CHER: THE SONNY SIDE OF CHER (1966)
1) Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down); 2) A Young Girl (Une Enfante); 3) Where Do You Go; 4) Our Day Will Come; 5) Elusive Butterfly; 6) Like A Rolling Stone; 7) Old Man River; 8) Come To Your Window; 9) The Girl From Ipanema; 10) It's Not Unusual; 11) Time; 12) Milord.
You'd think that with a title like this, all the songs on this album should have been written by Sonny, but just like on their duet records, he only contributes a few — in this case, ʽWhere Do You Goʼ, a slow folk waltz oriented at the «frustrated teen market» ("where do you go when you're too young?", asks the 20-year old Armenian diva who seems to have already figured that out for herself), and ʽBang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)ʼ, a slow Latin groove oriented at Nancy Sinatra, who later recorded her own version that was later made famous by Kill Bill, from which we draw the obvious conclusion that back in early 1966, Sonny Bono was the happy owner of a time machine (maybe that's why he decided to go into politics as well).
Anyway, both of these songs aren't too bad, and ʽBang Bangʼ is, in fact, melodically and lyrically quite awesome — the problem with both being the singer, who is simply incapable of delicately handling this sort of material. In fact, out of 12 songs on here, there's only one that fully appeals to her immanent vocal style: the English-language cover of Edith Piaf's ʽMilordʼ, where her deep, dark, sneering voice creates the perfect cynical atmosphere. This is where you realize that if the woman was born with the idea to sing anything at all, then the anything in question would just have to be the nonchalant-hedonistic cabaret style — French, German, English, whatever, as long as she's portraying the strong-hip-cynical female with, perhaps, a slight overdose of masculine hormones. You'd think she might extend that credibility to Dylan's ʽLike A Rolling Stoneʼ (after all, has there ever been a song more cynical than that one?), but unfortunately, it does not seem like she's properly understanding what the song is about, so no.
Everything else is a disaster — tender French, British, and American pop standards of the time, all of them given the same type of baroque-folk arrangement and all of them sung in exactly the same style. ʽThe Girl From Ipanemaʼ, supposed to be one of the lightest, springliest pop tunes in existence, an emblem of the happy flight attitude of the early Sixties, simply sinks under the weight of her voice — more like "the girl from Ipanema goes stomping", if you ask me. Good songs like ʽOl' Man Riverʼ and Bob Lind's ʽElusive Butterflyʼ get a Vegasy treatment in terms of vocals, and then there's fairly hokey songs like Michael Merchant's ʽTimeʼ (at least, it sounds hokey: I've never heard the original, if there ever was one).
Overall, there are two problems which you simply cannot work around: (a) weak source material, drifting way too far into the corny direction of mainstream pop rather than guitar-based pop-rock or folk-rock; and (b) inappropriate source material for Cher's one-trick voice, where attempts at diversity actually fail — be it Dylan, Tom Jones, Charles Aznavour, or Antonio Carlos Jobim, they all end up Cher-ified. The good news is — if she can only sing in one style, this means it's her natural style and she's being sincere about it. The bad news is, why do we even have to endure this in the first place? Bang bang, my baby gave thumbs down.