A few years ago I had a little surprise at Amoeba Music: I was getting deep into my exploration of all the albums and significant productions of the great songwriter / producer Jimmy Webb and I happily discovered an album he produced by none other than Cher! The line up of musicians and songs on the album — called Stars — looked great and it turned out the album was terrific. It also turns out to be, apparently, one of the great mysteries among Cher’s back catalog.
You see, the album stiffed in the charts and it has thus never been on CD, iTunes, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, or even reissued on vinyl. The only way to hear this album is to find an original LP (which is pretty common) or to listen to the fan made vinyl transfers up on YouTube presently (click here for that and here as well). You can read more about Stars on the Wiki (click here).
In this day and age it is kind of ridiculous that an album like this isn’t available, especially since it is really a very credible pop rock album with some great performances. Forget that it stalled on the charts at the time — it simply may not have been the right album for Cher fans in 1975 — and listen with 21st Century ears. According to the fan site “CherWorld”: “The album is considered by many of Cher’s fans to be one of the greatest recordings in her career, and there are fan-created petitions for Warner Bros. Records to release the album onto CD format.” There are some (probably, I am guessing) unofficial versions up on Amazon, but those may be of dubious origin and fidelity (if anyone has one of these releases, please share your thoughts on how they sound in the comments section below!).
Watch this video (click here) of Cher doing Eric Clapton’s “Bell Bottom Blues” on a TV program back in the day. Yes, Cher doing Derek & The Dominoes — you read that right! She’s into the song (I think this is a live vocal sung along with the recording) and its pretty cool! There is a nice version of Michael Murphy’s “Geronimo’s Cadillac” up on YouTube as well (click here for that).
On Stars Cher tackles interesting versions of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” and The Everly Brothers’ classic “Love Hurts.” I really enjoyed her take on Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come.” The one Jimmy Webb song on the album is also terrific, “Just This One Time.” I would have produced Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” a little harder edged but this is still a solid version. The real icing on the cake is when she tackles Little Feat’s “Rock and Roll Doctor.” Yes, Cher doing Little Feat!
I mean, I think it is wonderful that she took a chance to put out an album like this, especially when starting a new record deal with Warner Brothers. That Stars wasn’t the flavor of the day doesn’t matter anymore and personally I think the fans would love to hear this one again in the digital realm. It would also make a great Record Store Day reissue as the mid-70s vinyl pressings were not that good due to the oil crisis (I have had two promo copies of this and both have the same noise floor issues on them).
Speaking of Record Store Day, several years ago Rhino Records put out a reissue of Cher’s earlier great rock album 3614 Jackson Highway via its custom Run Out Groove imprint of limited edition reissues.
If you haven’t heard this album you should listen as she tackles Buffalo Springfield (“For What Its Worth”), Otis Redding (“Dock of the Bay”), Dylan (“I Threw It All Away,” “Lay Baby Lay,” “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”) and many others. A fine record, 3614 Jackson Highway will force you to throw away preconceptions about this legendary superstar, an artist with roots that extend back to the early 1960s working with Phil Spector and The Wrecking Crew. If you have Tidal you can stream by clicking here and on Qobuz (click here) in CD quality. Actually, I just realized the album was expanded to a two LP set so I need to get that reissue soon! It is still available on Amazon (click here for that)
So, you know you want to say it: Cher rocks! She does! She’s an American pop treasure.
I do hope that Stars will be officially reissued someday like 3614 Jackson Highway. Its a great lost golden nugget of pop rock joy.
Until then, here is Cher on TV back in the day with Art Garfunkel doing some of Jimmy’s tunes (with him on Piano!).
“If I could turn back time,” indeed…