Original publication date: January 11, 1999
Fast forward to 1988, when pop music’s leading ladies included Madonna, Debbie Gibson, Expose, Tiffany, and Paula Abdul. For Cher, it was time to get down to business once again. Newly signed to Geffen Records, Cher succeeded in establishing a new identity as a serious rock and roller. It was a crown that she’d worked long and hard to capture, and with it came her most impressive string of hits to date.
Michael Bolton, Jon Bon Jovi, Desmond Child, and Richie Sambora (of Bon Jovi fame) produced her first Geffen album, simply titled Cher, and it yielded her 13th, 14th, and 15th Top 40 Billboard chart hits. First up was “I Found Someone,” a scorching rock-and-roll ballad (originally recorded by Laura Branigan) that subsequently became Cher’s first top ten pop hit in over eight years. It was followed in quick succession by the Bon Jovi-penned smash “We All Sleep Alone” and the chart-topping “After All,” a duet with Chicago’s Peter Cetera.
She followed the Cher album a year later with an equally prolific set called Heart of Stone. In addition to the title track, which became her eighteenth Billboard Top 40 hit, this album yielded the top ten singles “Just Like Jesse James” and “If I Could Turn Back Time.” The latter track, an international #1 written and co-produced by Diane Warren, quickly became one of Cher’s biggest hits ever.
Her 19th Billboard Top 40 solo hit came a year later with “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss),” a highlight from the Mermaids soundtrack, a film in which she also starred. Though she’d rack up hits #20 (“Love and Understanding”) and #21 (“Save Up All Your Tears”) before the year was through, it was evidently time to turn the page once again.
THE VALLEYS: Six years would pass before the release of her next album, revealing yet another side of Cher both to herself and to her insatiable public. Before entering this current phase, however, it’s worth taking a moment to note some of the more intriguing ‘in-between’ projects---recording projects, that is---that have escaped all but the most die-hard Cher fans’ attention. Over the years, these have included some of her most interesting recordings of all.
A number of ill-fated projects for Warner Brothers that began when her tenure at MCA Records ended in the mid-1970s have gone on to become not only cult classics, but highly-prized collectibles as well. Case in point is an album called Stars, featuring an amazing rendition of “Geronimo’s Cadillac.” Although it’s been out of print for years, it is generally considered one of her best, and demand remains high for pristine copies of the album.
Equally rare is an incredible single called “A Love Like Yours (Don't Come Knocking Every Day)” from the same period that reunited Cher with producer Phil Spector (with whom Sonny & Cher had started over a decade before). Spector tested, but never released, this particular single with the intention of using it to launch his own, short-lived Warner Brothers specialty label. It was a one-off duet on which Cher was teamed with Harry Nilsson. “We were just coming in to do backup,” Cher remembered. ”The song was supposed to be for John Lennon.” Their spur-of-the-moment recording, however, turned out to be brilliant (it contained one of the catchiest choral hooks ever recorded), but legal complications prevented it from ever hitting the market. Both the single and the Warner/Spector vanity imprint disappeared quickly and were forgotten.
Cher’s only studio venture with second husband Greg Allman is also part of the long-lost Warner Brothers cache. Though the album they recorded together, Allman & Woman: Two the Hard Way, is decidedly unremarkable in terms of its being any sort of recording landmark for Cher, it contains a deliciously boisterous love song called “I Love Making Love To You” that holds up incredibly well almost two decades later. Allman basically sleepwalks through his part, but Cher’s enthusiasm is so irresistibly infectious that she all but carries the track by herself.
If the Allman & Woman set was meant to bolster Cher’s rock & roll credibility, it backfired. Her own fans’ response was lukewarm at best, and the Allman contingent (both press and public) considered the project downright blasphemous. The press was only slightly kinder to Cher’s subsequent pairing with Meat Loaf on “Dead Ringer For Love,” the controversial title track of the latter’s widely panned second album. Over the years, Meat Loaf himself has steadfastly defended his choice of Cher for the ‘girl part,’ insisting then and now that she was the only one capable of delivering the power and passion that the track required. Dead Ringer, the follow-up to Meat Loaf’s groundbreaking Bat Out of Hell album, is only now getting the respect it deserves.