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Monday, August 29, 2016

Cher: Half-Breed


1) My Love; 2) Two People Clinging To A Thread; 3) Half Breed; 4) The Greatest Song I Ever Heard; 5) How Can You Mend A Broken Heart; 6) Carousel Man; 7) David's Song; 8) Melody (Little Bossa Nova); 9) The Long And Winding Road; 10) This God Forsaken Day; 11) Chastity Sun.

Back into the arms of Snuff Garrett — once the idea of «The Great American Songbook As Re­imagined By The Sonny Bono Orchestra And Re-Testosteroned By Cher» turned out to be com­mercially defunct, Cher decisively ditched Sonny as producer (and, less than a year later, would ditch him as husband) and returned to Mr. Garrett for yet another record of pure Vegasy schlock. On the whole, this one is a tiny bit better than Foxy Lady, yet still nowhere near a return to the moderately high quality of Gypsys.

You can probably sense the difference if you compare the title tracks — both pictured Cher as the abused protagonist in outcast fantasy scenarios, but where ʽGypsies, Tramps & Thievesʼ had a ringing note of truth to it, ʽHalf-Breedʼ is almost purely theatrical, relying more on its pop catchi­ness than on a nuanced vocal performance. Ironically, of the two, it is ʽHalf Breedʼ that should have struck closer to home — Cher does have some Cherokee ancestry on her mother's side, al­though I highly doubt it that "the other children always laughed at me / Give her a feather, she's a Cherokee" comes even remotely close to being autobiographical. Nevertheless, the proto-disco strings, the overall arrangement that gives the impression of a poor soundtrack to some blacks­ploitation movie, and the lack of a particularly striking vocal move prevents the song from being taken too seriously, and puts it too close to the territory of simple vaudeville entertainment.

Not that there's anything wrong with simple vaudeville entertainment, and I do like the song, written for Cher by master entertainer Al Capps — the real problem is that there's not enough of pure, healthily cheesy vaudeville entertainment on the record. Instead, the tracks that draw most of the attention are covers of hit ballads — two McCartney tunes, done decently but unspecta­cularly (ʽMy Loveʼ is sung well, but that pitiful guitar solo in the middle is a pathetic joke compared to the elegant solo by Henry McCullough on the original release; and ʽThe Long And Winding Roadʼ shouldn't be touched by Cher, who can't do «pleading» to save her life), and one Bee Gees tune, done unconvincingly (again, to do ʽHow Can You Mend A Broken Heartʼ, you have to at least create the illusion that you actually, like, have a broken heart — Cher's heart, meanwhile, always gives the impression of being encrusted with steel plate armor, and its 80-year guarantee  has not expired yet).

Of the tracks that draw less attention, only one other is also a piece of bouncy, light-hearted cheese, but this time it pretty much stinks — Johnny Durrill's ʽCarousel Manʼ, another silly tale of outcast life in the Wild West, with not a shred of conviction; and the rest is still more balladry, this time obscure, but probably for a reason. Dick Holler, Jack Segal, pre-Toto David Paich... steady, reliable, sparkless composers as interpreted by a steady, reliable, sparkless singer. The only time she does sparkle is at the very end, when she takes a recent Seals & Crofts song and re-writes it as ʽChastity Sunʼ, dedicating it to her daughter (not particularly relevant now that the daughter is no longer a daughter, but it's fun how, what with Chaz Bono's sex change adventure and all, the words "When I look at you / In your eyes I see / The world that God meant to be" now take on a starkly progressive meaning) — anyway, that song is probably the only one on the whole album where Cher stops being Cher for a moment and becomes a genuinely loving mother, even finding it in herself to introduce a little falsetto during the tenderest moments.

Still, one sweet moment, scattered bits of cheesy entertainment, and a few (botched) megahits with originally great melodies do not earn Half-Breed a lot of respectability — on the whole, it's just one more generic early Seventies' LP, aimed at the target audience of the largely unfunny Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, and even the fact that it temporarily put Cher back on the charts again (album sales were much higher than for Bittersweet White Light, and ʽHalf-Breedʼ was a number one for her) does not mean much in the grand scheme of thumbs down.

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