Today’s POP Rescue from a fate unknown, is the 1995 album It’s A Man’s World – the 21st studio album by Cher. Will this album feel like some kind of Eden paradise, or will it make you want to be on the next rocket out of here? Read on…
The album opens with lead single Walking In Memphis, a cover of the Marc Cohn hit. It’s pretty faithful to his version from just 4 years earlier, but it’s a nice opener for this album. The song builds up beautifully, and the light tinkling of piano at the start symbolises the rain that she sings about. Definitely a foot-tapper. This single gave Cher a #11 UK hit, her highest solo single for more than 4 years.
Next up is Not Enough Love In The World, which became the album’s third single, reaching #31 in the UK singles chart. This is a cover of the 1984 track by Don Henley. Again, it’s musically close to the original version, but I think Cher’s vocals sit more comfortably than his.
This is followed by One By One, which stood as the album’s second and most successful single – hitting the #7 spot in the UK. I love the opening – the ghostly guitars drift in as they blend with backing vocals and eventually the soft vocals from Cher. As the chorus comes along, some chugging rock guitars are thrown in that build up with Cher’s vocals set alongside the escalating backing vocals. And then, just as quick as it built up, it drifts off again for the verse. It’s almost dreamlike, and is truly a lovely song.
Snare drums lead in next song, I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me). This is a mellow number, allowing Cher to keep her softer vocals again as she recounts a break-up. Brass brood in the background amidst some catchy little guitar riffs. It’s a nice enough mid-tempo number.
Angels Running follows this, opening with some gentle beats and acoustic guitars. This allows Cher to really tone down the vocals and deliver some tender lyrics. The backing vocals and underlying strings are subtle but really make this a nice, cosy, warm song…. and then after about 1m 30s an electric guitar chord swoops down and suddenly it roars for a few moments. The song builds on the verse, with Cher providing her own harmonies, but it still continues to be a lovely gentle song over all.
A Tina Turner cover is up next – Paradise Is Here, which was a single in the US, but didn’t see a release in the UK. Whilst I’ve yet to hear the Tina version, I can imagine an Elton John version. The track is quite mellow apart from the chorus, which Cher belts out with great power. It’s an okay song.
Cher’s vocals open next song I’m Blowin’ Away, as acoustic guitar and string section creep in. This is a slow ballad, which probably signalled the end of side one of the cassette. As the song builds, so do the strings, the choir, and the guitar solo. Cher puts in a nice performance.
Don’t Come Around Tonite signals a more up-beat second half of the album (again, probably side two of the cassette). There’s a nice plodding bassline here, eventually joined by bursting electric guitars and thrashing snares. Cher’s vocals feel at home here when it takes the rockier turn.
The mid-tempo returns with What About The Moonlight, although Cher’s vocals feel a little more energised here. There’s some nice vocal harmonies here, but the song doesn’t really travel very far.
Piano and accordion(?) open next track, The Same Mistake. This is another slow number but Cher’s vocals are rich and crisp, and shine here alongside the piano and simple beat. She gets a reasonable vocal range to explore here and it’s good that the track ‘doesn’t make the same mistake‘ as some of the earlier M.O.R tracks.
Next up is a luxuriously sounding The Gunman. It opens with Cher talking before giving way to soft vocals that skitter around rich and delicate highs, set against some beautiful sweeping strings at the command of Anne Dudley, and the production of legend Trevor Horn. This is a highlight of this album alongside the two hit singles.
Within just half-a-dozen notes you know that you’re getting a cover of The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore. This is a classic track originally a hit for Franki Valli, but more successfully in the 60s by The Walker Brothers. Cher’s version of it gives it the powerful female vocals that it needs. Whilst it’s not straying far from previous versions, her vocal range, set alongside the second verse backing vocals turns it into a nice warm ‘wall of sound’. The song became her 4th and final single to chart in the UK, reaching #26 in the summer of 1996.
Penultimate track Shape Of Things To Come burst in, making it instantly stand out from anything else that you’ve heard on the album so far. Rather aptly, it’s almost closer to what you might find on what would be her next album Believe, and feels like it’s galloping along, complete with occasional vocal effects. The shape of things to come indeed! Again Trevor Horn is at the helm, and I don’t know why this song wasn’t a single because it is quite simply fantastic.
The album closes with the title track It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World, a cover of soul legend James Brown‘s huge hit. Richard Niles’ strings sit beautifully underneath Cher’s vocals, with teasing riffs and pizzicato sections. It builds wonderfully as both vocal and strings soar. To hear Cher sing ‘it’s a man’s world but it would be nothing, nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl’ is absolutely perfect. As the track enters the final quarter, guitar solos, strings, and brass sections tease each other to go last, as Cher’s breathy vocals bring this brilliant cover to a close.
Over all, this album is a little bit of a mixture of songs that give Cher a range of vocal styles to adopt. While she thrives in the up-beat rockier numbers, and puts in a lovely performance for the more softer songs, there’s a mid place where she just sounds bored, and somewhat wasted.
There are some absolute high points here, which were weirdly not chosen as singles – Shape Of Things To Come and It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World are both beautifully brilliant, with the former being wonderfully prophetic.
I think the album could have been trimmed down by a few tracks – the US edition was 3 tracks lighter (taking it from 14 to 11) and I think that was probably a wise choice.
Crazily, whilst the album gave us a range of singles, only One By One, and Walking In Memphis received music videos, and I’m left wondering whether the singles might have faired better with videos. Either way, it’s a welcome addition to music history, and my collection.
- POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1995 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #10, certified Gold by the BPI.
- POP RESCUE COST: £2.93 from an eBay seller.