3614 Jackson Highway

Gatefold centre (photo of 2019 remaster edition)

3614 Jackson Highway
Cher

Released 20 July 1969
ATCO
Produced by Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin

CHART:

US #160

TRACKS

side oneside two
For What It’s Worth
(Stephen Stills)
Lay Baby Lay
(Bob Dylan)
(Just Enough) To Keep Me Hangin’ On
(Buddy Mize- Ira Allen)
Please Don’t Tell Me
(Carol W. Quillen – Grady Smith)
(Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay
(Steve Cropper- Otis Redding)
Cry Like A Baby
(Spooner Oldham – Dan Penn)
Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You
(Bob Dylan)
Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
(Chips Moman- Dan Penn)
I Threw It All Away
(Bob Dylan)
Save The Children
(Eddie Hinton)
I Walk On Guilded Splinters
(Dr John Creaux)

MUSICIANS

Cher- lead vocal
Jimmy Johnson – rhythm guitar
Eddie Hinton – lead guitar
Barry Beckett – keyboards
David Hood – bass guitar
Roger Hawkins- drums
+ Jeannie Greene, Donna Jean Godchaux, Mary Holladay, Sue Pilkington – backing vocals

Uncredited horn section,: The Muscle Shoals Horns. The horns were likely played by Andrew Love, Charles Chalmers, or Joe Arnold on tenor saxophone; Floyd Newman or James Mitchell on baritone sax; Wayne Jackson, Gene Miller, or Ben Cauley on trumpet; and Joseph DeAngelis or Earl Chapin on French horn.

There was a 2019 Remaster with added tracks from a planned but unreleased ATCO sequel, but the CD appears to be out of print. The remaster vinyl is available and is a 2 LP set with the new tracks on discs 3 and 4. The remastered vinyl sounds richer and better than my early CD copy. (This is not always so).

Reviled? Not at all. It has simply been ignored by American critics almost entirely, which amounts to the same thing. As Wikipedia points out, it made little impact in 1969 but nowadays it is critically acclaimed (as so many of these albums in the “Reviled!” series are). You can get through all four editions of The Rolling Stone Record / Album Guide without it being listed or mentioned.

New Rolling Stone Record Guide (2nd version) does Cher: Dave Marsh

It came too early for Christgau’s Guide to Albums of the Seventies.

They’re not alone. Cher’s autobiography The First Time makes little mention of any albums, but no mention at all of this one.

I have re-used parts of my article on Cher from the Toppermost website, linked here.

Sonny and Cher met while he was working for Phil Spector. She was sixteen. He was twenty-seven. Cher sang on a huge number of Spector singles. She’s on more Ronettes tracks than two of the group were. She’s on Be My Baby. The Darlene Love/Cher combination replaced many credited backing singers on sessions, because the actual groups were out on tour. Cher sang back-up on The Righteous Brothers You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.

Then came Sonny and Cher. Sonny ran the show as a Svengali figure. At one point they had five singles in the US Hot 100.

Years after their success, David Geffen asked to see her contract with Cher Enterprises. This was in 1974.

Cher: According to my contract, I was an employee of Cher Enterprises. Sonny owned 95% of the company, and Irwin our lawyer (Great lawyer!) owned the other 5%. Every dollar we made went into Cher Enterprises, but I couldn’t draw a cheque on the account unless it was signed by Sonny or Irwin. To make things worse, I was signed exclusively to Cher Enterprises … I couldn’t go out and do performances records or TV or anything on my own to make money.
Cher, The First Time, Little Brown

That implies she has little incentive to discuss these early albums.

Muscle Shoals

American press advert

Female stars trekked south in the late 60s and made their best album there: Lulu New Routes (also on ATCO), Dusty Springfield’s Dusty In Memphis, Petula Clark Memphis, Brenda Lee, Memphis Portrait. Cher’s is 3614 Jackson Highway, the address of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama. What? Named after the studio? Like Abbey Road? No, 3614 Jackson Highway was released two months BEFORE Abbey Road. The Rolling Stones had used the address of Chess Records, Chicago for a 1964 instrumental, 2120 Michigan Avenue.

Muscle Shoals Studios was newly acquired by the rhythm section (Johnson, Beckett, Hood, Hawkins) themselves. They had all been working for Rick Hall’s FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals. At FAME, the four had played on hit after hit for Atlantic Records from When A Man Loves A Woman to Sweet Soul Music.

Cher’s daughter, Chastity, was born on 4th March 1969. By 21st April she was in the studio in Alabama.

Save The Children by Cher, recorded on 21 April 1969 was the first track cut at the new studio. Atlantic had found the studio, when Jerry Wexler was looking for alternative studios. Cher was in first, followed by Ronnie Hawkins, and in December by The Rolling Stones. It was in a ‘dry’ county, but that didn’t seem to stop artists getting drink in.

Cher (discussing 1968): By 1968 Sonny and I had fallen off the charts. It was a different time. A different sound … Son’s straight ahead, upbeat music started to sound simplistic and corny … I loved the new sound of Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, the electric guitar oriented bands. Left to myself, I would have changed with the times because the music really turned me on. But Son(ny) didn’t like it – and that was that.|
Cher, The First Time, Little Brown; a book with no copyright page or date!

Sonny Bono was less involved in the attempted re-invention of Cher. They had iinvested into the film Chastity. In ironic contrast to the title:

Sonny Bono: When I wrote Chastity I put in some pretty steamy sex scenes, including ones I drew from Cher’s past. The scenes, by design, tested the sexual mores of the period. People who read the script worried that they were pornographic. I argued they were true. I wasn’t that strong willed on the set though. When shooting the love scenes between Cher and her leading man, Stephen Whittaker, I backed off considerably from what I’d put on paper.
Sonny Bono: And The Beat Goes On, 1991

Sonny became convinced that Cher was having an affair with the leading man, Stephen Whittaker. So he started rewriting scenes for Chastity more … um, chastely.

The couple were over $250,000 in debt and their records were foundering. The post-production costs on Chastity soared to $350,000 and they had to go out on the road fast, and do a fourteen date tour to make some cash.

Given the top trio of producers involved in the new album, Sonny wisely excluded himself … or rather they did.

Sonny Bono: Cher’s solo LP 3614 Jackson Highway added insult to injury. Ahmet (Ertegun) still believed in us, but his right hand man, producer Jerry Wexler, wanted to record Cher solo. He wanted to produce too. Not only did I lose my role as producer, my credibility went out the window too. I would’ve been dealing with a major identity crisis, but the LP stiffed, and we were all down the tubes.
Sonny Bono: And The Beat Goes On, 1991

He does sound rather pleased that it stiffed. Though he quotes his own diary:

Sonny Bono: May 11 1969. Cher recorded an album in Alabama. It’s a great album. I think it’s the best she’s ever done.
Sonny Bono: And The Beat Goes On, 1991

Sonny Bono was devoting his time to the soundtrack album to the film Chastity at the same time. It was mainly instrumental, but Cher sang the title track, which is on the 2019 remaster of 3614 Jackson Highway as a bonus track. The Chastity soundtrack was released just four weeks earlier, helping to confuse the market. In the USA the title song was a single, backed with I Walk On Gilded Splinters.

Cher had seen Backstage, her previous album, yield no hits and sell poorly. Something had to change.

Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin produced 3614 Jackson Highway. Cher’s away from Sonny’s stylings, which was a major, though temporary move. Jerry Wexler was probably going to be the main producer, but in the end his role was nominal:

Jerry Wexler: I picked up pneumonia and went to the hospital before the actual singing started, so Dowd and Martin took over. I never made it to the control room.

Cher in perception

After twenty-five years on rock music websites, I’m still astonished by the venom Cher inspires from American males. “Fear of Cher” should be in the psychiatry books. It’s a combination of misogyny, terror of her overt sexuality, coupled with the long after effects of the Sonny & Cher Show on TV. It dominated American screens for years (1971 to 1977) and is to Americans what Val Doonican in his sweater might be to the British. The UK never got the Sonny & Cher Show or her own solo show, so here she retains credibility as a great rock singer. Maybe because of that, she is the only female singer to have a UK Top 40 hit in six consecutive decades.

I’ve also met rock musicians who will not hear a single bad word about her. That goes back to a party in Hollywood, where Robbie McIntosh and Alan Gorrie of the Average White Band overdosed on speedballs. Robbie McIntosh died the next morning. Alan Gorrie’s life was saved by Cher, the only celebrity who stayed put to help. Everyone else had fled in their limos . Cher took him home, induced vomiting and kept him walking with ice packs.

The Hollywood connection results in the two Cher performances I’d most like to hear. After the Before The Flood tour in 1974, a party was thrown for David Geffen, then dating Cher. From Geffen’s biography:

February 1974: Cher with Bob Dylan and The Band

“When the initial cheers died down, Cher began a short musical program by singing ‘Happy Birthday to You’. She then sang ‘All I Really Want To Do’ with Dylan singing harmony and The Band playing backup. After Cher and Rick Danko sang ‘Mockingbird’ together, the program ended with Dylan singing ‘Mr Tambourine Man’.”

Was it recorded? The head of Cher’s label, MCA, reputedly told Geffen,:

“I recorded that. You can have the album if I have the single.” He was joking. Almost certainly.

3614 Jackson Highway

The phenomenal Eddie Hinton’s guitar is all over the album, plus the resident section of David Hood on bass, Roger Hawkins on drums, Jimmy Johnson on guitar and Barry Beckett on keyboards. Then there’s the horn section.

This is a covers album of contemporary material.

The source material: gallery, click to enlarge

No originals at all. No Sonny Bono songs. The album before, Backstage hadn’t been that different in concept with covers of Go Now, Reason To Believe, Do You Believe in Magic, A House Is Not A Home, Carnival, and The Impossible Dream, but then it hadn’t had the Muscles Shoals rhythm section. This one leaned more to soul on one hand, and Dylan’s country mood in the other. There is one band playing throughout. Four of the seven source albums are Atlantic or ATCO. That may not be coincidental,

It was recorded in 1969, and has three covers from Nashville Skyline, done within days of its release. I’d rate them among the best Dylan covers. 

I bought the single of I Walk On Gilded (sic) Splinters when it came out. The sheer nerve of covering something so different and special as Dr John’s song, and doing a great two and a half minute single from it impressed me.

All three Dylan covers, from his most country Nashville album, get transformed into soul songs, superb examples of the “Country Got Soul” genre

What The Critics Said

Well, they didn’t. They ignored it.

Typical:

Cher has neither the spark of intelligence required of the competent interpretative singer nor sufficient vitality or expressiveness to serve as a full-blown producer’s ingenue. She remains that oddest of artistic breeds, the TV celebrity famous for BEING rather doing. She’s perfect for the role which requires the degree of narcissism revealed by the list of album titles above.
DAVE MARSH, New Rolling Stone Record Guide

All I can say is (a) if you don’t like someone and obviously never listen to them you have no right to set yourself up as a judge and jury critic (b) Read Dave Marsh again, does it make you disregard Cher, or does it make you think ‘Dave Marsh is a snotty, cloth-eared and supercilious prick.’ Because I think the second. But I did before. He has Cher-phobia, poor chap. Fifty years on, and so many successful film roles and albums indicates that Cher is the winner of this argument.

I played this album to a friend who had remarked that he disliked Cher. He bought it.

The revisionists:

Cher was rarely given a better showcase for her talents as a singer, and the album still sounds like a revelation four decades after it was released. ****
ALL Music

While it didn’t get any higher than No. 160 on the Billboard Top LPs and Tapes survey, time has been more than good to the album recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio … Little in Cher’s prior discography would have made it clear just how well she would take to recording with the cream of the southern soul crop; indeed, she took to the sessions like a fish takes to (swamp) water … an essential addition to any Cher library.
Joe Marchese, The Second Disc, 23 October 2019

But once you open your mind and factor in the band that backed her, the guys who twiddled the knobs on the sessions, and the fact that – beneath all the gloss of her more recent material, she’s got a truly kick-ass voice, what you’ll find is an amazing effort that can still blow away listeners almost four and a half decades after its release.
Rhino Insider Newsletter, 2019

side one

For What It’s Worth

For What It’s Worth: Cher, ATCO UK 45 August 1969

The second single from the album. Released 16 August 1969. The original was written by Stephen Stills for Buffalo Springfield in December 1966, and was a reaction to the Sunset Strip riots in LA. That was a US #7 hit in early 1967, and a cover by The Staple Singers was a minor hit the same year. The English cover was by Art (probably the most valuable as a secondhand single too). Stills’ voice is so distinctive, and the Buffalo Springfield version so iconic that it was a brave move not only to cover it, but to open the album with it as well. Tom Dowd, as producer for Cher, has claimed he mixed the original version. Maybe that’s why it was selected, but in 1960s USA there was usually another riot / police atrocity happening to reflect on.

In covering it, the power of Neil Young’s guitar on the original would be daunting. They use a keyboard figure and Eddie Hinton picks a much more countrified lick on guitar.

The remarkably honest sleeve notes on the 2019 remaster:

Her cover of Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’ is another venture that’s vocally pleasing but hardly earnest enough. She is unable to make one feel the anarchy and turbulence of a Sunset Strip street protest. Still Cher sounds robust and strong of voice, if a trifle removed from the psychological stance of the material.
Ward Lamb, 2019 remaster

(Just Enough) To Keep Me Hangin’ On

(Just Enough To Keep Me) Hangin’ On: Cher, ATCO 45 August 1969
UK B-side of For What It’s Worth ATCO UK 226003

The B-side of For What It’s Worth single (ATCO 226003). Then released as a much later single on its own with Lay Baby Lay.

(Just Enough To Keep Me) Hangin’ On: Cher, ATCO 45
US 45 in 1971 45-6868

It was written by Buddy Mize and Ira Allen, both country artists.

There are strings on there, completely uncredited. It’s different to the point where I wondered about its attribution to these sessions.

Ultimately the country-tinged Please Tell Me and (Just Enough To Keep Me) Hanging On are the best works on 3614 Jackson Highway. Cher breaks the mold, and quite a few hearts with these tracks. They are her most revealing vocals and have little, if any, association to other artists. On these obscure and excellent compositions, we get a glimpse of Cher the Artist, losing herself in sweet surrender to love lost and disillusionment in love. Cher touches the listener as she envelopes them in her half sung / half spoken melancholia. The arrangements are poignant and dimensional surrounding Cher’s rich tonal inflections.
Ward Lamb, 2019 Remaster

Obscure and excellent? Hardly. Joe Simon had done a soul version under the title (You Keep Me) Hangin’ On in 1968 which was a decent US #25 hit, so not at all obscure, as the above quote from the sleeve notes suggest. It was on the No More Sad Songs LP. Then Vern Gosdin later did a country take on it … that ‘Country Got Soul’ theme will keep coming up on this album.

(Sittin’) On The Dock of The Bay

This is where you think, ‘Is this wise?’ as Otis Redding’s posthumous American #1 hit from 1968 is just so well-known. It was a UK #3 hit.

The arrangement here has prominent horns, and I think a flute or clarinet. Again Eddie Hinton resists the temptation to ape Steve Cropper’s original guitar part. Cher takes it gently and the horns wrap around so beautifully. It’s very good.

Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You

Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You: Cher, Atlantic UK 45 June 1969
B-side of I Walk on Gilded Splinters

UK Atlantic put the album out as ATCO (an Atlantic subsidiary), but the first single was released with an Atlantic label. The second single was ATCO. The first single came out a couple of weeks before the album, and perhaps they were still dithering over the Atlantic / ATCO identities in the UK. They’d been putting ATCO American releases out as Atlantic in Europe for several years.

Not just the one, but there are THREE songs from Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album, released 9 April 1969, three months earlier. I can’t think of anyone doing the same. Cher’s first hit had been a cover of All I Really Want To Do (US #15, UK #9) in 1965. On the album of the same name, she added Don’t Think Twice and Blowin’ In The Wind. She did Like A Rolling Stone on The Sonny Side of Cher. Then she did I Want You on Chér. On to 1967, and she revived The Times They Are A-Changin’ for With Love, Chér. In 1968, Backstage had Masters of War. Up to this point, she had never recorded an album without a Dylan song.

Cher with Bob Dylan: All I Really Want To do: February 1974

This song was the B-side of I Walk on Gilded Splinters too. It was recorded on 22 April 1969, thirteen days afte rthe release of Nashville Skyline.

The horns intro, then Eddie Hinton’s guitar means this would be the song I’d use to explain ‘Country Soul.’ I guess simply Cher’s voice is more appealing as an invitation to spend the night (for me) than Bob’s. It’s easily my favourite track, and one my all-time favourite Dylan covers. The interplay between Jimmy Johnson’s rhythm guitar and Eddie Hinton’s plaintive lead fills is enough in itself, but then the horn arrangement is perfection. Eddie Hinton is playing very much as Robbie Robertson did on Blonde on Blonde, in conversation with the lead vocal and commenting on it.

Cher does make the gender switch on every song, even when it’s not necessary as on:

If there’s a poor girl on the street
Then let her have my seat …

… it works just as well with ‘boy’ as on the Dylan. But she was never a folkie – the folk tradition was to sing a song as is.

I Threw It All Away

This was the other song recorded on Muscle Shoals’ first day, 21 April 1969. That is just twelve days after the official release of Nashville Skyline. Did she receive acetates? Like Manfred Mann, her covers of Dylan songs had swelled his coffers for several years.

The song is naturally more country than Tonight I’m Staying Here With You. The addition of a cooing and then echoing female backing choir works. The horns are way back in the mix. Eddie Hinton is still doing subtle and extraordinary guitar fills. Cher’s voice is never country though and she emotes powerfully. Yet again, a superb Dylan cover.

I Walk On Gilded Splinters

I Walk On Gilded Splinters: Cher, UK Atlantic 45 1969
My original copy. Atlantic used plain white sleeves in the UK in 1969

The single was released on 14 June 1969.

New Musical Express 28 June 1969, half-page advert

Recording something so different and special as Dr John The Night Tripper’s song from GRIS Gris (January 1968), and doing a great two and a half minute single from it is to be applauded. This was at the further out end of far out.

She’d done I Wasn’t Ready by Dr John on the previous album, Backstage. There’s an odd Sonny & Cher connection:

In fact GRIS-Gris was recorded surreptitiously, but not in some New Orleans house of sin.  It was laid down in the famed Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, where Phil Spector had cut many of his classics.  It might have never come to pass at all had Dr. John and his co-conspirators not managed to wrangle some free studio time that had been originally earmarked for Sonny & Cher sessions.  The resulting album nonetheless sounded as authentically New Orleans as a midnight Mardi Gras stroll though the French Quarter.  Given the circumstances, that achievement was just as magical as anything the most powerful voodoo ritual could have wrought.
Richie Unterberger, sleeve notes for the GRIS gris reissue.

Dr John: Even though he hadn’t been expecting (the album) to put it mildly – after scoping it out for a minute Ahmet Ertegun decided to release the album … I was totally amazed at this move; none of us ever imagined the material would be released … it turned out that Gris-Gris without any hand hustle on our part, fell right into the hippie groove of the moment, and became a kind of underground hit. Atlantic didn’t promote the record too much; its rep spread strictly by word of mouth, and it became a cult phenom by being played on what at the time were called ‘free-form stations.’
Dr John & Jack Rummel: Under The Hoodoo Moon, 1994

The spelling of the title on Dr John’s original is I Walk on GUILDED splinters. There are several unconventional spellings on that album, and the walking on fire should mean ‘gilded’ as in ‘golden’ rather than members of a secret guild, though with Dr John, who knows? Mostly later version use GILDED. Cher? American and French copies follow the copyright title GUILDED. British ones use GILDED. We are sticklers. The US also credits Dr John’s real name, Mac Rebbenack, rather than Dr John Creaux as on the GRIS gris sleeve.

US promo copy

The US copy had Chastity’s Song (written by Sonny Bono) as the B-side.

American advertising poster

3614 Jackson Highway, became an artistic high point of Cher’s career, despite Sonny Bono’s objections (though that didn’t stop him from appearing on the front cover). But Sonny had the last laugh – at Cher’s expense. When it came time to pick a single from the LP, pretty much everyone agreed “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” was THE cut, so it was released as Atco 6684 in May, 1969. However, at that time, the second Sonny & Cher movie, Chastity, was in the theaters, and Sonny wanted to promote it as much as possible. So he had one of the film’s songs, called “Chastity’s Song (Band Of Thieves)”, placed on the other side of “Splinters”, and instructed Atco to release the promo 45s with no plug side. Atco didn’t really care, since they figured that “Splinters” was such a good cut, once the DJs heard it they’d play it to death. But Sonny put all of the promotional push on HIS side of the record, appearing on TV shows hawking Cher’s new single “Chastity’s Song”, and the film of the same name, completely ignoring the other side. Since Sonny & Cher (and Cher herself) hadn’t had a hit since 1967, the failure of the single (and the LP, and Chastity) wasn’t exactly a surprise to the execs at Atlantic/Atco, and they simply moved on.
Richard Sibello, ON THE RECORD website, 20 June 2012

The far better choice of B-side on the British release shows that the London office had a strong degree of independence.

side two

Lay, Baby Lay

B side of the third US single, (Just Enough To Keep Me) Hangin’ On. It came eighteen months after the album.

Lat Baby Lay: Cher ATCO USA single 1971

Lay, Baby, Lay … a change of one word. A lack of nerve there. The Cher-fearing males would have been even more terrified of her if she’d gone for the full k.d. lang by sticking to Lay, Lady, Lay, the words on the page.

The third Dylan cover, and again an eminently coverable song. Plangent guitar at the start, then the deep voice. I listen to Dylan and identify with the narrator wanting this woman to lay across the big brass bed. I listen to Cher and switch to being the object of the narrative. I wish she’d done the whole of Nashville Skyline. Barry Beckett’s organ playing is mixed back and subtle, the bass is huge and rich. The guitars continue to amaze.

Please Don’t Tell Me

By Carroll Quillen and Grady Smith. Another with those uncredited strings. This would be the single non-hit record put on the album. The two writers were closely associated with Muscle Shoals, and country , though their songs were covered by Levon Helm (Ain’t No Way To Forget You) and by Percy Sledge and Lou Johnson.

I assume the original lyric imagined a man getting up and going off to work in early morning, to earn the money because ‘the baby must be fed.’ It’s switched with a woman singing it. The strings don’t overwhelm (which they do on the bonus tracks). She’s almost muttering towards the end as he voice drops down in the mix and the backing takes over,

Cry Like A Baby

The Box Tops hit. Written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. US #2 in April 1968. It was written as a deliberate follow up to The Letter. Alex Chilton sang lead, but it was backed by session guys in Memphis, not The Box Tops. The original was enhanced by Reggie Young’s electric sitar.

It sets a strong groove. The track uses horns and backing vocals prominently, but sounds pedestrian next to the vibe of The Box Tops. Betty Wright and Arthur Alexander had both tried soul versions of the song. Sometimes being teenage (Alex Chilton was seventeen) just wins.

Do Right Woman, Do Right Man

Dan Penn yet again, this time with Chips Moman.

She uses virtually the same band as on Aretha Franklin’s original version from I’ve Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You in 1967. That was initially recorded at FAME in Muscle Shoals, but the backing vocals were added in New York. There were contretemps when Aretha and her husband Ted White (yes, his name was ‘White’) objected to the all-white band at Muscle Shoals.

David Hood:  It was an all-white horn section, and it’s not a good thing to have no black players in a room with a black artist. Wexler was mad that Rick (Hall) had hired an unknown player who had stepped over the line, and so Rick gets in his car and goes to the hotel where Ted and Aretha are, trying to straighten things out. Apparently some kind of altercation ensued. I was told that Ted tried to throw Rick over the balcony of the motel. Names were called, words were said, and Ted and Aretha pack up and leave. We go back to the studio the next morning and there’s a sign on the door saying: Session Cancelled.
Uncut, 17 August 2018

It’s also the only track originally by a female singer that Cher does on the album. Aretha’s single version was a US #9 hit. Rolling Stone listed Aretha’s version it its 500 Best Songs of All Time list. Covers ranged from Joan Baez to Etta James and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Barbara Mandrell also had a hit with it in 1971.

You need confidence to cover Otis Redding and then Aretha Franklin, locked as they are in a forever Sophie’s Choice as to the best version of Respect. (P.S. Otis). I guess if you’ve sung on Be My Baby and You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, you’re not intimidated by anyone.

While Cher does a perfectly credible and soulful cover, you’re going to choose Aretha in a contest. The horns burble, then they strut. The piano from Barry Beckett is great. Nevertheless, the lyric and Cher’s vocal power is going to scare the living shit out of critics of Cher like Dave Marsh.

Whatever, she may have inspired Brenda Lee to cut a similar ‘soul / country’ version in 1970, though at American Studios in Memphis.

Save The Children

Written by guitarist Eddie Hinton.

As he had with the Lulu album, and another by label mate R.B. Greaves, Eddie Hinton played on most of (the album). He also brought Save The Children to the sessions, which he had written with an uncredited Dan Penn. Mrs Sonny Bono, as Cher then was, imparted exactly the right amount of poignant drama to Eddie and Dan’s song about a crumbling relationship (and not, as you might expect from the title, a plea for world peace). Arguably too dark to be a 45, but a stand-out track by anybody’s standards.
Tony Rounce, sleeve notes to Cover Me: The Eddie Hinton Songbook, Ace CD 2018

Cher had visited that storyline before, in her 1967 hit You Better Sit Down Kids which had been a US #9 hit. It was also her most recent hit at the time. What is bizarre is that the online lyrics linked to it are a completely different song.

A strong piano part, then this is swamped in uncredited BIG BIG string orchestration, even more so that (Just Enough To Keep Me) Hangin on. It suffers from such a fast fade at the end that you can see the control knob being turned down. I find it overblown.

The 2019 REMASTER:
(Sides 3 and 4)

De Luxe Remaster double LP 2019
Booklet front cover: 2019 remaster

Bonus tracks were originally added in a 2001 Rhino Handmade CD. The current remaster is 2019.

This deluxe vinyl edition from Run Out Groove features all of the Rhino Handmade bonus tracks except for the alternate stereo version from the Chastity soundtrack of “Chastity’s Song,” making for a near-complete account of Cher’s solo Atco recordings. 3614 Jackson Highway has been pressed on 180-gram clear and purple mixed vinyl at Record Industry, and is housed in a gorgeous, gatefold tip-on jacket. The vinyl is happily quiet and detailed. (The original album is in stereo while all of the bonus tracks are in mono.) A beautifully-designed insert features copious liner notes and memorabilia images.
Joe Marches, The Second Disc, 23 October 2019

None of the extra tracks, destined for the next LP, were done at Muscle Shoals. They were recorded at Gold Star, Los Angeles, except for Superstar which was recorded at Allegro, New York City. These tracks are mono, and the tape is dated 14 December 1970. No stereo version of these tracks has survived, being lost in the WMG Vault. Does it fit with the Muscles Shoals material? Does it justify being twinned with those songs?

On first listen I was rather shocked at the session work on the cuts here. When compared to the early Spector-influenced Sonny & Cher sounds, these recordings are anything but opulent. They are an exercise in restraint and some experimental accompaniments with Cher’s big bold vocals up front. ‘Incongruent’ is a word that comes to mind over and over when I listen to these late ATCO tracks. The lack of unity and direction must be the reason for their lack of release.
Ward Lamb, sleeve notes to 2019 Remaster.

For me, he’s wrong. A unity is there, because the bass player plays unusual, modern jazz accompaniment, and the drummer responds with sudden flashes which makes it sound early 60s film avant-garde – a touch of beatnik rather than hippy. That runs through all the Gold Star tracks, and I’m sure it’s the same bassist, drummer, guitar player and pianist, even though releases suggest they were recorded over a span of two years.

It’s hard to see the impetus to record in the style. It’s clever, a bass player and drummer’s delight, but non-commercial compared to the tight soul band at Muscle shoals. No composer credit, but Id assume Sonny Bono.

The original 15 ips tape, from the Remaster booklet

It also costs £38.99.

Easy To Be Hard

Yes, it’s a track from the musical Hair. By Galt McDermot, James Rado and Gerome Ragni. Rado and Ragni were actors who wrote it, and found McDermot, who had written African Waltz to write the music. Hair was a cultural phenomenon in 1970 when Cher recorded this track. It had generated a series of major hits, most notably Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In by Fifth Dimension (US #1, UK #11), Good Morning Starshine for Oliver (US #3, UK #6), and Hair by The Cowsills (US #2). In one week Aquarius was #1, Hair was #2. Then this one, Easy To Be Hard was a US #4 hit for Three Dog Night.

Lynn Kellogg sang the first recording in 1968. Jennifer Warnes did a cover, even Shirley Bassey did a cover.

The lyric nowadays sounds creakily and forcibly “Woke”

How can people have no feeling?
How can they ignore their friends?
Easy to be proud
Easy to say no

Especially people who care about strangers
Who care about evil and social injustice
Do you only care about the bleeding crowd?
How about a needed friend?

Hair is due re-appraisal, and will get it. Graduates of the various Hair stage shows include Marsha Hunt, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), Tim Curry, Paul Nicholas, Oliver, Richard O’Brien, Floella Benjamin, (London), Diane Keaton, Melba Moore, Meat Loaf, Heather MacRae, Keith Carradine, Barry McGuire (New York), Donna Summer (Munich). There were shows in many cities, then tours.

But to me this is a banal lyric and she would have been better off covering one of the other hits.

I think there’s both acoustic bass and bass guitar on there … a Gold Star regular ploy, and one used by The Beach Boys and by Nancy Sinatra. There’s an annoying sort of click track or maybe an artificial percussion effect in the chorus sections. There’s a meandering sax solo. I’d say the arrangement, in a pop context, verges on pretentious.

I Believe

By Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl and Al Stillman.

Cher was to have a major hit with Believe decades later. This is not that song. This was the Frankie Laine hit that spent EIGHTEEN weeks at #1 on the UK singles chart. The Bachelors had a UK #2 hit in 1964. Johnnie Ray did it. Elvis Presley did it. Tom Jones did it. Pat Boone did it. I can remember all the words so I’ve heard it too often. I reckon Elvis and Tom Jones could get away with pouring on the pious sincerity. The Bachelors, for me, certainly couldn’t.

The meandering tempo and percussive interjections set up a playful and odd scenario for this spiritual pop song. The song deteriorates into an ad lib that borders on soul burlesque and finds Cher barrelling along like a loose cannon – so much for the spiritual treatment. The overall effect is kitschy. When she sings about “the man” giving her a baby, one wonders whose concept- or conception this was.
Ward Lamb, 2019 Remaster

This is such a distance from other versions that it’s bizarre. Deep bass, jangly guitar, tapping hi hat, then sudden flurries of drums. Then it goes off on a tangent. The melody is barely surviving. Horns punctuate it with a slashed guitar chord. The bass player is wandering off on his / her own (Carole Kay was a Gold star Regular). Then we’re into gospel soul I believe in the man! I believe in the man” followed by Touch a baby and see her smile!

Lovely guitar figure, and back into gospel :

He gave me everything I got today
He gave me a baby
made me bless the day
He gave me a man
That loves me more
than I ever knew
I could love before

None of this comes from the original. I’m surprised someone didn’t add their name to the credits. I wondered if The Man was God or Sonny. That gospel ending is very good … as a whole the treatment of the song is a major surprise. It grows too.

Danny Boy

Someone wrote this? No, it’s been around since the year dot! But yes, they did … Frederic Weatherly put lyrics to the traditional melody, The Londonderry Air. So who is “Ryan” on the credit?

Following I Believe with Danny Boy should put us weeping into our Guinness in a Kilburn High Road pub. I remember sniffing myself in a bar in Japan when my youngest son Daniel was two and my colleague requested the song for me.

These songs fit in no conceivable way with the 3614 Jackson Highway album.

The arrangement here is uneven and does not compliment (sic: he means complement) the vocal which Cher delivers in her distinctive ballad mode.
Ward Lamb, 2019 Remaster

It starts out remarkably straight, with just Cher and dramatic piano flourishes for the first minute and a half. Then at one minute forty the drums come in, but as before are doing modern jazz stuff, while woodwinds appear. By the time that remarkable bass becomes prominent almost three minutes in she’s singing her heart out with spectacular sustained notes that would bring the house down in any live show. As apparently it always did. Just listen to the last C-O-M-E to M-E-E-E_E.

Danny Boy was part of Sonny & Cher’s Las Vegas act, and was done on their TV show, and said to be a favourite of hers. It appeared on Sonny & Cher Live in 1971, an album with three Beatles covers (Got To Get You Into My Life, Something, Hey Jude) rather than the three Dylan covers on 3614 Jackson Higheway– if she was going for covers of an artist, she did it full on.

Momma Look Sharp

The sleeve notes to the remaster career off into burble here. It’s called an obscure and original song, and compared to Ode to Billie Joe. The writer sees it in a Civil War setting with its military drums and Ward Lamb feels in essence it sounds like a movie sound track piece.

Right. Well, it’s by Edward Sherman, and it has been a movie soundtrack piece, but later. It is from the musical 1776, so Revolutionary War / War of Independence rather than Civil War. Like Hair we have a song from a hit musical. The musical opened in 1969 on Broadway and ran until 1972, for a total of 1217 performances, earning three Tony Awards. There was also a London production. Maybe it wasn’t quite as big a hit as Hamilton was later to be, but so much for obscure and original in the liner notes. I think ‘obscure and original’ just means ‘I didn’t Google it.’ In 1972, it was turned into a movie, with most of the original cast and it is on DVD.

The third song in a row that is building a style and mood. Military drums, piano, and surely acoustic bass. The fascinating musical choice is keeping bass and voice prominent and having major orchestration in the distance. Then thee are odd shouts of marching men far far away. I switched from hi-fi to computer speakers to write this, and they smooth it out much more than a big system. Lovely cello (I think) at the end.

It is a memorable piece. Yet again, I wonder what their intent was. This is getting further and further from chart material.

It Gets Me Where I Want To Go

By Gabe Lapano and Lance Wakeley. Gabe Lapano was a member of The Cascades (Rhythm of The Rain, though he joined them after the hit). He became the lead singer, arranger and organist. Lance Wakeley was also a member of the band.

Gabe Lapano: During the last three months of 1969, the Cascades took an engagement at the Flamingo Hotel in the Sky Room in Las Vegas. We performed six nights a week, five hours a night. We were promoting our new album Maybe the Rain Will Fall. Sonny and Cher were headliners in the main room. One evening, after their show at about three in the morning, Sonny came in and sat down at a front row table. He was dressed in his yellow pajamas with little orange duckies on them. Between songs we got to talking and he asked us to play some original songs, as he was going back into the studio to record after the Las Vegas engagement. We played about five songs. He liked them and asked us to record them and send them to him. Over the next few days we went into a studio, recorded them and sent them on to him in New York—we didn’t hear back from him for about three months. He finally got back to us and said he recorded “It Gets Me Where I Wanna Go.” It was included on Cher’s next album for Atco 3614 Jackson Highway. Nice production by Sonny Bono, and Cher sang it wonderfully. It was written by Lance Wakely and myself.
Interview by Andy Rasmussen, San Diego Troubadour online, April 2021

Well, it wasn’t included on the original album, Gabe, but it is on the remaster. The guitar part is the strongest thing, but the arrangement is a tad messy. Loud and vigorous drumming. The bass is, well, innovative as usual, almost speaker busting at times. Slightly cheesy organ, lots of strings. Complex arrangement in the middle. One would assume The Cascades demo was a lot more straightforward. They didn’t put the song on their 1968 and 1969 LPs.

I’m still wondering why this material was abandoned. While it is doggedly non-commercial, it must have cost a fortune to record.

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy

The original was a Motown song, written by Brenda Holloway, Patrice Holloway, Frank Wilson and Berry Gordon. Brenda Holloway wrote the song with her sister and took it to Berry Gordy, who brought in session writer Frank Wilson, whose contribution was the bridge, which she thought ‘made the song.’ She disliked the production:

Brenda Holloway: We were on the verge of psychedelic sounds; all that rock and funk. Gordy’s response was all business … I’m Berry Gordy. You’re Brenda Holloway. I’m putting up the money. We will do it the way I want to, thank you.
The Complete Motown Singles, Vol 7: 1967, sleeve notes

It was an R&B #40 hit. However, she quit Motown as a result of the dispute.

Edwin Starr, The Temptations, The Miracles and Chris Clark all covered it at Motown, on albums. Bobbie Gentry did a 1969 cover.

Blood Sweat & Tears featured this heavily on Blood Sweat & Tears II and had the US #2 hit, kept off the top by Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In from Hair, so everything was current.

She takes the vocal low and strong. Burbling bass and tinkly piano are both notable. The horns on Cher’s version are more subtle than the sharp punchy BST version. The middle section meanders and loses direction, both for her and the band. It’s hard to see why Brenda Holloway found that section so good. The fade-out is far too extended.

The bass is still unusual, but mixed further back this time. As on the previous track, maybe there is just too much going on in the arrangement. It was the second track where I muttered, ‘Less can be more.’

Against the BST hit, this hasn’t a lot of purpose in existing.

Yours Until Tomorrow

Yours Until Tomorrow: Cher, ATCO US 45, 1969

Carole King and Gerry Goffin. YOURS not ‘your’s’.

It was a late 1968 recording and a 1969 single for Cher, and its release pre-dates the 3614 Jackson Highway album sessions. It failed to chart anywhere. The Carole King simple demo with piano is very good, well, better than this. As Carole King proved on Tapestry you don’t need to throw so much at a song to work.

Cher has everything but the kitchen sink going on behind her, so very Sonny Bono. Whoever the producer was, the budget restraints were not tight and it has the Phil; Spector heritage of you can’t have too many people on the track. The song is Goffin-King. I feel it would have worked way better with the more conventional Muscle Shoals backing, and best of all with Carole King’s basic group. They’re trying to swamp her here, though her voice is too strong to get submerged.

The Thought of Loving You

Credited here to White, who was David White.

The first recording was sung by Johnny Caswell, the lead vocalist of Philadelphia group Crystal Mansion, and it appeared with Hallelujah on a 1968 Capitol single, then on their 1969 album, Crystal Mansion. It had major airplay but was not a hit.

David White was also a member of the band, playing piano, but better known as a member of Danny & The Juniors, then The Spokesmen, responsible for the fascinatingly appalling and snarling answer disc to Eve of Destruction, which had the same tune but was called Dawn of Correction. He was the co-writer of many songs including 1-2-3 and You Don’t Own Me.

Cher’s version starts out more simply than The Crystal Mansions version, and the rhythm leans to lounge jazzy. The original is punchier. You can imagine this song in the cocktail bar with organ and a drum machine and a female singer, somewhat past her prime, in a black and gold sequinned knee-length dress (and no one listening), though such restraint is far from the producer’s overkill imagination here. There’s a lot of tune there, and it would work in my simpler setting.

The First Time

The First Time: Cher ATCO 45 1969

Enter Sonny Bono at last. More to the point, this became the title of Cher’s autobiography which lists her various ‘first times’ (age fourteen, boy next door for the prurient):

It was the A side of the 1969 ATCO single with You’ve Made Me So Very Happy on the B-side. Then it was on her 1972 compilation album, Foxy Lady. There’s a YouTube 1970 performance from The Glen Campbell Show.

The lyric is strongly reminiscent of Chip Taylor’s Angel of The Morning:

Oh I heard a rooster crow
I think I’d better go
Never been out this late before
Please don’t think that I’m a bore
But will I see you anymore
?

Say have you got a comb that I can use
Im sure I look like real bad news
Like I really been abused
Don’t get me wrong when I ask before
If I’ll see you anymore

However, it lacks the bravado of Angel in The Morning, ending sadly:

I know when I walk outside your door
I won’t see you anymore

This is much straighter than the earlier tracks. They were looking for a chart hit. It’s still got the same bass player and lots of additional orchestration, but they’re not ‘jazzing about’ this time, well not until the 20 second play out. Lovely trumpet (I think) part.

Chastity’s Song (Band of Thieves)

Th CD had both stereo and mono (single mix) versions of the song. The vinyl LP has just the one.

The B-side of the US single of I Walk on Guilded Splinters, taken from the Sonny & Cher film. See above … Sonny refused to allow PLUG SIDE to be printed on I Walk on Guilded Splinters and tried to promote this side. Anyone could have told him the other side was better. He knew. He had no option:

Sonny Bono: Truthfully, the movie stank. And before we could make a penny back, we first had to sell the film to a distributor. However, the last thing I wanted anyone to discover was the truth – not just that Cher and I were broke, but that our movie was a dog. In Hollywood image counts for everything and i’d be damned if I was going to be perceived as desperate as I really was.
Sonny Bono: The Beat Goes On, 1991

Nice guitar start. I assume the same band, though the OST album from the film Chastity (which I haven’t heard) was instrumental in the main.

Superstar

Written by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell, with an added credit to Delaney Bramlett. The song was first suggested by Rita Coolidge and its first title was Groupie (Superstar) and it was the B-side of Delaney & Bonnie’s Comin’ Home single in December 1969 (US #84). That featured Eric Clapton.

Real prominence came on Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, where Rita Coolidge sang it. Leon Russell led the band. That was a US #2 album in 1970. The biggest hit single version was by The Carpenters, in August 1971, reaching US #2. This almost certainly comes after the Cher version. Both Cher and Richard Carpenter chickened out on the lyric, shifting I can hardly wait … to sleep with you again to I can hardly wait … to be with you again. OK, it was his sister singing.

A different New York recording. In style, it’s the best fit for 3614 Jackson Highway. Sonny & Cher did it again on Sonny & Cher Live in Las Vegas Volume 2 in 1974.

A mediocre arrangement that probably handed the hit to Karen Carpenter a short time later. The lack of dimension in the musical background laves Cher sounding less than distinct. There are moments on this single track that are rather good, but even Cher eclipsed this version herself with the adult version, ‘I wanna sleep with you again” on the Sonny & Cher Live in Las Vegas Vol. 2 album. The Vegas version got carried away in a good way. This single version didn’t go far enough in any personal direction.
Ward Lamb, sleeve notes, 2019 Remaster

The Carpenters version has the Wrecking Crew bass and drums … Joe Osborne and Hal Blaine.

Cher’s vocal is great, but it’s hard to see what it adds to the other versions. Still I’d like to know who the guitar player was. Too much happening in the massed background voices, probably inspired by Mad Dogs & Englishmen. Not that many singers could sustain Come back and S-T-A-Y that far. The fade out is too long. Better to have thought of an exit strategy.

OVERALL

The LP. On transparent blue vinyl too.

The remaster is a very good 180g double vinyl LP, but really, the original album is the meat in the sandwich. There’s nothing from the second LP worthy of replacing any of the songs on the first LP. However, it has a strong identity in its sound, it’s unusual.

As I wrote this the remaster CD wasn’t available.. The 2 LP set was. As above, in a side by side listening, the remastered vinyl from 2019 trounces the early CD. I don’t think that’s because it’s vinyl, but just the remastering improved the sound.

THE REVILED ALBUMS ARE (so far) …

Beatles For Sale – The Beatles
Their Satanic Majesties Request … The Rolling Stones
Speedway (and Elvis film music) – Elvis Presley
Electric Mud– Muddy Waters
3614 Jackson Highway – Cher (plus the bonus tracks)
Self Portrait – Bob Dylan
Byrdmaniax – The Byrds
Cahoots – The Band
Carl and The Passions- So Tough! – The Beach Boys
Wild Life – Wings
Sometime in New York City – John and Yoko / Elephant’s Memory
Recall The Beginning: A Journey From Eden … The Steve Miller Band
Hard Nose The Highway … Van Morrison
Chicago III … Chicago
Berlin– Lou Reed
Pinups – David Bowie
There’s One In Every Crowd – Eric Clapton
Love At The Greek – Neil Diamond
Death of A Ladies’ Man – Leonard Cohen
Born Again – Randy Newman
Mingus – Joni Mitchell
One Trick Pony – Paul Simon
Everybody’s Rockin’ – Neil Young
American Dream – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane (1989)
Human Touch – Bruce Springsteen

And here’s a rule-breaker. I’d decided one album each, but Van Morrison got so much vituperation from critics (unjustly) in 2021, that I had to add it:

Latest Record Project Volume1… Van Morrison

This list will grow steadily

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