With Love, Cher

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Sonny Bono's bells and castanet production by way of Phil Spector certainly adds a magical spell to Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'," but it is disconcerting, as an attempt at a female Barry McGuire is not as much fun as the Dylan love song that was Cher's first solo hit, "All I Really Want to Do." With Love, Cher has a somewhat unflattering photo by Sonny Bono of his wife against a blue sky on the front cover, and a series of exquisite black-and-whites on the back, her features striking, their youth and the sense of a real love affair leaping off the LP jacket. "Hey Joe" is even tougher to take than "The Times They Are A-Changin'," clearly the wrong material for this great singer, but she keeps the gender in place when doing the answer part, ambiguity à la "You'd Better Sit Down Kids" and "The Way of Love," which makes for some fun. The percussive sounds on the love theme from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, "I Will Wait for You," adds a dimension missing on the Dylan cover, and it is one of the more intriguing and fulfilling moments on the album. Sonny's tune, "Mama (When My Dollies Have Babies)," begins with an annoying off-key choir of kids only to settle into a mellow Wall of Sound, which works. But it's the big Top Ten hit, her fifth solo smash, that really is the moment in the sun here. "You'd Better Sit Down Kids" is just a tremendous performance surrounded by winners like "Sing for Your Supper," and not so spectacular events like "Hey Joe." For a '60s album, though, there is more meat than filler, and With Love, Cher shows why the singer endeared herself to listeners and got to play in the same ballpark as Dusty and Petula.

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