A Cher Doll Story  
Why Believe-ing Is More Important Than We Think

Cher Re-Releases Two the Hard Way on Youtube

Two

I'm behind on Cher stuff: the Acadmy Museum special appearance this week, the breakdown on the lovely new Scooby Doo. We'll have to wait a few more weeks for those things.

In the meantime I didn't want too much time to pass before I expressed how thankful I am that Cher has re-released this particular, remastered album, Two the Hard Way, from 1977, her last un-released Warner Bros. album from the late 1970s. I was afraid this one would get held back due to the flack it received when it was originally released near the end of their tumultuous union.

But it's an historically important album in context with Cher’s solo and other duet albums, Sonny & Cher being the yin to Cher and Gregg Allman’s yang.

The remastered album was released last Friday while I was driving up to Las Vegas, New Mexico, and I was forced to ask Mr. Cher Scholar a question akin to “Am I too fat for this dress?”

The question was "Do you mind if we listen to the digitally remastered Cher and Gregg Allman duet album?”

And the gentleman he is, he agreed. Two2

Now there are are rough voices and there are rough voices. No two are alike. I like some better than others.

A few weeks ago Mr. Cher Scholar volunteered the following assessment of Sonny's voice. It's like a drone pipe on a bagpipe. It sounds really unpleasant alone, but it actually performs a valuable service in conjunction with better-sounding voices.

After listening to this album, I asked for a similar assessment of Gregg Allman's voice. For some taste context, Mr. Cher Scholar grew up on country, alt-country and 1980s 120 Minutes MTV videos, not quite an aficianado of The Allman Brothers' style of Southern Rock. He said (and get ready for this): "There's so much testosterone in that voice, it's like a ball sack in your face."

So anyway, the issue with this album for most people, including Mr. CS, is the fact that Gregg and Cher's voices don't meld as well as Cher's voice did with Sonny. Mr. CS likened it to mustard and peanut butter, both good on their own but they don't mix. And when they sing at the same time, you can’t appreciate either voice.

I responded, "Well, just picture the great sex they were having." And if great sex isn't a reason to make a rock album together, what is?

And this is strange to say but the album seems to be lacking the level of perfectionism of Sonny's producing, at least as far as vocals are concerned. No longer would Cher be asked to do 50 takes of a song. These vocals feel kind of one and done. The songs feel less like duets and more like Cher singing around Gregg Allman.

When I was 12 or 13 I first found this album at the local library and I have to say I didn’t hate it. But there were songs on the album I probably never listened to again except once a decade when I revisited the whole album.

SIDE ONE

"Move Me" has a very memorable opening for the album. But as with many of the songs on this album, they could have done with less horns. A simpler record would have helped acclimate us to this duo. Gregg and Cher are big enough. But this is not a bad song and like the rest of the album, the session players are good.

"I Found You Love" was also recorded that same year by Barbra Streisand on her Superman album. I liked this one when I first heard it. Their vocals are probably best together here on this song, at least the beginning. Smokey and separate. But then the horns come in and it all gets pretty messy. Gregg sings silly things like “Oh Lord, I’m gonna squeeze her.” Please, no. Cher is not a peach.

"Can You Fool" was recorded previously (1976) by Tracy Nelson and later (1978) by Glen Campbell. This song bored me to death when I first heard it. But now I think this song shows that when they were singing separately, the thing works a lot better. I do like how they sing different parts of the same sentence at the end. Cher is starting to get vowelly here. 

"You've Really Got a Hold on Me," the Smokey Robinson & The Miracles classic (1962), is such a brilliant song, it’s hard to not to sing it well. Sonny & Cher did their own version on their debut album of 1965. I love it but I also love Cher and Gregg's version. Probably the best track on the album.

"We're Gonna Make It" is a Little Milton song (1965) and wow, just wow. This is an earthquake of vibrato from these two (my autocorrect wanted me to say 'vibrator'…whatever). It's pretty messy, and not just because they did not, in fact, "make it" but because you can’t even make out what they’re singing.

In three parts, here are the chorus lyrics for your edification. You're welcome.

And if a job is hard to find
And we have to stand in the welfare line
I've got your love and you know you got mine
So were gonna make it, I know we will

Cause togetherness brings peace of mind
We can't stay down all the time
I've got your love and you know you got mine
So were gonna make it, I know we will

And if I have to carry round a sign
Sayin Help the deaf, the dumb, and the blind
I got your love and you know you got mine
So were gonna make it, I know we will

"Do What You Gotta Do" is the lovely Jimmy Webb song mostly associated with Nina Simone's version (1968). It has the line “that dappled dream of yours” in it, which is not the only reference to the word 'dappled' on the album. Cher's conviction is strong in this one, which is a timely lyric if you think about Gregg Allman's controversial testimony in the Scooter Herring trial around that time

SIDE TWO

"In For the Night" I have no recollection of this song but it has lines like “there’s a bluebird flying home to Mobile, camping in your cornfield for a while” and Gregg sings about how he has “backed into a square meal” and there's an old flannel red nightgown thrown in there somewhere. As far as metaphors go, these are some.  This song is trying really hard in a lot of different directions.

"Shadow Dream Song" is a Jackson Browne song performed live in 1971. Gregg and Cher both liked Jackson Browne and both recorded mid-1970s versions of "These Days." This is the first of two solo songs, this one by Gregg. I thought a lot about this being the song he picked to sing ostensibly about Cher. It has lines like “I cant eat or drink/I can’t remember how I used to think" and the other dappled reference on the album:

“It’s the crystal ringing way
She has about in the day.
She’s a laughing dappled shadow.
She’s a laughing dappled shadow in my mind."

"Island" is the song Cher sings as a solo about Gregg and it's credited to Ilene Rappaport.  The writer left a note on this message board https://lyricsjonk.com/cher-island.html informing us she now goes by Lauren Wood and explaining how Cher came to sing the song:

Hey guys... I wrote this song. My name is Lauren Wood. (It used to be Ilene Rappaport, but don't spread that around.) I also wrote "Fallen" from the movie Pretty Woman ((1990) and had a hit single with Michael McDonald called "Please Don't Leave" (1979). I've written many other songs and had many covers.  Cher heard me sing this at a gig and told me it was exactly what was going on with her and Gregg, and asked me if I was ok with her recording it. I said, "go ahead, twist my arm, Cher."

The song is credited to Lauren Wood here as well: https://secondhandsongs.com/artist/18767/works

This is one of the more popular songs for Cher fans. It's very simple, emotive and evocative and captures the depth in her voice and feelings at the time.

"I Love Makin' Love to You" This song was recorded by Evie Sands (1974) and very interestingly was also an outake on the buried Karen Carpenter solo album of 1980 (the album that was squashed until 1996, after she died from complications to anorexia). Carpenter's handlers and family members deemed the album too risqué for her image and that indicates how awfully suffocated Karen Carpenter must have felt in her own career, not to have been able to express her own sexuality. I love that Karen Carpenter recorded this song and my heart goes out to her in whatever plush lovescapes of Adult Contemporary heaven she might be chillaxing in.

This song is a not-so guilty pleasure. I've always loved it. It's a bombastic, anthemic sex-capade that was once sung by a 12- year old girl in her bedroom once upon a time. This is the only song here where I can excuse all those horns. This kind of big, big love kind of suits my mental image of the Cher Bono Allman boudoir. Like "Thunderstorm" from the Cherished album, love is a big boom:

“I want you to fill me…..with your soul.”

We always heard Sonny was well hung but apparently Allman was bigger than a seventh wonder.

"Love Me" The final song is the Leiber and Stoller Elvis classic (1956). You can see the debt a later-day Cher owes to Elvis here. There’s something about the production that sounds screechy. And again, there are screechers and there are screechers. Cher is not a great screecher. I would argue….    well, nevermind.

 

Here's a link to the record's personnel. The album is dedicated to Chastity and Elijah.

One final thought is about how the image disparities of Cher in the late-70s to 1982 might have hindered her album sales. Just like when Cher was in a glamourous Caesars Palace revue and simultanously trying to launch a rock band in 1979, there seems to have been some confusion about the kind of artist she wanted to be; or that maybe she had her bets placed on too many projects. Music, espeically pop and rock, seems to require a kind of consistency in the act of authenticity.

Cher has just released an adult-contemporary pop album in August of 1977 and here it was November with a new act called Allman and Woman. She had also been appearing again with Sonny on a new variety TV show that year. Brand confusion between Sparkley Cher, Sonny's Cher and this new act was probably very confusing for everyone at the time.

So it's good this album can be reconsidered without all that riffraff.

Comments

Bruce Barton

Once again Mary, you are spot on with your review. I related to many items discussed within. Thank you for bringing to my attention the Lauren Wood notation, that was something I didn't know. "Do What You Gotta Do" is my favorite track off this album. Like you it was brought out once in decade. Sounds wonderful though it hear it these days.

Steven

I love this little corner of the internet :) appreciate your thoughts on this!

jimmydeanpartee

The older I get with the passing of time--- the more I love this album. And , yes, I sing along with it.
Also,
I have always thought Sonny Bono was hung judging from the shape of his crotch at various times. (think the front cover and maybe the back cover, too of All I Ever Need Is You LP.)

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)