This is Cher’s debut solo album
Whilst Sonny & Cher were hitting it big with the "I Got You Babe" single, Sonny arranged a solo deal for Cher.
Sonny, having worked for Phil Spector was well used to both the artistic and business sides of music. He was producing, playing, arranging and cutting deals in Los Angeles, one of the two capitals of pop music in the USA (the other being New York of course).
And I greet this album some fifty years after the event with some excitement. Yes, I know the chick on the cover and back sleeve, that I lusted (dreamt) over in the 70s, has aged (aged well though), but in my mind all things exist on separate planes.
Cher is forever young, optimistic and happy and successful at the start of a career.
For her first solo album something safe was needed but not something that was a cash in.
Her husband / mentor / producer, Sonny Bono was smart enough to navigate between the two and Cher had the talent.
The sole originals written for Cher are "Cry Myself to Sleep" by Mike Gordon and “Dream Baby” written by Sonny and which had been released in 1964 by Cher under the pseudonym of Cherilyn.
Otherwise, the album is top heavy on covers. There are three Bob Dylan songs, "All I Really Want to Do" (also done by The Byrds) , "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right", one Searchers song (albeit written by Sonny Bono, Needles and Pins" (#13US 1964)), one song by Ray Davies of The Kinks, "I Go to Sleep", which was not released by them at the time but was released in England by The Applejacks in 1965, one Pete Seeger song, "The Bells of Rhymney", (popularised by the Byrds on their 1965 album "Mr. Tambourine Man"), one Jackie DeShannon song, "Come and Stay With Me" (which she recorded later) which was a hit for Marianne Faithfull (#26US, #4UK 1965), one Connie Francis song, "He Thinks I Still Care" (#57 1962 … George Jones had a country #1 with in 1962 in its original form “She Thinks I Still Care”), one Sandie Shaw song "Girl Don't Come" (#42 1965 US), and one traditional "See See Rider", arranged by Sonny Bono, Charles Greene and Robert Stone which was done by everyone in the 60s.
Of all the covers mentioned "The Bells of Rhymney" as done by The Byrds is the most significant.
The Byrds were big in LA and across the US (with two US #!s in 1965) and Sonny and Cher are the products of LA.
"All I Really Want to Do" and “Bells of Rhymney” were both released on the Byrds debut album “Turn Turn Turn” in June 1965 (this album was released in October 1965).
The other songs reek of Byrds-like stylings.
And this is a joy if you like mid-60s folk rock or in this case folk-pop rock, and I do.
Think The Byrds backing a female diva in a California cabaret club.
What's not to like?
Cher was never shy or understated as a vocalist but here there is a vulnerability (a hint) that isn't often tapped into on other albums.
Don't get me wrong I love her sassiness but this is another side of Cher.
She is perfectly in tune with the songs and the optimism of the times in the music here. And, like the best music it doesn't date. It is evocative, engaging and endearing,
The pop in the music enables the music to transcend time. Pop, because of its innate design for mass consumption, usually dates better than the genre specific musical motifs.
The other big factor here is Cher's husband, Sony Bono. Bono was no slouch and had a good ear. Apart from writing he uses his production skills (he learnt under Phil Spector) to create rich, fully detailed music which is a joy to listen to.
Some may say, well, it's just a covers album but when you can take covers, interpret them differently, add your own musical personality, all done to sympathetic accompaniment, then, you really have a new batch of songs.
"Covering" music is something that is not highly regarded in rock and pop but just ask any jazz or classical musician if you want confirmation of the fluid nature of "authorship.
Tracks (best in italics)
- All I Really Want to Do – (Bob Dylan) – a great song by Dylan and beautifully covered by The Byrds (where Sonny may have lifted his arrangement from – see end trivia notes). It matters not Cher puts female balls (?) on the song. bhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_I_Really_Want_to_Do
- I Go to Sleep – (Ray Davies) – A great Ray Davies song though one The Kinks never released in the 60s. The big version is by the Pretenders in 1981 (#7UK). Cher does it with a hint of eroticism which works on me. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Go_to_Sleep
- Needles and Pins – (Sonny Bono, Jack Nitzsche) – the song was a big hit for The Searchers (#13US, 1964) but Cher taps into the song was first recorded by Jackie DeShannon in 1963 which only went to #84). If there is one white chick who could be as sassy as Cher in the mid 60s it was Jackie. A great song done well. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Needles_and_Pins_(song)
- Don't Think Twice – (Bob Dylan) – done by everyone (I'm partial to the original and Elvis' re-imagination fro m 1971). Still, perhaps her best Dylan cover. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_Think_Twice,_It%27s_All_Right
- He Thinks I Still Care – (Dickey Lee Lipscomb) – A gender switch on the song and Cher is more ambivalent about whether she "cares". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She_Thinks_I_Still_Care
- Dream Baby – (Sonny Bono) – First release by Cherilyn (1964) who was actually Cher. I can’t say if this is a re-record or a new version. It is very Phil Spector Wall of Sound and quite quirky.
- The Bells of Rhymney – (Idris Davies, Pete Seeger) – Good but not spectacular. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bells_of_Rhymney
- Girl Don't Come – (Chris Andrews) – good girl pop. Slightly solemn. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl_Don%27t_Come
- See See Rider – (traditional, arranged Sonny Bono, Charles Greene, Robert Stone) – done by everyone and especially associated with Elvis in the 70s. The lyrics have been personalised here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/See_See_Rider
- Come and Stay with Me – (Jackie DeShannon) – a very catchy song with some nice Byrds like sounds. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Come_and_Stay_With_Me
- Cry Myself to Sleep – (Mike Gordon) – girl group material with some evocative guitar plucking.
- Blowin' in the Wind – (Bob Dylan) – popularised by Peter Paul and Mary (who also did "Don't Think Twice") there are a lot of syrupy versions of this song and this isn't one of them. Cher's vocal saves the day. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blowin%27_in_the_Wind
A much loved (check out all the websites on her below) but still underrated singer and a great debut … I'm keeping it.
1965 All I Really Want to Do #15
1965 All I Really Want to Do #9
1965 All I Really Want to Do #68
All I Really Want to Do
I Go to Sleep
Needles and Pins
Don't Think Twice
He Thinks I Still Care
The Bells of Rhymney
Girl Don't Come
See See Rider
Come and Stay with Me
Cry Myself to Sleep
Blowin' in the Wind
- Bass – Cliff Hils, Lyle Ritz, Mel Pollan, Rene Hall / Drums – Frank Capp, Jesse Sailes, Sharkey Hall / Guitar – Barney Kessel, Don Peake, Jeff Kaplan, Mike Post, Monte Dunn, Randy Steirling, Steve Mann / Harpsichord – Bill Marx, Mike Rubini / Percussion – Brian Stone, Frank DeVito, Gene Estes, Julius Wechter / Piano – Harold Battiste / Producer, Arranged By – Sonny Bono
- "The initial idea to cover "All I Really Want to Do" came when Cher heard the Los Angeles folk rock band, The Byrds, perform it during their pre-fame residency at Ciro's nightclub on the Sunset Strip in March 1965. A minor controversy between Cher and The Byrds ensued when it was alleged by Columbia Records (The Byrds' record label) that Cher and Sonny Bono had taped one of The Byrds' appearances at Ciro's without permission, in order to use some of the band's repertoire ("All I Really Want to Do" and "The Bells of Rhymney") on Cher's own album. Although The Byrds planned to issue "All I Really Want to Do" as a single themselves, they were largely unconcerned with the imminent release of Cher's recording, feeling that there was enough room in the charts for both versions. In a retaliatory attempt to bury Cher's version, Columbia rush-released The Byrds' "All I Really Want to Do" single and both versions entered the Billboard Hot 100 during the same week. A chart battle ensued, largely instigated by Columbia Records and the music press, but ultimately The Byrds' version stalled at #40 on the U.S. charts, while Cher's cover reached #15. In the UK, however, both versions reached the top 10, The Byrds' version reached #4 and Cher's recording peaked at #9". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_I_Really_Want_to_Do_(album)