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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.


A Cher Doll Story  

Screenshot_20211005-202505I’ve been telling people this story lately so I thought I should blog about it too. My friend Krissy was the only friend I had who was interested in playing with Barbie dolls (among many, many other things she liked to do). We both had the Malibu Barbie, which was the turn-of-the-decade Barbie to have at the time.

She had what looked like a spray-tan and a big diamond ring to indicate she lived in Malibu, had access to the beach and lots of money. Predictably, the ring fell out somewhere in the first few weeks which left her with a hole in her hand, freakishly flawed.

My parents loved getting me celebrity dolls for some reason. Probably because I loved the Sonny & Cher dolls so much. I had Wonder Woman, Screenshot_20211005-202707Cheryl Ladd (which looked nothing like the Charlie's Angel), and Donny and Marie (a show I’ve never even watched).

I also had the late 1970s Ken doll who seemed a bit of a dandy, like in Toy Story 3 but maybe more bordering on gay, although we weren’t too clear on what that was yet, and Skipper (little sister or cousin to Barbie, I can’t remember now, but she has those  sporty purple shorts).

Screenshot_20211005-202632Because Ken was not quite convincing as a romantic lead, Donny was the romantic lead to Malibu Barbie, whom he loved unconditionally despite her grotesque hand-hole. Sometimes Marie, who I thought was prettier than Malibu Barbie (she had that curvaceous purple dress) but who could hardly be hooked up with Donny (ew!) ended up with Ken, or more likely my brother’s very flexible and brawny G.I. Joe (which was an "action figure" and not a "doll"), whom I confiscated when my brother abandoned him.

Skipper always played fifth wheel. Screenshot_20211005-202849

Screenshot_20211005-202253It bears mentioning here that Donny and Marie, Cheryl Ladd, Sonny and Wonder Woman were all generic sort of dolls, without any of their celebrity luster attached to them, aside from the repulsion of hooking up Donny with Marie. So you could insert them into work-a-day storylines very easily. This was very important.

Sonny reminded me of a Sergio Leone villain in the movies my brother and Dad always watched and so he was always the mustached villain.

Our stories were always salacious with a lot of dramatic sex. Screenshot_20211005-202740

Which brings us to the Cher doll (of which I had two because my compadres broke the hands off of my first doll in first grade Show and Tell and then I broke the hands off the second doll and then my parents said enough!).

Screenshot_20211005-202148The Chers stayed on the sidelines...always. Even Wonder Woman with her painted-on super-suit was easier to place in storylines than Cher was.

Cher couldn’t be 'generic girl.' She was too Cher. Too big for the story.

And that right there is the magic of Cher.