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Liner Notables: Cher – The Sonny Side of Cher

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Why, it seems like only yesterday [cue harp and wavy, out-of-focus  visuals] when you could pore over an album's liner notes and not have to squint to garner an embarrassment of riches and a treasure trove of tidbits…
 

“If I could turn back time…”

It can be the first time you tasted
chocolate ice cream on a hot summer day
Or the first ray of sunshine breaking
through the night’s blackness…

…Or the first day you read liner notes in love and understanding verse (entitled “Something Special” by Richard Oliver). Then again, it is 1966, this is Cher’s second solo LP, Svengali Sonny is at the production helm applying his Spectorish folk-rock sonics to whatever covers or originals pop from his Pop 40 mind.

Sometimes it clicks – Cher does a mean Dylan caterwaul, if you remember her version of “All I Really Wanna Do” (though its no jingly-jangly morning Byrds call, harmonies and all) – and the hit “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” whose now guilty pleasure melodramatics and track time is outdone only by Vanilla Fudge’s molasses-metal and marathon version. But…

For others it may be the chirping sound
of the night crickets,
or the strum of a guitar string from the house
next door breaking the night stillness.
It could be a song that reminds you
of another time, place, someone,
or the sensation received from certain
words, sounds, rhythm…

…Interspersed throughout the largely entertaining Sonny Side’s assorted and sundry selections, however, are more MOR tracks than an album of mid-‘60s pop-rock by a shaggy-haired, bell-bottomed belle is allowed by freak-flag flying members of anti-establishment society. Destined for middle-of-the-road steamroller fare is Cher’s version (as produced by Sonny) of the great Kern-Hammerstein Show Boat classic “Old Man River,” which does not — I repeat, does not — lend itself to jingle-jangle folk-rockin’ down the ol’ Muddy.

More faithful to an original’s mild bossa nova beat backing the Antonio Carlos Jobim-penned easy-listening hit “The Girl From Ipanema” is Cher’s even milder take, while the arrangement’s rather rushed tempo gives Cher’s singing a “come on, come on” hurriedness compared to Astrud Gilberto’s first-run “come hither” vocal allure. Speaking of sensuality, do you think that the vocal pyrotechnics of gyratin’ Tom Jones in his big hit “It’s Not Unusual” can be outshined by whatever side of Cher? It would be unusual if you did.

“Our Day Will Come” seals the deal as far as what may be an orchestrated attempt (pun intended) to get Cher — and Sonny and Cher – to shed the fur vests and hip-huggers and make a musical transition into middle-aged music befitting the the glitzy gowns and tuxes they had to wear for their Hollywood Palladium appearances and, eventually, the twosome’s own variety show where they concentrated more on banter, schtick, guest stars and skits, than “I Got You” cooing or “The Beat Goes On” or “Laugh at Me” commentary, ‘60s-style.

Nevertheless, there is sincerity in the way Cher sings these songs, whatever the tone, type, or meaning. “This album has feeling,” Oliver states as he wraps up the liner notes, with Hallmarkian sentiment; “its songs are special. / Special, not only because of the material, / but because they are sung by Cher.”

She hopes there is something
Special here for you.
You are special to her,
And this is her way of telling you.

Meanwhile, Vanilla Fudge is wrapping up its version of “Bang Bang,” and ready to swing into “The Beat Goes On… and On and On and On…"

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About Gordon Hauptfleisch

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/a-geek-girl/ A Geek Girl

    I loved them so much when I was little. I ran home from playing with my friends to watch their show. I never missed an episode. I actually had the Cher barbie doll (wish I hadn’t lost it now). Who would have ever thought how they’d end up? I could have sworn that they were stuck like glue.

    I was blown away by Cher’s marriage to Allman, and Black Rose – it was so strange to think of her dating Gene Simmons. And Sonny’s characteristic (and sometimes caricaturistic) enthusiastic vitriol over local politics? I was amazed when he was elected, but then he always was the cool jerk.

    Gordon, thanks for taking me back to those days when I adored them. I had almost forgotten how wonderful they were.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/gordon-hauptfleisch Gordon Hauptfleisch

    You’re certainly welcome, though you’ve reminded me that, for some reason, it might be perverse fun to track down the one and only joint Cher-Greg Allman album called “Allman… And Woman.” Bad sales, worse reviews.

    But a Cher Barbie Doll? Didn’t know they had one – and any but blondes! I’m thinking they didn’t have any Sonny counterparts to Ken, though.

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