Sunday, September 30, 2018

Kat's Korner: Cher gives us another classic

abba cher

Kat:  DANCING QUEEN is the album that finds Cher singing ABBA, yes, but more importantly, it's the album that reteams Cher with Mark Taylor.


He produced "Believe" -- Cher's mega dance hit -- as well "(This Is) A Song For The Lonely."  Cher was not a dance act.  She started out part of the folk rock movement with Sonny Bono ("I Got You Babe") and all her Bob Dylan covers on her sixties solo albums.  Then she moved into story songs in the seventies.  In 1974, ABBA was storming the charts with "Waterloo."  Cher was wrapping up her string of hits with the story songs  "I Saw A Man And He Danced With His Wife," "Train of Thought" and "Dark Lady."  In the years that followed, ABBA would have hits with "Honey, Honey," "S.O.S.," "I Do, I Do, I Do," "Mama Mia," "Fernando," "Dancing Queen," "Knowing Me And Knowing You," "The Name Of The Game" and "Take A Chance On Me." 1979 would see two more ABBA hits (the biggest being "Does Your Mother Know") and four singles that did not become hits in the US.  1979 was also the year that Cher would discover dance music with her mega hit "Take Me Home."  Cher would follow it up with three minor hits (I'm including the often overlooked "Bad Love" which made it to number 30 on the dance charts) and then nothing.  ABBA would offer up "The Winner Takes It All" -- their last top ten hit -- and then really nothing (1981's "When All Is Said And Done" made it to number 27).

It might have been the end for both.

But Cher stumbled over to GEFFEN RECORDS and her rock-n-roll dreams came true as she discovered power ballads and one hit after another.  From 1987 to 1991, she had big hits with "I Found Someone," "We All Sleep Alone," "After All," "If I Could Turn Back Time," "Just Like Jesse James," "Heart Of Stone," "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)," "Love and Understanding" and "Save Up All Your Tears."

That was it for Cher and the US charts with the exception of the AC chart and 1992's "When Lovers Become Strangers."  Across the Atlatnic, she was still hitting the charts with "Love Hurts," "Could've been You," "Oh No Not My Baby," "Many Rivers to Cross," her remake of "I Got You Babe" with Beavis and Butthead, "Love Can Build A Bridge" with Chrissie Hynde, Neneh Cherry and Eric Clapton, "Walking In Memphis," "One By One," "Not Enough Love In The World" and "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore."  Ten songs that were top forty in the UK but didn't dent the charts in the US ("One By One" made it to number 52 in the US).

While Cher had been scoring hits, ABBA's musical catalogue had been purchased and their songs were getting new lives from various films.  But in 1999, ABBA was finally on a huge upswing when their songs became the music for the musical MAMA MIA! (the play later became a film).  1999 also saw a huge upswing for Cher.  "Believe" was a huge hit . . . everywhere but the US.  Radio avoided it.  Cher performed it on The American Music Awards and that finally broke the ice and allowed the song to break through in the US where it became a number one pop hit.  And it wasn't just a number one pop hit -- it was number one for 1999 on both The Hot 100 and on The Hot Dance Club Play.  It was the biggest hit of her career, yes, but it was also the biggest hit of the year.

And it was her last top forty pop hit -- so far.  Since 1999, she's continued to chart in the US on the adult contemporary chart (7 hits) and on the dance chart (12 hits).  Her last adult contemporary hit?
ABBA's "Fernando" earlier this year -- from MAMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN (a movie sequel to MAMA MIA!).  For that film, she also covered ABBA's "Super Trouper."  And it was working on that movie musical that led Cher to toy with the notion of recording an entire album of ABBA songs.  Re-teaming with Mark Taylor was the first indication that having toyed with the idea she was now going to get playful and serious.  And they do.  "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" is Cher's latest dance chart hit.  Equally amazing is "The Winner Takes It All" is the trance dance genre at its most sublime.  "S.O.S." is certain to climb the dance charts.   But it's probably on "One Of Us" that she especially leaves her mark.  It's slower and lets her shimmer.  Stil, she manages to do something with "The Name Of The Game" -- an up tempo song.

On every track, Cher finds her way into the song -- even on the title track which is pure homage and no experimentation at all.  Cher brings all she has to bear on these songs by giving them life and honoring the beat, never being rushed by it or pushed around by it.

How good is the album?

I've been wanting Cher to do another power ballad album forever and a day -- especially want her to cover Steve Grand's "All American Boy."

Stream it and tell me I'm wrong, I dare you.  I've said since I first heard the song that Cher needs to record it.  And she does.  She still does need to.

That said, before she does that power ballad album, maybe she needs to do one more dance album?

DANCING QUEEN is so strong, it makes me think she does need to do one more dance album.  It could be a tribute album to her former CASABLANCA label mate Donna Summer.  Or it could be an album saluting the work of Stock Aitken Waterman (Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman). The Stock Aitken Waterman songbook includes Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)," Mel and Kim's "Respectable," Bananarama's "I Want You Back" and "I Heard A Rumor," Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" and "Together Forever," Laura Branigan's "Shattered Glass," Kylie Minogue's "Hand On Your Heart" and "I Should Be So Lucky," Brother Beyond's "The Harder I Try," Donna Summer's "This Time I Know It's For Real" and "I Don't Want To Get Hurt," Boy Krazy's "Good Times With Bad Boys," Sinitta's "G.T.O." and "Cross My Broken Heart," . . .

There's a lot there.  And, as DANCING QUEEN reminds you, there's a lot left in Cher too.  She's not coasting, she's still rolling.