CHER: HEART OF STONE (1989)
1) If I Could Turn Back Time; 2) Just Like Jesse James; 3) You Wouldn't Know Love; 4) Heart Of Stone; 5) Still In Love With You; 6) Love On A Rooftop; 7) Emotional Fire; 8) All Because Of You; 9) Does Anybody Really Fall In Love Anymore; 10) Starting Over; 11) Kiss To Kiss; 12) After All.
This is the one that made her big again — as in really really big, the size of the USS Missouri where they filmed the video for ʽIf I Could Turn Back Timeʼ (remember the fishnet stockings, the slavering sailors, the BIG BIG GUNS? — now those were the days, when REAL people ruled the world and made America great... oh, never mind). But even in terms of calculated marketing, there's hardly any real progress here, just some extra polish on the formula. Desmond Child, Diane Warren, Michael Bolton, and Bon Jovi continue to rule the day, and loyally deliver the canned goods for the average pop taste of 1989: glammy synth-rockers and overblown power ballads alternate with each other at regular intervals, smoothly sliding off the corporate conveyer belt and polluting both radio waves and Cher's reputation in years to come.
Ironically, the two big singles are not that bad. Despite being written by Diane Warren (who allegedly had to — literally! — claw into Cher's leg to get her to accept the song), ʽIf I Could Turn Back Timeʼ at least has a fun pop bounce to it: that chorus is seductively catchy in the good sense of the word, and if only the song could earn a traditional power pop arrangement (jangly guitars and all), I'm sure it could have had more staying power. Another thing is that it's not really a Cher-style song (she rarely does the pleading thing successfully), but then, its atmosphere is not really sad — it's like a confession dressed as a party anthem, and the melodic development is well suited to Cher's powerhouse build-ups.
ʽJust Like Jesse Jamesʼ is a neo-country ballad — with a power engine, too, but pretty much the only song here based on an acoustic arrangement and sharing something in common with Cher's early Seventies' past; in fact, some of the vocal lines closely resemble ʽGypsys, Tramps And Thievesʼ, and I'm pretty sure that Child and Warren did write it specifically as a retro number (amusingly, Cher herself stated later that she disliked the song because there was too much country and way too many words in it). But there's a good whiff of the strong, self-assured, sarcastic, empowered woman in it, and that's precisely the kind of stuff that has always been Cher's forte, so even if the final hook is still dumb (I mean, if her arrogant lover is Jesse James, is it really all that flattering to compare yourself to Robert Ford?), the gradual ascension / self-winding all the way up to it is handled perfectly. The only thing you have to do is get your mind off the boring arrangement, completely, and concentrate on the vocals.
Had the remainder of the record been like these first two songs, it would probably rank among the more tolerable relics of the Eighties' glam rock era. However, that's about it: everything that follows is pompous, hystrionic, monotonous muzak, choked with synthesizers and unimaginative pop metal solos, to the point where technical «ballads» (ʽLove On A Rooftopʼ, etc.) and technical «rockers» (ʽEmotional Fireʼ, etc.) only differ in speed and basic vocal intonation. Most of these songs could have been played by anybody, sung by anybody, and it does not even matter whether they were written by Jon Lind, Jon Bon Jovi, or any other Jon in existence since the Old Testament. The only visible standout is the final song, ʽAfter Allʼ (a.k.a. "Love Theme From Chances Are") , and it's only visible because, as a sentimental power duet with Peter Cetera, it is especially vomit-inducing — one of those generic pieces of crap romance that continued making our life unhappier throughout the Nineties, polluting bad and good movies alike and even video games (remember ʽGirl In The Towerʼ from King's Quest VI? GOD!).
In the long run, even these two opening songs shouldn't be worthy enough for your «Guilty Pleasures of the Eighties» collection if you limit it to the first Top 100, so the best I can say about the record is that it is at least not as overtly disgusting in spirit as, say, a contemporary Aerosmith sellout like Pump; but even a disgusting contemporary Aerosmith sellout like Pump at least sounds much less boring and monotonous than Heart Of Stone. Thus, inevitably, a thumbs down, and considering how people like to define this record as the best of her «Eighties / early Nineties comeback» era, it seems like there's even more trouble coming up ahead.