CHER: CHERISHED (1977)
1) Pirate; 2) He Was Beautiful; 3) War Paint And Soft Feathers; 4) Love The Devil Out Of Ya; 5) She Loves To Hear The Music; 6) L. A. Plane; 7) Again; 8) Dixie; 9) Send The Man Over; 10) Thunderstorm.
Much to Cher's honor, this seems to have been the only album of hers released so far to have a pun in the title, as endless as the possibilities are (off the top of my head: 10 Golden Cher-ries, Mon Cher Ami, Go Cher-ry Coupe Now, Cher-ade, and, of course, the queen of 'em all, Ochi Cher-nyje! Hmm, come to think of it, she wasn't saddled with all these songs of Cher-okee origins for nothing, either). But the title is not the only hint at desperation that seems to have gripped the Cher camp as two of her albums in a row flopped so badly — Snuff Garrett is back, obviously in a last-minute attempt to put her back on the track with another hit single of the ʽHalf-Breedʼ or ʽDark Ladyʼ caliber.
Unfortunately, it did not help this time. All faith was put in ʽPirateʼ, another soapy tale relying on romantic clichés from the pre-industrial past (and yes, the song even opens with the sound of seagulls — how fortunate for them that they did not have this idea three years back, or else we'd probably have ʽHalf-Breedʼ opening with an Indian war cry), and it is a dutifully catchy proto-power ballad with a nice singalong chorus (and a really silly accordeon part to boot — I'm not sure if Captain Flint or Henry Morgan were such big fans of the accordeon...), but, alas, it has neither the personal angle of ʽGypsiesʼ and ʽHalf-Breedʼ nor the fun aspect of ʽDark Ladyʼ; and although I'm fairly sure that there were much, much cheesier tunes to have charted in 1979, it is probably no accident that ʽPirateʼ ultimately did not make it, barely scratching the Top 100.
The second single was even less lucky: ʽWar Paint And Soft Feathersʼ is a shameless attempt to cash in on the fond memory for ʽHalf-Breedʼ by rewarding us with a literal pulpy Romeo-and-Juliet story in two Indian tribes. With awful lyrics and a cheap vaudeville flair, this must have been Cher's worst single release in a long, long time, and even Snuff Garrett should have been ashamed of that one, not to mention all the honest people in Indian reservations throughout the US, who should have probably barred Cher from their casinos for life.
Honestly, I don't even have any ideas about who most of those songwriters are — Steve Dorff? Gloria Sklerov? Gary Harju? Whatever. Warner Bros. may have had their reasons for being angry about Cher's albums flopping one after another, but they share the blame themselves: couldn't they find somebody at least marginally more talented to provide the lady with new material? The only songwriter here who looks like he's at least trying is Johnny Durrill, the author of ʽDark Ladyʼ: he is responsible for what is probably the best tune — the fluffy, but funny ʽLove The Devil Out Of Yaʼ, beginning like a slow boring ballad but then picking up speed and leading to a danceable, cuddly chorus with some endearing vocal moves (the accappella falsetto rainbow of "shine above ya this angel...", interrupting the discoish flow, is really endearing). And as much as I hate to admit that a Cher song called ʽDixieʼ and beginning with the line "Wish I was in the land of cotton..." could be any good, it is — the string arrangement in the chorus is quite unusual, with a tinge of psychedelia, and the build-up and resolution are quite... um... emotional?
The most «interesting» tune is probably ʽSend The Man Overʼ, co-written by Garrett himself: its tale of a struggling actress, stuck between stardom and whoredom, clearly sounds related (only tangentially, of course, but still...) to Cher's current predicament, and with each chorus concluding with a rather desperate appeal to "send the man over, I guess, with a script... and the cash!", you could almost find yourself empathizing for the poor thing. (Not that she was particularly striving for cash at the time — on the contrary, her glamorous extravagance was legendary — but hey, it does hurt when your albums do not sell, even if you're already loaded. A matter of hurt pride at least. We're all human, even if Cher may ultimately constitute a separate subspecies).
On the whole, despite the shortness of the LP and a few decent tunes, Cherished is definitely a thumbs down kind of record — the old Snuff Garrett albums could be redeemed by their kitsch, but this is like an unfunny parody on kitsch, and too much of the material just sounds like weak, half-assed imitations of contemporary sounds from ABBA or Olivia Newton-John (regardless of our critical opinion on these artists, they at least always sounded like they knew exactly what they were doing and where they were going, whereas Cher here just seems lost most of the time). Had she been more in control of her personal life in 1977, this may have been less of a disaster, but the times were confusing, and what can you expect from a glamorous vaudeville star marrying a technically incompatible Southern rock icon anyway?