Cher

Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves

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Released originally as Cher (Kapp KS-3649), featuring a light grey cover with strands of hair over the face of the chanteuse, this LP was re-released (as Kapp KS-5549) with the title Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves in bold white letters with song titles "The Way of Love," "Fire and Rain," and "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" above the cropped cover photo. The original has the word "Cher" in black fading into the grey; the re-release has her name in bold white. Cover issues aside, this is a good album with some great moments, among them a career highlight in the two-and-a-half-minute opening track, "The Way of Love." The Stillman/Dieval tune was originally a British hit for Kathy Kirby, and both Cher and Kirby drove the song right by the censors. The song is either about a woman expressing her love for another woman, or a woman saying au revoir to a gay male she loved -- in either case this is not a mother to daughter heart-to-heart: "What will you do/When he sets you free/Just the way that you/Said good-bye to me." Kirby hit with a similar production in the '60s; Cher's Snuff Garrett production, arranged by Al Capps, broke the Top Ten in 1972 a few months after "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" became her first number one solo hit toward the end of 1971. Both songs lead off this disc with a one-two punch that is impossible to sustain throughout the entire album. "I Hate to Sleep Alone," written by Peggy Clinger, clings onto the Jack Nitzsche/Sonny Bono riff that made "Needles and Pins" so memorable. "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" no doubt satisfied fans, but the performance sounds a bit rushed; four years later Olivia Newton-John would also cover this song inspired by the Boystown logo -- interesting female perspectives four years apart, both on MCA. "I'm in the Middle," "Touch and Go," and "He'll Never Know" are all passable middle-of-the road pop, "Touch and Go" being particularly memorable, clocking in at only two minutes and one second. The cover of "Fire and Rain" is mildly interesting, with Cher saying, "Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you." Cher never minded androgynous or neutral gender identity in her songs; her deep voice could carry both the male and female ranges for the duo with Bono and, musically, her solo material could soar to heights not possible in a partnership -- "The Way of Love" being one example.

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