I loved reading this about The Seeds. I was a huge fan. I used to The Seeds at the Pasadena Playhouse, but in the area where you could dance. Wow, wonderful memories. I believe I have all of your albums. Daryl, how do I find out when you will be playing in the Los Angeles area?
It's believed that various labels have approached Warner Bros. over the years about reissuing these albums, to no avail, and some have speculated that Cher herself has an ownership stake in the masters and could be preventing their release. We remain hopeful that these LPs will see the light of day on CD, as they would make for revelatory listening, especially when taken in the context of her entire, record-breaking career. So it's without further ado that we ask you to sit back and imagine A Woman's Story: The Warner Bros. Years, bringing four lost LPs back into the spotlight, Reissue Theory-style. Let's turn back time, shall we?
As Sonny & Cher were debuting on Atco, Sonny finagled a solo deal for Cher on the Imperial label. Although The Byrds had a competing version on the charts, Cher's version of Dylan's "All I Really Want To Do" (#15) scored higher on the back of the summer phenomenon, "I Got You Babe." If his biography No Direction Home is to be believed, Dylan was apparently pissed off about it. Sonny & Cher were just not cool...even then. But Cher loved to cover Dylan and her run starts here with three songs including the title cut, "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "Blowin' In the Wind." Many Cher covers fall short of their originals ("He Thinks I Still Care," "The Bells of Rhymney," "Come and Stay With Me") but the Bono-penned "Needles & Pins" sounds much better under Cher than it did as a hit with The Searchers. Also of note: Ray Davies' "I Go To Sleep" (later a hit with The Pretenders), Cher's version of the Bono-Greene-Stone written Elvis staple "C.C. Rider," and Bono's take on his former employer's famous Wall of Sound with the song "Dream Baby." The album has a folky spin to differentiate it from simultaneous Sonny & Cher fare. Cher wavers a little on her own at this point. Very raw. Not one of her 60s best.
Up to this point, Sonny has been at the helm of all Sonny & Cher and Cher material. Imperial has now dropped Cher and Atco gives her a one-album solo-shot but only if Sonny relinquishes power. Soon after Chastity is born, Cher is packed off to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to work with famed producers Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin and Jerry Wexler, the very same producers who put together the stupendous classic Dusty in Memphis this very same year. Frustratingly, these producers struggle with Cher and she struggles with much of the material here. For all their good intentions and possibility of the project, the low points detract from some very striking highlights, which include two Dylan covers, "Lay Lady Lay" and her solidly sultry cover of "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You." Covers of "For What It's Worth" and "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" seem highly unnecessary and awkward, as does her final Dylan cover (from a whopping 5-year total of 10!) "I Threw It All Away." The worst track is "Cry Like a Baby." But Cher's version of Dr. John's "Walk on Guilded Splinters" is one of my top-ten favorite Cher songs and her version of the Aretha classic "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" is passable. But it's hard not to imagine what might have been: Cher's version of "Son of a Preacher Man"! Cher's album was the first album made at the 3614 Jackson Highway studio.
Due to the success of Cher's solo torch spots on the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour with the likes of "My Funny Valentine" and "What a Difference a Day Makes," Sonny decided to produce an album of standards for Cher, but with modern arrangements. Songs here range from Gershwin tunes ("How Long Has This Been Going On" and "The Man I Love") to Al Jolson's "Sonny Boy" to Judy Garland's "The Man That Got Away" to Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad and That Aint Good." Critics gave Cher a hard time for this album because she didn't pull Billie Holiday out of her hat. I think she does fine with these songs and believe, in this case, many critics missed the forest for the tree.
This album is really a schlock-rock throwback and is actually out of place in this lineup. Released independently in 2001 because Warner UK claimed it was "not commercial" enough, it was actually recorded between Love Hurts in 1991 and It's a Man's World in 1996. The album acts as a bridge, sound wise, between the bombastic late 80s material and the mellow late 90s material. Cher used the David Letterman band to bring these songs to life, songs she'd written while on a songwriter's retreat outside of Bordeaux, France, with the likes of Patty Smyth. So okay, she's no Paul Simon. But this is surely a good freshman effort. From a 17 year old we'd say, 'good effort.' But it's the Black Rose syndrome: because it's Cher we forget this is really her debut songwriting album. The impressive thing to me: it took lots of lots of guts to release a freshman effort as a 50-something and already the target of most rock critics. Overall, this album is more appetizing than the Geffen records. It's the first album Cher produced and the first full album of Cher-penned lyrics and music (other Cher co-writing credits have appeared on Half Breed, Take Me Home, the Foxes soundtrack and Believe; Cher also co-wrote a song with Elton John for his Leather Jackets album). Only two songs were not written or co-written by Cher: "Born with the Hunger" and "Classified 1A" written by Sonny in the early 70s. Cher themes include her feelings about Catholicism (the controversial "Sisters of Mercy"), American military veterans (the tight "Fit to Fly"), a kind of restlessness which might explain her need to buy new houses every two years ("Runnin"), the problem of homelessness ("Our Lady of San Francisco" which contains the unfortunate Bob Dole line), showbiz advise to a young friend ("Disaster Cake"), general heartache ("Still") and something that would have broken up the monotony on any shlock-rock 80s album, ("With or Without You"), and finally, a cynical little song about Kurt Cobain ("The Fall"). It's good Cher-speak for unbelievers. 2b1af7f3a8