Happy 30th Anniversary to Cher’s nineteenth studio album Heart of Stone, originally released June 19, 1989.
When you have had a career that has spanned more than five decades and seen countless reincarnations, it is inevitable that throughout said career, there will be one, if not more, defining moments that will stick with you forever. Nobody knows this better than the indomitable legend that is Cher.
Whilst powerful in their prime, those defining moments can also leave an artist with a legacy that will forever be synonymous with his or her name. Take for example, Cher’s 1998 dance hit “Believe.” It was a somewhat surprising departure from her steady deliverance of pop/rock that she had by then come to be known for, but ultimately it worked for her. In actuality, it became one of her greatest career defining moments. Another equally defining moment—which some may argue is her greatest—is “If I Could Turn Back Time” from 1989’s Heart of Stone album.
Heart of Stone arrived at a pivotal time in Cher’s career. Having won an Oscar for Moonstruck (1987) just a year prior following two additional box office smashes (Suspect and The Witches of Eastwick), Cher had now become a bona fide film star. This did, however, seem to create an immense amount of caution with what move she would make next. Film projects were put on hold and a return to her new record label, Geffen Records, with whom she had signed in 1987, was now at the forefront of her career.
Her eighteenth studio album and first with Geffen Records, the self-titled Cher, saw her working with an incredibly solid songwriting/production team that consisted of Peter Asher, Michael Bolton, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Desmond Child, Jon Lind and “hit maker” Diane Warren. The album had moderate success and was well received by critics, and even produced the top ten hit co-written by Michael Bolton and Mark Mangold, “I Found Someone.”
The success of Cher allowed for the continuation of her previous production team to work on Heart of Stone, with Diane Warren penning the now infamous “If I Could Turn Back Time” and co-writing the album’s third single “Just Like Jesse James” with Desmond Child. Both songs charted well, with the latter peaking at no.8 and “If I Could Turn Back Time” hitting the top 10 globally and peaking at No.1 in Australia and Norway. This album would also go on to be “firsts” for both Geffen and Cher. Geffen now had an international number one album that up until this point had eluded the label and Cher had now hit the top ten for the first time in her solo career with Heart of Stone.
Never one to shy away from a little controversy (think 1988’s “tarantula” Oscars outfit), it was only fitting that the music video for “If I Could Turn Back Time” should and would create some hype—again. Straddled on a canon on the battleship USS Missouri, wearing a sheer black body stocking and one piece, ribbon thin bathing suit, Cher managed to upset everyone from MTV to the Navy itself. But a little upset meant more attention, which ultimately meant more sales. Over a million single sales to date, to be precise.
The remaining ten tracks on the album continue with the pop rock / adult contemporary theme, especially noted in “Heart of Stone,” the album’s fourth single (originally recorded by Bucks Fizz) and the ‘80s power ballad “Does Anybody Really Fall In Love Anymore.” The opening guitar riff on “Emotional Fire” is pure ‘80s rock and it comes as no surprise that Michael Bolton not only co-wrote the track with Diane Warren and Desmond Child, but he also provided the backing vocals along with Bonnie Tyler, something that added that little bit extra in the creative layering of one of this album’s standout tracks.
Another highlight is the album’s lead single and closing track, “After All.” Peter Cetera duetted with Cher to create the love theme for the movie Chances Are, with the song also receiving an Academy Award nomination and becoming Cher’s first solo number one on the Adult contemporary chart. Interesting fact: no video was ever created for this chart topper and to date there is no footage of Cher & Peter Cetera performing the song together, including the original recording of the song, where both artists recorded their parts separately.
At first glance it would be easy to write this album off as something put out to capitalize on the momentum of Cher’s Oscar win. But when you dig a little deeper, you find that not only is this an incredibly well-crafted album, but some of the best in the business have leant their art to assist in its creation. It’s not just fellow musicians Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Michael Bolton that brought their writing and musical skills to this album, but names like the aforementioned Desmond Child, Jon Lind and Peter Asher who together have produced and co-written music for a never-ending list of legendary names as long as my arm and equally as diverse too. With all this solid backing, came creative safety, meaning that Cher could now flex that creativity, knowing that those around her came with a wealth of experience, something that is highly evident throughout the album.
Cher’s true magic lies firmly in her unwavering audience appeal, no matter what the genre. Whether it be folk/pop with Sonny Bono or disco inspired hits like “Take Me Home,” Cher commits to the cause not only vocally, but also emotionally—something that again, transcends through each and every song.
Revisiting Heart of Stone has been a surprise and a welcome one at that. Digging deeper than the original controversy that first seduced me into listening to the album 30 years ago has reopened my eyes and ears to an album that not only performed well chart-wise, but has actually been brilliantly executed. With a revitalized respect for Heart of Stone, one could honestly say that this album, most definitely from a production and collaboration point of view, may well be one of Cher’s very best.