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Monday, October 3, 2016

Cher: Take Me Home


1) Take Me Home; 2) Wasn't It Good; 3) Say The Word; 4) Happy Was The Day We Met; 5) Git Down (Guitar Groupie); 6) Love And Pain; 7) Let This Be A Lesson To You; 8) It's Too Late To Love Me Now; 9) My Song (Too Far Gone).

This was a significant commercial rebound for Cher, and I think I know why — if you were a hot-blooded young male back in 1979 and you went in a record shop and you saw that album cover and it said TAKE ME HOME on it, well, not doing so would be like disobeying a direct order from your superior. And you could actually get away with it because it wasn't porn, it was art, even though you'd probably still have to look away and whistle a merry tune while the clerk was checking it out for you at the counter.

An inferior hypothesis says that the album (and especially the title track as its lead single) sold well because it had Cher finally going disco, and yes, ʽTake Me Homeʼ (the song) is like the distant ancestor of ʽBelieveʼ, Cher's fully fledged introduction to the world of hot-sweaty dance-pop; but then, almost everybody was going disco in 1979, and not everybody was able to make it up the charts, so I still hold my ground that it was the Golden Butterfly outfit paired with the lady's usual ice-cold look that did most of the job. Never was so much flesh bared before, and even though in terms of raciness she'd outdo herself on the next album, there's something unique about this combination of Conan the Barbarian paraphernalia and the deadpan stare that must have fascinated pop culture addicts back in the day.

Oh, and once you're done, there's some music, too. Everything is contributed by contemporary outside songwriters; the first side of the album is completely given over to disco workouts, but the second side is more diverse, leaning heavier on older styles of funk and R&B and weaving in some balladry for a change. Amazingly, it's not as bad as one might think — if we judge disco by its basic fun quotient (and that's probably the only way to judge disco), the songs on the first side really try to entertain. ʽTake Me Homeʼ, agreeing with the trend, is stretched out to almost seven minutes, and the instrumental section in the middle shows some impressive musicianship — a steady, gritty rhythm track with formulaic, but captivating string swoops and flows. And although Cher's vocals seem to aim for a sentimental effect, this does not hurt the overall light fun atmos­phere of the song. The same goes for everything else — decent rhythms, catchy choruses, and unpretentious carelessness is the word of the day: generic, but professional and almost never irri­tating (I think that the electronically treated «meet-your-subconscious» background vocals on ʽWasn't It Goodʼ are the only element here that transcends the permissible level of corniness, but we can all just pretend that we haven't heard them in the first place).

The second side, however, even goes as far as to feature a couple of really good songs: ʽGit Down (Guitar Groupie)ʼ trades in sentimentalism for a harsher, rockier sound, and Cher really gets into the atmosphere with her impersonation of a "lady from the valley / Coming out to check a band". It's a little sexy, a little sarcastic, a little silly, and everybody lets his / her hair down for a while, with frenetic (but not yet hair-metal-level) guitar soloing, wild piano banging, and a big step away from the over-glossed, no-risk-taking sound of Side A. And then there's Tom Snow's ʽLet This Be A Lesson To Youʼ, a funky, New Orleanian pop-rocker with a simple, but irresis­tible singalong chorus — not to mention that, as usual, Cher is always at her best when she is the dominatrix, not the love slave.

As for the ballads, we could all be very happy without ʽLove And Painʼ which goes as far as to rip off a whole complete line from Badfinger's ʽWithout Youʼ ("well I guess that's just the way my story goes" — well I guess we could call it an intertextual quotation, but the entire song feels like an inferior rip-off in the end), but at the end there's a little bit of enjoyable acoustic sweetness: ʽMy Song (Too Far Gone)ʼ is a completely autobiographical song about the end of her ill-fated alliance with Gregg Allman, with lyrics penned by Cher herself and melodic assistance offered by Mark and Brett Hudson of the Hudson Brothers (Mark Hudson would later go on to have a devil affair with Aerosmith, contributing to their artistic demise, and an angel affair with Ringo Starr, contributing to his artistic revival — go figure). It's touching because, technically, it's just another ballad in her usual story-telling vein, but this time you know it's all for real, and it almost re­deems for how the album started out on such a completely artificial note.

Bottomline, never mind the album sleeve (or, rather, never mind it in terms of musical relevance; it must have had a special meaning for the ʽPictures Of Lilyʼ fanclub): the album itself is no­where near as bad as it could have been, and, overall, it is definitely more fun than Cherished: Cher's personality does get dissipated behind the disco gloss, but, first of all, I've heard much worse disco gloss, and second, she never had that much personality in the first place to hold a mourning service or anything. And at least I'd be happy to have ʽGit Downʼ, ʽLet This Be A Lesson To Youʼ, and ʽMy Songʼ on any reasonable career overview.

PS. For a special review of the infamous «Allman And Woman» project, Two The Hard Way, you'll have to wait until I get around to Gregg Allman's solo career, since it's more of a Gregg project than a Cher one.

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