different message as well. She proved happiness is immortal, that acceptance is fleeting, and contentment was priceless. Only a performer of her caliber could prove this, and she is the only one that exists.

So, as a seasoned concert fanatic, I feel she best summed it up in her first “Farewell Tour.” She said  to all her younger contemporaries “follow this, you bitches.”

But let’s be honest…they can’t even find her footprint.

For the Lovers Out There…

I’m not really into “mushy gushy” love. But to be fair I have never been in love before so I am not sure what it feels like. Romantic love is an abstract concept for me, but I feel I may have a tiny grasp on it through a few songs so I decided to make a list.

So here are the top 5 most romantic songs from one who has never been in love.

5. “I Got You Babe,” by Sonny and Cher.

This song is just full of puppy love. Who doesn’t want to be in a cute relationship where you use terrible grammar to explain your love for each other. The song quickly rose to number one on the charts in 1965 making Sonny and Cher a household name. Sonny wrote this song during the night and woke Cher to listen to his new composition. She told him it wasn’t his best and went back to bed.

4. “Try a Little Tenderness,” by Frank Sinatra

This has been a long time favorite of mine. I originally heard it sung by Michael Buble. I then heard Frank Sinatra’s version on his album of the same title. Although Buble’s version is amazing, you just can’t beat old Blue Eyes.

3. “Moon River,” by Andy Williams

This song is a classic. I was introduced to me by my mom. It was her and her high school sweetheart’s song. It is a beautiful story of a couple in love that are willing to go anywhere with each other. This song recognizes the heartbreak that may be coming, yet shows how love can win with commitment. There are also some great covers of this song by Judy Garland and Anita Bryant.

2. “I Want to Know What Love Is,” Foreigner

I’m jumping quite a few years ahead, but I have always greatly respected this song. As a young un-in-love eligible bachelor I find this song particularly comforting. It would be a dream of mine to find someone who I simply just want to show me what love is (Unless there’s a class). And there isn’t a better voice to betray these emotions then the passionate Lou Gramm. This was Foreigner’s only number one, released in 1984, and was eventually declared platinum.

1. “Endless Love,” by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross

This song is very special to me. It was used as the theme song to my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary (they have now been married 66 years). Last year my Mom and I were lucky enough to receive meet and greet passes to meet Lionel and my mom told him the story. It was nice to see it come full circle. Interesting fact about this song, Richie initially considered it a disaster due to all the last minute changes on the song (making it a duet) and the rushed recording sessions they had to complete it in. In the end it doesn’t matter. Billboard just named this song the top love song of all time and the chemistry between him and Ross hasn’t been accomplished since.

Well that’s about the most I can write about love. My valentines for the past few years have consisted of my single friends, a dinner with my cousin, and “me” dates. Every year I just know somebody is going to come out of the woodwork and say how madly in love they are with me.

Here’s to next year!

Spinnin’ and Hopin’ for Lovin’,

Gabe

Since We are On the Topic….

Since Cher was mentioned in our last post she has released a new music video for her current single “Woman’s World.” Although a it recently went number 1 on the U.S. Club charts, which does say a lot, is this the Cher music fans everywhere respected? Now, as a music lover, I have a high respect for Cher. She has proven how a career can have longevity and has produced some classic songs over the past 40 years, but in this new video, I just don’t know.

I wonder if she should have left everything at The Farewell Tour in the early 2000s. I wonder if she should hang up a few wigs and parts of her career. I give her kudos for keeping up, but is this most recent video and song a little much? I want to stand corrected.

Would Cher’s career be better suited for a Rod Stewart style revival? I tend to think so. She was featured on one of his American standards albums (she excelled immensely) and she has expressed her love for this music. Instead of trying to still grab the young fans, should she begin to pay attention to those who have loved her from the beginning, when she was only on vinyl? Should she be more worried about the Adult Contemporary charts instead of the Hot 100?

Now don’t get me wrong, she looks amazing. Her face is still flawless after all these years and her body is unspeakable, no matter how much work has been done.. I also love how they incorporated all types of different women for the video.

I just want Cher to go out on top. Does this video do her justice as the Goddess of Pop? Please let me know what you think and prove me wrong.