After the success of her 1991 album Love Hurts, Cher took a couple of years off to fully recover from a bout of Epstein-Barr syndrome and recharge her batteries. Her immediate plans were to film a movie with Ryan O’Neal and Chaz Palminteri (Faithful, released in 1996) and release an album original material that she had written herself during a trip to a songwriter’s workshop in the south of France. It was the first time that Cher had put pen to paper and worked with musicians to compose her own material, and she was very proud of the dozen songs that they had come up with.
Unfortunately for Cher, though, her new label boss (Rob Dickens at Warner Bros.) thought it was terrible idea, deciding that the songs, according to him, were “not commercial” enough for an artist of Cher’s stature and selling-power. Thoroughly pissed off at his decision but eager to get the new album out there, Cher flew to London and decided to record an album of covers and possibly some new songs if they fit with the selected covers. The album ended up about half covers and half originals, and although it still sold well throughout the UK, Europe, and the rest of the world, it bombed in the States and many critics finally wrote Cher off once and for all.
For the disastrous showing in America, though, the blame can squarely be laid at Warner’s HQ due to their ridiculous decision to remix several songs on the album to make it more R&B instead of allowing it to be beautiful melodic pop record that it was. They also shaved it from fourteen tracks down to eleven and refused to throw their considerable weight behind the promotion of the record. The most unfortunate thing about all of this, though, was the fact that It’s A Man’s World (in its original state) featured some great songs and Cher’s most inspired and beautiful singing to date.
The covers were chosen wisely, the new songs were some of her strongest in years, and although almost every track was produced by a different gang of producers, it turned out to be a very strong and consistent pop album. The only mistake on Cher’s part was her insistence to release her cover of the Mark Cohen hit “Walking In Memphis” as the first single. Yes, she did a great job singing it and the gospel choir background vocals are tremendous, but it was just completely unnecessary to cover a hit from only a few years before.
Fairing much better was the second single, the up-tempo gem “One By One” on which Cher finally showed off her full vocal range and employed a new, much more subtle technique of singing. This is again evident on possibly her best vocal performance ever, the haunting blues of “The Gunman,” which stands head and shoulders above everything else here as the record’s best song. The somber “Angels Running” and the ultramodern “The Shape Of Things To Come” are both great vehicles for a singer of Cher’s caliber, and the latter (produced by Trevor Horn) would have made a great single stateside.
Of the covers, some great moments are Don Henley’s “Not Enough Love In The World” (which far eclipses his original) and a surprisingly bluesy version of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” A glorious cover of “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” sounds brilliant, with Cher handling the big notes with ridiculous ease. The only real flat spot, though, is a cover of “I’m Blowin’ Away” which is just too overblown production wise and Cher’s voice during the choruses is all but lost in the mix. But all is forgiven with even the low-key album tracks like “What About The Moonlight” and “Don’t Come Around Tonite,” which create a great chilled mood between the bigger production numbers.
Although It’s A Man’s World didn’t hit the heights that it bloody well should have, it remains easily one of Cher’s best ever albums, and anyone who has ever doubted Cher’s vocal ability should check it out and forever hold their peace.