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Monday, September 5, 2016

Cher: Dark Lady


1) Train Of Thought; 2) I Saw A Man And He Danced With His Wife; 3) Make The Man Love Me; 4) Just What I've Been Lookin' For; 5) Dark Lady; 6) Miss Subway Of 1952; 7) Dixie Girl; 8) Rescue Me; 9) What'll I Do; 10) Apples Don't Fall Far From The Tree.

Cher's last album with Snuff Garrett is even campier than Half-Breed, but at this point in her life, the idea of Cher doing ridiculous camp looked more promising than the idea of her doing roman­tic ballads — if you're gonna go Vegas, at least do it burlesque style, rather than sink in boring sentimentalism (ʽI Saw A Man And He Danced With His Wifeʼ). The hit single, this time around, did not even pretend to seriousness: where ʽGypsys, Tramps & Thievesʼ and ʽHalf-Breedʼ gave thin hints at «autobiographic» potential (or at least could metaphorically relate to the singer's personal history in some way), ʽDark Ladyʼ is simply a tongue-in-cheek mock-murder ballad with corny gypsy overtones and a super-catchy chorus — total kitsch, exploiting every lyrical and musical cliché in the book, impossible to take seriously ("the fortune queen of New Orleans was brushing her cat in her black limousine" — the first two lines pretty much say it all), but with a strangely lively pulse through it all: enough to drive the single all the way to No. 1, giving the lady her second mega-success in a row after ʽHalf-Breedʼ... and then it would be her last No. 1 until ʽBelieveʼ opened a whole new wide world for her and Autotune.

There are a few tunes here that are honestly better than ʽDark Ladyʼ: ʽTrain Of Thoughtʼ, writ­ten by Alan O'Day, is a fine, fast-tempo R&B number, late Elvis style, with cool orchestral swoops and a genuine powerhouse vocal (while the story of betrayal on ʽDark Ladyʼ is just too crude to be believable, it's always great to hear Cher bawling at her adulterous man on general principles, and ʽTrain Of Thoughtʼ gives her a great opportunity to set her entire army on poor Sonny). ʽMiss Subway Of 1952ʼ is not half-bad if you like good old fashioned music hall (think Ray Davies and ʽShe's Bought A Hat Like Princess Marinaʼ), and the cover of Fontella Bass' ʽRescue Meʼ... well, the best thing about it is that it taught me about the original, which is better (although it is almost the same song as Otis Redding's ʽI Can't Turn You Looseʼ), but Cher's version here benefits from a well-expanded brass section that would probably have been impossible in 1965, so... OK.

Nothing else stands out, honestly: a bunch of plastic ballads from all ages (including Irving Berlin's ʽWhat'll I Doʼ, because it had just been used in The Great Gatsby, so why pass up on a good opportunity?) and some lackluster pop with titles like ʽApples Don't Fall Far From The Treeʼ that are the most memorable thing about the song. Altogether, in terms of consistency Dark Lady is perhaps a bit of an improve­ment on Half-Breed (one really good song, one decent cover, two guilty campy pleasures), but who really cares? Both of these records are decent restaurant level entertainment, nothing else. You know what is the most important credit on the entire album? «Dress: Calvin Klein». I don't even have any idea about who plays what, but they're totally right, it's all about the dress.

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