Cher scholar Dishy recently alerted me to the site Diva Incarnate which has some very well-written reviews of Cher performances on older albums AND some rare little publicity shots. I love the way the writer categorizes her oeuvre: "a mix of poppers o'clock dance tracks, soft-core cougar rock and sleepy torch ballads."
For the page on Bonnie Jo Mason (1964):"Forty-five years later the track still sounds fresh and remarkably intense...deliberately borrowing ideas from The Beatles' 'She Loves You.'"
For the page on Stars (1975):
- The site calls the album a "torch song bender" and a masterpiece, one very special album and "her real Oscar winning performance, a souring artistic triumph of alarming beauty, disarming characterization and profound dignity...Cher puts one on a gripping journey...the album displays a poignant maturity she is rarely given credit for. This album is her real autograph."
- "Bell Bottom Blues" is "a gorgeous battle against downtrodden, drunken piano-laden sadness. Cher sings with rare grit and passion that someone like Pink would saw her dick off for...[it's sung] like a shooting star with an exhaust pipe."
- "Love Enough" is "a thing of whimsical beauty...so swoonsome and cradles your heart with horrific tenderness."
- "These Days" [has] "a wilting orchestra that folds over like lace curtains inside her gypsy caravan...Cher's voice glides like flowing ribbon."
- "Just This One Time" has "a choir that threatens to steal Cher's thunder before the dark lady brings out her rare and privileged falsetto. Cher's mountain climb of a vocal is jaw-dropping."
- "Stars" is "a gorgeous finale, sung with private grace...desolated loneliness."
For the I'd Rather Believe in You (1976) page:
- "Cher's voice is a throaty elixir of hot lead and ash."
- "The title track is the album's real winner: sad and joyful in equal measure, the gorgeous piano rouses Cher's authentic 'yeah oh yeah.'"
- "A fine record but not an exceptional one...the vivid emotion conveyed on Stars is sorely longed for."
- "Cher is a cement-cracking architect of her own material, despite hardly ever writing any of it; she wastes no time with uncertainty, and her 'deadpan' portrayal is what makes her so real." [Check out Cher Zine 2 for complete explication of Cher's deadpan strategy from variety TV to film to music.]
- "A Woman's Story" is "a slow burning candle, a languid brewing stew, and the results are dense and hotter than a Turkish bath....the seething and cutaneously operatic backing vocals blister with burning inferno whilst Cher flatly grimaces 'hell no.'"
- "Baby I Love You" is "crestfallen and dewy, oozing into hibernating meditation. Cher draws out new-found tenderness to the lyric, usually full of so much joy."
- "A Love Like Ours" has "over-yelping and [is] slightly out of key as she belts 'knock knock knocking every day.'"
- "These lingering recordings...pack more heat than all of her oil-gargling cougar schlock-rock from the mid-80s to early 90s."
For the Black Rose (1980) Page:
- This album served "as basic training and skid-marks the debut of the leotard."
- On "Never Should've Started" her "chainsaw vocals rip the material to shreds...with a witch-crackling hostility... and ballsy performance."
- "Julie" is "heavy chugging."
- "88 Degrees" is "more 'tart with a heart' rhetoric but they are tying themselves in knots with this train wreck."
- In "You Know It" it is "always great to hear Cher sing alongside a man, usually emasculating them."
- After "Fast Company" "someone give her a made-up phone number already! Doo-wop backing vocals hurry her out the door. Lord knows who with."
For the I Paralyze (1982) page:
- "Cher Paralyzes Her Chart Positions"
- "It was the first of 4 schlock rock affairs and by far the best...her next three albums would rely heavily on their boxer-in-the-ring style singles."
- "It has been argued that her voice was simply too big for the lead single, the 60s girlband pastiche "Rudy."
- On "Games" she "sings so deep it's hard not to wonder if she's deep-throating the microphone."
- "I Paralyze" is "pure Elvis...so visceral it's a wonder her vocal chords aren't sharp enough to shred timber."
- "When Cher quips 'you're as real as a dollar bill' her innate pronunciation manages to make the couplet rhyme."
- "Book of Love" is "worth a million bad album tracks for the throwaway lyric 'hey-ho' inadvertently being one of the familiar quirks used to impersonate her.
For Believe (1999):
- "The exotica heavy-breathing of "The Power"...its bridge is gorgeous, one of parental disdain and caution."
- "The female Elvis sound sensual on the sturdy hell-no anthem "Strong Enough" but this is throwaway stuff."
- "The sumptuous fast-lane craziness [and] mesmerizing poetry of "Taxi Taxi" and the sensual aroma of "Love is in the Groove" [has] pulsating elegance....[both] are floating and sublime and I just love their dreamy lyrics."
- "The euro-pop of "All or Nothing" is incredibly cheesy (and wonderfully so) but she injects so much euphoria into it, as do those tremoring guitars."
- "Takin Back My Heart" is "weak (Diane Warren has a lot to answer for)."
For Living Proof (2001):
- "The Music's No Good Without You" is "a monotune affair with expressive verses and an emotional soliloquy she wrote herself. I wasn't completely sold. That is, until I saw her music video, which was a tribute to Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings and I felt better."
- "The unyielding pathos of "You Take it All"...is mesmerizing and emotional to say the least (the middle eight is heroic)."
- "When the Money's Gone" is "basllsy kitchen-sink Hi-NRG....[and] just daft fun."
- "Real Love" sounds "like a robot with bulimia."
- "This will hopefully be the last dance album from Cher of this kind; the album proves there was little for her left to do in this genre...What the album does have is coherent and plaintive elegance."
I loved reading these takes on some of Cher's great albums and definitely think 'tart with a heart' is a very common Cher meme we could really explore further.