Not.com.mercial

Cher

Artist Direct, 2000

http://www.cher.com

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/11/2011

In 1995, Cher signed a new record deal with Warner Bros. after a two year break from work to get over an illness. She had recorded this album the year before over two days in New York City using The CBS Orchestra (aka Letterman’s Late Show band) to bring her self-penned songs to life. The songs had been written during a writer’s workshop in France, which Cher attended in 1994, and upon signing the new deal the following year, she played them for Rob Dickens (head of Warner Bros.) with the view of using them for the new album. Dickens, however, thwarted those plans as he didn’t care for the acoustic/folk songs he heard and couldn’t decipher a hit single among them. 

He told her that they were “not commercial” enough for a Cher album and suggested that she shelve them and get to work on some more mainstream material that they could sell to the masses. That “mainstream” album turned out to be It’s A Man’s World, and unfortunately for both parties, it didn’t do anywhere nearly as well as they thought it would, barely making a dent on the US charts. Cher’s career was officially dead for the third time in as many decades, and just as each previous time she had resurrected it in a big way, this time was no exception. 

A change in management and a new risk-taking attitude saw Cher catapulted back into the charts with the stunning Euro/dance-inspired Believe album, which would become her biggest selling record ever. Once again, Cher was on top of the world and although she was now approaching her mid-‘50s, she had never looked or sounded any better than she did now. Following a sold-out concert tour (1999’s nbtc__dv_250 Do You Believe?), Cher was keen to keep the ball rolling and decided that before recording another album of new material, she would finally release the personal set of songs that she had recorded some six years earlier. 

There was a catch, though; the album would only be released exclusively through her official website, as there was no involvement from Warner Bros. This, of course, means that to this day, few people apart from the diehards (yep, I am one) have actually heard this album in its entirety.  It is now available for download through the usual avenues of enquiry, but the long delay has cemented it as one of rock’s “lost albums.” All of this is a shame because Not.com.mercial is a fantastic album; it turns out the superstar performer is also quite the composer. 

None of the eight songs that Cher co-wrote with a selected few (mainly Bruce Roberts, who helped produce the album) are corny or cliché in any way. Cher’s voice has never sounded more soulful and versatile than it did during the mid to late ‘90s, and it is in glorious form throughout this collection of songs. The two cuts that Cher didn’t write are also strong and complement the album well. The first is “Born With The Hunger,” which is one of the more up-tempo tracks here and features some great slide-acoustic guitar. The other cover is a great reworking of Sonny Bono’s “Classified 1A,” a song that Cher has always championed as one of Bono’s finest compositions. 

Cher wrote “Sisters Of Mercy” about her experiences as a young girl in a Catholic orphanage run by nuns, left there by her destitute mother while she worked for a dollar a night in a diner.  Cher’s raw delivery is the perfect fit for telling this tale: “There’s a baby sobbing softly, in a crib that’s now a cage / She’s done nothing to deserve this, but it sanctifies their rage / They use god like he’s a weapon, only for a chosen few / Then hide behind pious faces, like the guilty always do.” 

Another moment of truth comes in the form of “The Fall (Kurt’s Blues),” a song Cher wrote for Kurt Cobain following his shocking suicide in early ’94: “It’s a shame about your future, a crime about your past.” The song is a moving tribute and once again, Cher’s rage is clearly audible in her delivery. In fact, throughout the album Cher continues to bare her soul, whether it’s addressing her broken heart (“With Or Without You”) or saluting the men and women we sacrifice in war (“Fit To Fly.”) There are some lighter moments, though, when Cher takes a good look at herself on “Runnin’” and warns her pal Heidi about making it in showbiz on “Disaster Cake.” 

All in all, this is a fantastic album and one that Cher should have received far more credit for than she did. There really is no end to her talents, and I for one seriously hope there will be more songs from Cher’s pen in the future.

Rating: A-

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© 2011 Mark Millan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Artist Direct, and is used for informational purposes only.