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The Bittersweet White Light Photos

BwlI've always been fascinated by the album artwork for Cher's album Bittersweet White Light, the album of modernized torch songs from 1973.

I always found Sonny's photography of Cher on the cover to be enigmatic. The depressing panels of their house on Carolwood Drive. The crazy lights twinkling blurred in the foreground, Cher's fat fur, the head feather apropos of nothing and the shadow halo on her head. I just don't get any of it.

The rainbow Cher font?? Is that:

  •  "so gay" or
  •  "just gay"?


Then we move to those Neil Brisker photos on the back cover. Cher looks great but this is despite the fact that she's wearing crepe paper. This is some kind of artistic study of the seam.

Why is this yellow, orange and green stripped skirt dragging on the floor? Why does this bother me so much?

Cher could always make a halter-top work but all three photos show too much rib bone. We know she wasn't eating enough right before she left Sonny. Is this the evidence of her emancipated emaciated-ness? Why draw attention to it with this dress?

And surely we were all used to Sonny Bono Blather on the liner notes of Cher albums but swan song goes beyond the pale:

I was asked to describe this album in words. I don't know if I can, I'll try. A singer should make you feel. Every time I listen to Chér sing on this album I feel sad, I feel happy, I feel lonesome, I feel love but most of all I feel. For the ten years I've known Chér she's always wanted to make people feel. She did it this time. SHE DID IT ALL THIS TIME.


I'm telling you, I don't know what the hell I feel right now. Not sad, happy, lonesome or love. I feel slightly irritated with a hint of mystified. Was the creation of this little paragraph really necessary. Keep your feelings to yourself, Sonny.

To Sonny's credit, I actually like this album. I wish she had made ten more just like it. Torch with some 'tude.  



tom livo

2013,40 years after, finally we address Bittersweet white light! What an art project and I do have to agree with you on the cover art. Cher apears melencholy and jammed into a high society stance via success w/ Sonny. It is time to separate/ The cover photo is Sonny's last look at Cher--his product wrapped in fur and feather.
Producing a perfect monster. Complete with Sonny style nasal vocalization, this album is still great-as-hell if you've just been dumped or have an ego problem to attend.
It was my favorite when I was 13. And Stars. And by this I mean to point toward Cher's change in vocalization. its the 3rd of at least 5 styles now.
We had 60's bowling alley Cher, 3614 grass roots,Early 70's nasal, Stars garbled- husky and at last ? ( an amalgamazation of all those ?)
I wanted to spray paint Bittersweet white light gold and frame it at 14. But luckily I narrowly escaped cher zombie status.
Now I just appreciate the effort for all of its initial intentions.
There still isn't a singer out ther that pulls my strings with the honesty and over the top theatricality like Cher.

Robrt Pela

I cannot abide this album. It may be Cher's worst, ever. The production is dreadful, and the singing is crap. Every couple of years I take it out and play it, hoping to feel differently. I never do. But, there's this: Cher was the first female pop vocalist to do an album of standards. Nearly a decade before Linda Ronstadt launched a subgenre (Pop Diva Does Standards) that's still being beaten to death, there was this awful record which, one should note, was the only Cher record for Kapp/MCA to tank.

I have to cop to this: I participated in the CD reissue of this LP. I don't remember my contribution (liner notes? loan of LP and single sleeves?), but I do remember this: The producer of the reissue had so little faith in the original LP that he added other MCA-era tracks to help sales.

R. Pela


i loved the Front Cover.
it looked 'real'; instead of a purposely designed- look to sell a certain title song. i, also, think
the Title of the album fits
the front cover.(no one seems to remark on the album's title, which i loved: BitterSweet White Light.

as for the back cover, i liked it too. it was Cher style and fashion THEN.
BUT, the one thing that disturbed me about those pictures was that her facial features didn't quite look like Cher then:
her nose and eyes looked wider/puffier.

AS for the album, i loved it...STILL love it...(i used to stand by our console stereo and sing each song as loud as she did) and, I
was thrilled when they re-issued it with those other songs from some of her other '70's albums.

AND, those other songs that were added are the KEY
to why this album was never
as good as it should have been: "Sonny Bono produced it!!!" and, as usual, he over-produced her and forced her to do retake after retake after retake.(cher once said he
would force her to do that,
until, she could barely continue singing.)
SO, as usual, Cher's vocals
always came off sounding WAY to high, off-key, strained, cracking,harsh, etc...

the KEY i'm talking about:
SNUFF GARRETT should have
produced BitterSweet White Light without any help from sonny.
imagine how much better
the album would have sounded? Snuff, always, said
Cher was not a singer-per-say; but, a "song-stylist".
and, aren't those kinds of songs meant for those kinds of singer?

i wish Snuff and Cher would
record again and re-do this album along with other song selections added.



MORE about the album:

"those other songs" that were added to the re-issue
were mostly recorded by
Snuff Garrett.

when it comes to:
Sonny vs. Snuff---

Cher's vocals recorded by
Sonny were always to LOUD
and ROUGH!

Cher's vocals recorded by
Snuff were always QUIETER,

ok, im through.... :)

Cher Scholar

I know this album isn't perfect and as JD says rough and loud for the genre..."too high, off-key, strained, cracking, harsh." I agree Snuff's album of the same material would have been more polished. But I actually like this about BWL (Sonny's take) and feel it gives the album some gritty imperfect punk cred that goes un-appreciated.


i can accept that.
BUT, i still wish Snuff
Garrett had produced it.

ps- you should 'blog' sometime about the the ongoing war between
Snuff and Sonny in recording Cher.
didn't one record company insist sonny step aside?
'The Night the Lights went out in Georgia'.
The argument there and how that song ended up influencing Cher,Vicki Lawrence, Gladys Knight, and Reba's careers in some way.

Rob In Michigan

I've always loved the album title and think Cher gives a fantastic end-of-your-rope performance throughout. The cover and back cover pics could have been better.

Mary, you're so jaded! Sonny's liner note paragraph gave me chills when I first read it decades ago. He was losing Cher, yet still so proud of her.


Is that dress on the back cover from Mary McFadden? She was a 1970s designer that did Grecian-style dresses with very small vertical pleats.

Jeff Missinne

I wanted badly to like this album, but I never could. I've owned several copies over the years and sold or junked them all.

This should have been the recorded equivalent of Cher's TV performances of vintage "torch" ballads. (Had it in fact been that, it might have succeeded.) But the blame has to be placed on Sonny.

Cher is so over-coached here that she doesn't even sound like herself. SHE SOUNDS LIKE SONNY, and that is no compliment. The orchestrations are pointlessly over-lush, even by good arrangers who should've known better.

The idea of Cher singing standards is still a good one, whether or not she ever tries again with a more tasteful producer. Had she had that back then, the "Linda Ronstadt" phenomenon of covering classic songs might have started a decade earlier. What we got instead was a real mess.

(As Columbo would say, just one more thing. Could we ever have a Cher holiday/Christmas album??)

Mike Khouri

The comment by Robrt Pela made me very angry. Because I AM THE GUY who produced the re-issue. I chose the artwork, the name of the CD, AND chose those additional songs. And I TOTALLY believed in this release, (as I brought it to the attention of MCA's Andy McKaie. No one at MCA knew it existed). And the reason for the bonus tracks were for the fans. Great additional love songs that were only album tracks that most may have never heard (except for "Way of Love.")

The original LP artwork was scanned from my LP. I sat at the MCA offices in LA and looked through the Cher photo files to find that beautiful re-issue cover. (I worked for Universal in Boston for 24 years).

So, Robrt Pela, you didn't contribute anything to the "Bittersweet: The Love Songs" CD. Unless it was backroom stuff. It was all me: My idea, my choices. And I worked with Andy to bring it to life. And I BELIEVED IN IT 100%!!! And am extremely proud to have my name on the package!

Mike Khouri

Robrt Pela

Apologies to Cher fans. Cher historian Mike Khouri has correctly pointed out that I did not, in fact, work on the "Bittersweet White Light" reissue. I worked on a two-disc compilation from MCA titled "The Way of Love" that included many tracks from "Bittersweet." I always get those two reissues confused; both came out around the same time and were "official" major label projects licensed from MCA. I apologize to Khouri, whose hard work on this reissue is evident. --Robrt Pela

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