THE ONE AFTER THE BIG ONE: Sonny & Cher, THE WONDROUS WORLD OF SONNY & CHER
Cher has been a star for so long, it’s hard to count all the ebbs and flows her career has experienced since she topped the charts with husband Sonny Bono in late 1965. She’s been a force in pop music, film, television, dance music and the concert stage, and is a pop culture icon, one of the most famous people in the world for the last five-plus decades.
“I Got You, Babe” was that 1965 chart-topper, and the album Sonny & Cher made to capitalize on the single’s success – that year’s LOOK AT US – was a Top 10 hit. In order to capitalize on the capitalizing, the duo entered the studio to quickly cut a second album, and thus 1966’s THE WONDROUS WORLD OF SONNY & CHER was born. While not as big a hit as the debut. WONDROUS WORLD is nonetheless a fine pop record from an era that gave us plenty of them, and a treasure ripe for reconsideration.
The first thing you notice on the record is its expansive sound. Bono had been a member of producer Phil Spector’s production team, and the album’s first song – a take on the George and Ira Gershwin standard “Summertime” – is awash in the deep and wide sonics of a Spectorian “Wall of Sound” production. The track also establishes the vocal approach most often followed on the record, with an emphasis on Cher’s voice – here, the pair trade verses, and she gets two verses to Bono’s one, but on songs with shared harmonies, she’s mixed slightly louder.
The singles released from WONDROUS WORLD are easily the album’s highlights. “But You’re Mine” explores the same “us against the world” vibe as “I Got You, Babe,” and works just as well. “What Now My Love” is an English-language take on a French hit, but its dramatic air of loneliness translates well in any tongue. The album also contains Bono’s only solo hit, “Laugh at Me,” another anthem for put-upon rebels that’s an outstanding single, even though Cher isn’t on it.
Don’t sleep on the deep cuts, though. The duo’s take on the Exciters’ “Tell Him” is note-perfect, and other covers of songs by Sam Cooke (“Bring It On Home to Me”), the Kinks (“Set Me Free”) and the Fiestas (Johnny Otis’ “So Fine”) are terrific jukebox fodder.
Of course, once their hits dried up, Sonny & Cher would go on to hone their onstage act in Vegas, then move to their wildly successful TV show in the early ‘70s. THE WONDROUS WORLD OF SONNY & CHER is an early triumph, though – a great bit of their back story and a terrific mid-’60s pop
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