After Sonny & Cher hit big with "I Got You Babe," Bono decided that he would strike while they were hot and got Cher a solo deal with Liberty Records. The angle they took for the 1965 album All I Really Want to Do was folk-rock with a tiny bit of girl group pop thrown in. Choosing from the songbooks of writers like Dylan (the title track, "Don't Think Twice," "Blowin' in the Wind"), Pete Seeger ("The Bells of Rhymney"), Jackie DeShannon ("Come and Stay With Me"), as well as Bono himself (the Jack Nitszche co-write "Needles and Pins," the girl group classic "Dream Baby") and using his Phil Spector-derived production skills to create rich, chiming backgrounds for Cher to sing over, the duo made what turns out to be one of the stronger folk-pop records of the era. Cher isn't the subtlest singer but she sounds young and full of life on these tracks, like she really believes in what she is singing (a feeling you don't always get on her more lightweight material). No one will mistake her for Joni Mitchell or Sandy Denny, but you shouldn't belittle her efforts as a folk singer, either; All I Really Want to Do is proof that she was for real. On the follow-up record from 1966, The Sonny Side of Cher, Bono tinkers with the formula in inexplicable ways and ends up a chuckle-inducing curiosity, just the kind of record casual listeners might expect. While there are still good covers of Dylan ("Like a Rolling Stone") and a couple of Bob Lind tunes ("Elusive Butterfly" and "Come to Your Window"), for some reason Bono thought it would be a good idea to graft his Spectorized folk-rock sound onto MOR pop tunes like "It's Not Unusual," "Our Day Will Come," and "The Girl From Ipanema." Cher sounds game but uncommitted, the arrangements are over the top (check "Old Man River" for the most OTT sound), and it just doesn't work. The only track that has any real zest is the Bono-written novelty "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)," the kind of dramatic song Cher could knock out in her sleep but also a song with no real heart. That lack of heart and sense of novelty is what dooms the album. Owning All I Really Want to Do is enough reason to pick up the two-fer disc All I Really Want to Do/The Sonny Side of Cher though, even with the acute dropoff on the second record.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra