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”

 

Don’t Complain, Be The Change

Some of us were born with an extremely ambitious personality. It is both a curse and a blessing. An ambitious person finds themselves striving for something that they can accomplish, but in many instances it also leaves them speechless when they realize their dreams will never come to fruition.

Along with ambition comes rebellion. One is not ok with how they see the world. They are not okay with the norms of society and they are bound to make a stand against them in any way they can. This is how I am. I have strived to be a musician my whole life with the goal of giving people an escape into a world where all their shortcomings and emotions make sense. I hold this dream to this day. Now that I have become involved in civic matters, I find myself feeling this same strife for social and governmental issues. I often find solace in this frustration and rebellion, that comes with being overly ambitious in the phonography of music.

the-young-and-the-hopeless-4e805d91a9b63Now this is not something new. I have been doing this for years since high school. The first record I completely found peace in was Good Charlotte’s The Young and The Hopeless. They did not accept the norms, yet they had the courage to stand up for a voice that is often not heard. From high school feeling like a jail cell to family problems, each song on this album makes a declaration of ambition.

The album starts out with the holy grail of high school rebellion songs, “The Anthem.” The song is simple, I don’t want to grow up to be just like you. It’s about looking at the adults in your life as a young man or woman and realizing that isn’t what you want to be, that there has to be more to life then what they have alluded to. Life is not about making straight A’s, going to college, and just “doing your time.” Just because that is the way it has always been doesn’t make it correct. With a more than anthem feel musically, this song makes its point clearly.

Then we have “Lifestyles of The Rich & Famous.” This song basically rebukes all those with money who have everything, yet still seem to complain about countless troubles and woes. This is all set to the tune of what I would call dance/punk/pop. How about they take a walk in our shoes for once? Are these the kind of people we want to be or is it exact opposite?

Good-CharlotteFinishing out side A, I have to make note of “The Story of My Old Man” and “My Bloody
Valentine.” We all have problems with our family with some having more drastic problems then others, but we always feel a rebellion to the norm that our family wants us to achieve. This is also a song of comfort for those of us who are victims of having divorced parents. It makes you realize you will eventually stand up and see things for what they are, and with a loud screw you, you will be able to deal.

Lastly, I just love “My Bloody Valentine.” It’s a great story song. It tells the story of falling in love hard. With its more metal feel, this makes a point of hard love and gives light to a thought I think we have all had. This is definitely a “don’t try this at home,” or ever, contemplation.

Side B starts out with “Hold On.” This song assures us that although you feel nobody is there for you, there is always a reason to hold on. It will get better. This is the depression that comes when your ambition is not coming in your time. This is a soft rock/punk/pop tune if you will. It is followed by the pure punk, “Riot Girl.” I have always found myself jamming out to this song. It’s a fun medley of “Christina you don’t want to meet her, Britney you better run for cover,” and something all of us guys wish for in a girl, yet we just don’t always admit it.

4c1694e8Moving over a few songs we come to “The Young And The Hopeless.” This song portrays how all of us have felt, especially when we don’t follow the path that society and our families have laid for us. It’s accepting the fact that yes I’m troublesome, I’m bothered, I’m lost, and that I’m going nowhere, but in the end it’s me against this world. I am responsible for my actions. If I fall, let me. If I succeed, praise me. In the end I’m going to do what my soul is comfortable with.

Then there is the ballad of the entire album “Emotionless,” another ode to those of us ridden with the wreckage of divorce. Although the song projects the abandonment of the Madden brothers’ father, I think it is one that each of us can relate to. Coming from a similar situation, this song strikes almost every emotional cord I have. This song has a twist that normal divorce songs don’t have. Under all the hatred and anger, you still miss your father or in a larger case your family as it was. I am always amazed at how Joel Madden can take his vocals down to such an emotional level.

The last song “Moving On,” declares what we all have to do, those of us who are super ambitious and those that are breathing. This song is about learning from each experience and emotion, and making something of it. You may make the wrong idea of it, but in the end it’s yours and you have to move on. It has a chant like chorus that exclaims emotions from lust and love to hope and truth. “Moving On” isn’t about getting over the injustices you see and feel; it’s about making the most of them.

Madden-BrothersThis album came out in 2002. I was just trying to figure out who I was at that time, yet to this day I still think this album speaks truths, not only to high school me, but also to young adult me and beyond. I still haven’t figured out who I am and this album tells me that’s ok. It’s a journey and I may never figure out, but realizing that it’s a hopeless cause reassures me I have to move on.

This album also holds other beliefs I still find true. I still believe that girls don’t like boys, that they like cars and money and I am still happy about wondering what my girlfriend or dog is exactly thinking, but I really don’t want to know the day that I die.

In retrospect, this album has taught me to be the change I want to see in the world. Although my actions may not change the world, it’s my soul I am living with. It is essential that I share with others what I have gone through in life, for it not only releases my pinned up emotions, but it helps those going through the same thing. We are all survivors. It’s a question of what we survived that remains un-answered.

Now I know I left my Level Twenty Seven Shirt somewhere in my dresser. It’s going to look great with my Made hoody I finally found.

January’s Top Five Picks

I have decided to provide you with my musical summary for this month. It contains some new vinyl as well as old. This is basically what I have been spending the most of my time listening to this month. I’m finding that it is quite an eclectic selection.

1. Buddy Holly, The Story of Buddy Holly and The Great Buddy Holly

This month I read a biography over Buddy Holly entitled Not Fade Away by John Gribbin. ThisMI0001766933 book touches very briskly on the surface of Holly’s career, but it has really sparked my interest. I have had these two records for awhile and had not listened to them before. I also learned many interesting facts about Holly from the documentary The Real Buddy Holly Story. It was produced by Paul McCartney after The Buddy Holly Story movie came out but was filled with inaccuracies. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CwnEdqkNaY.

2. Rosanne Cash, The River and The Thread

Rosanen-Cash-The-River-The-ThreadThis album was released just a few weeks ago on January 14th. It has quickly become one of my favorite albums. Rosanne and her husband, John Leventhal, wrote all the songs on the album. The songs are intended to be third person narratives over their travels throughout the south while Rosanne was helping the University of Arkansas restore her father’s childhood home. With my highest regards, I suggest this album.

3. Michael Jackson and The Jacksons, Bad and Victory

In my previous post I mentioned finding a vintage picture disk of The photo 1Jackson’s Victory. It’s a bit addicting. It sounds like a relative of Michael Jackson’s Thrillerbut it’s not nearly as Epic. After listening to this album I had to bust out my favorite Michael record, Bad. It just doesn’t get much better then “Dirty Diana,” “Just Another Part of Me,” and “Bad.”

4. Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose

This album has also quickly become one of my favorite albums. I find something new about it every time I listen to it. Jack White amazes me how he can resurrect artists, keeping both their tradition and updating them to today.  Read my full review here:

A Bouquet, https://vinylvortexok.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/a-bouquet/

5. Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, A Star is Born

A+Star+Is+Born+Barbra+Streisand++Kris+KristofIt’s obvious if you follow the blog, that I have been listening to this album lately. I just wrote a full review. To be honest though, I’m not a fan of the whole album. My favorite tunes are “The Woman in The Moon” and Streisand’s finale. Just scroll down a story and you can find my full opinion.

Honorable Mentions: The Beatles, Jan and Dean, and Anita Bryant.

This is what has been spinning on my turntable this month. How about yours? Please let me know what you’ve been listening to in the comments!

Spinnin’ and Spinnin,’

Gabe

Five Albums You May Have Missed in 2013

[Introducing our first guest writer, Daniel Valencia! Enjoy.]

As 2013 comes to a close, listeners think back on the songs that carried us through the year. My Bloody Valentine made a bold return back in February and an AM, a Pure Heroine, and a Days Are Gone later, this last month winds down with either Reflektor or Christmas music in rotation. The year was full of important albums that brought much joy (and disappointment) to our listening ears, but what of the albums that did not get their due amount of attention or were ignored altogether? I offer a few humble suggestions:

5. Wire – Change Becomes Us

ImageThe first thing anyone should know about this reviewer before reading anything he writes is that he is an absolute punk rock junkie. That being said, how can any release by post-punk icons Wire be overlooked on such a list? After all, with so many great albums under their belt (Their debut, Pink Flag, is required listening for anyone who considers themselves a music fan), there is no justifiable excuse to not give Change Becomes Us a try. The beautiful thing about Wire, is the way they can make two seemingly opposite sounds or structures work well together in a song. This quality is on full display here. “Adore Your Island” is a suitable example, with its back and forth struggle between a droning punk chorus and dreamy rock verses. The robotic vocal delivery, thick bass hooks, and spacey guitar that we have come to expect is here in full form. Change Becomes Us is a truly engaging record, ready to hold you in its grip and pull you through its twists and turns. The album was released on vinyl for Record Store Day this year, about a month after its release on other formats.

4. The Strokes – Comedown Machine

ImageAt some point, The Strokes must have realized that they were never going to replicate Is This It. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has yet to come to the same conclusion, and I believe that Julian Casablancas and co. know this well. Suddenly, we have Comedown Machine which serves as both the redheaded stepchild of the band’s catalogue and a smug send off to The Strokes fans of 2001. The album’s artwork is a silhouetted version of Is This It’s, after all (and I will mention that the album art practically screams, “Buy me on vinyl”). This truly is the strangest of the band’s releases, in many ways. Not knowing who was playing, I could not tell that “One Way Trigger” was a The Strokes song until almost two minutes in. We have the pleasure of hearing the band try out 80’s pop anthems, falsetto-heavy vocals, ballads, more falsetto, and even something that sounds like the creepy song at the end of The Shining. Tracks like “Tap Out” and “Welcome to Japan” are irresistibly fun and the majority of Comedown Machine follows suit. There is no denying that this is who The Strokes are now, and somehow I do believe that their first few garage-y, Ramones-esque numbers have run their course. Honestly, Room on Fire was always my favorite, anyway.

3. Savages – Silence Yourself

ImageHonestly, you may not have missed out on this one in particular. With the support of word of mouth, television appearances, and YouTube banners, one would have to be living under a rock (or distracted by Queens of the Stone Age) to not have at least heard about Silence Yourself. Post-punk has been coming in and out of the scene’s forefront in the last decade and a half, but not always as equally urgent and refreshing as it has this year with the release of the debut by Savages. The album may be a little more refined and well-produced than our revolutionaries, Joy Division and Bauhaus, but does not compromise a single ounce of raw talent or pristine passion. The squealing, treble-drenched guitars, the gloomy backdrop, Jehnny’s Beth’s haunting vocal performance – it all feels so real, that it can overwhelm at first listen. Silence Yourself may very well be to us now what Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights was to us a decade ago. I would consider it a serious contender for debut album of the year.

2. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action

ImageIt is truly a shame. I was in high school the last time a Franz Ferdinand record emerged from the depths. I am a college graduate now and much like Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, the band’s latest release already seems to be on its way out of the limelight and headed to that place where music goes to be forgotten. This is only an opinion, but it seems to me like Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action was treated as nothing more than a reminder that “Take Me Out” happened ten years ago. Admittedly, the band does not bring much of anything new to the table, but rather build upon the style that is already very much their all their own, and it has never felt as close to perfection as it does here. For example, “Stand on the Horizon” features the beautiful blend of danceable avant-garde, psychedelic post-punk that we have come to expect from Franz, only this time with lyrics that sound like they mean something and flawlessly executed twists that eventually usher the irresistible melody into something of a surreal outro. What I find great about Right Thoughts is how fresh and natural everything here feels. Franz Ferdinand has always had such style about them that many bands have to work for (AM-era Alex Turner comes to mind), but all that fun and energy was not at the forefront back in 2009. Thankfully, that’s not the case here.

1. Jars of Clay – Inland

ImageThe presence of Inland solidifies this as being the list of talented rock bands that the media chewed up and spit out. When people think Jars of Clay they usually think 1. “Flood”, 2. “ChristianMingle” or 3. Spiritual soccer mom’s favorite band on the radio. Of course the perfect scores and #1 rankings from both faith-based and secular reviewers alike do not mean a thing when we can comfortably live according to the distorted perceptions of our many cool friends. It is frustrating, yet beautiful because that way a record as extremely personal as Inland can be personal on even greater levels.  As with every great Jars record, this outing easily transcends the many distractions surrounding music today. For roughly fifty minutes the battle between indie and pop, the band member’s faith, the media, the critics, and even the fanbase do not matter. All that remains is talent, creativity, and twelve brutally honest expressions from five imperfect individuals. I had trouble responding to the album initially. The vast amount of influences ranging from folk to blues to new wave were all present (and improved from past efforts) but not always used in ways I was expecting. And where Jars of Clay has always had moderately accessible lyrics, Dan Haseltine’s work here ranges from surface level observations to the nearly impenetrable.  Like many incredible records, Inland requires digging and perseverance, but is, ultimately, a ridiculously rewarding experience. Only after repeat listens did the lyrics come alive to me as poetic portrayals of feelings and ideas that only these particular individuals could write at this particular time. The music can be easy enough to swallow, but it flourishes with so many unique sounds and unrestrained creativity that it never becomes boring or predictable. Jars of Clay’s eleventh studio album is the most original (and possibly the best) album that I have listened to this year. As far as availability on vinyl, your best bet would be the band’s website. Buy and treasure this intimate collection of artful alt. pop and more importantly, do not be afraid of it.

Thank you for reading. Feel free to visit my blog for more reviews, top 10 lists, and other conversations about music, art, and life at http://danielvalencia-theblog.blogspot.com/