Walking In Memphis


1995: Warner Music/WEA WEA021 0630-12791-2

  1. Walking In Memphis
  2. Angels Running
  3. Walking In Memphis Shut Up & Dance Instrumental

I’ve never been into the kind of music Cher has performed over the years, but I’ve always kind of admired her from a hefty distance…she is solid and unique, in the same way that Bette Midler is (and Quentin Crisp was), and there’s never any question that she is Cher, no impression that she’s striving to be something else or that someone else is attempting to be who she is. She’s frank, unapologetic, plain-stated, and completely impressive.

When I saw this single’s cover I said “I’d buy that,” and buy it I did, on the combination of visual impact (decent if imperfect graphic design making use of excellent photography) and the knowledge that it was Cher. The word “Memphis” just added to the potential payoff, given her roots and range. From what I’ve read online since I bought this way back then, I gather a lot of Mark Cohn fans think this is scandalously atrocious, but I’m not of them and thus I don’t have that opinion. I like it.

What do I like it for that they couldn’t appreciate? Probably the way she made it her own song so effortlessly: I’m not bound up with the original’s context, nor am I a Mark Cohn fan, so what I heard here is something that sounded like Cher was actually singing about herself. Plus which it’s a nifty recording, structurally, building from simple easygoing piano-and-voice pacing up to strutting/dancing territory, with a plateau of bliss and a moment of gentle epiphany at the summit before returning swiftly to close with the opening’s simplicity.

The main track itself is concise, no more and no less than it needs to be to tell the story and convey the moods, and it ends with admirable simplicity. “Angels Running” is a soft contrast, closer to the stuff with which I usually associate Cher’s recording history—pleasant but not personally arresting by a long shot, for me. And the “Shut Up & Dance” instrumental mix of “Walking In Memphis” is handy but otherwise inessential.