There’s a scene in the Tom Hanks/Shelley Long comedy The Money Pit during which Hanks’ character (a music industry lawyer on the verge of bankruptcy and homelessness due to a series of wild ‘n’ crazy script contrivances) has a panicked meeting with his realtor, a wheezing stereotype named Jack Schnittman whose obesity is played for mid-’80s guffaws by making him jog his way to his seventh heart attack in five months. Schnittman’s sweaty brush with death is one of many unfunny moments in a deeply unfunny movie, and also one of the many places my mind wandered while listening to Allman and Woman’s Two the Hard Way, the latest audio abomination sent to drain precious moments from my stereo’s lifespan by Popdose editor and human participation trophy Dave Lifton.
Lifton, as longtime readers may recall, has been hectoring me for years regarding my tardiness with this series, and while I admit it’s been a very long time since I managed to put together one of these posts, I apologize for nothing — Dave is a depressed felch button, and I would sooner see him gasping, Schnittman-like, in the back of an ambulance while being berated by a disdainful EMT than give him the satisfaction of knowing I let him browbeat me into listening to an album of duets half-heartedly rolled across the middle of the road by two performers crooning out of seemingly insurmountable creative ruts.
The artists in question, of course, are Gregg Allman and Cher, who recorded Two the Hard Way while a whole bunch of chaos swirled around them — Allman’s exile from the busted-up Allman Brothers Band following a drug trial in which he copped a deal and rolled over on his road manager, Scooter Herring; Cher’s string of flop singles and split with ex-husband Sonny Bono; Allman and Cher’s own quickie 1975 marriage, from which she filed for divorce after nine days, later changing her mind. Not even the slightest whiff of that tumult, however, pierced the methadone-glazed shell of this album, which sounds like the work of people perpetually on the verge of a nap.
Allman and Cher had both been responsible for, and would continue to create in the future, plenty of worthwhile music, which is why Two the Hard Way is sort of the Jack Schnittman of their respective catalogs — a soft, waddling relic that, in just a few fleeting moments, manages to distill some of the most regrettable elements of a bygone era. But at least Schnittman had the courtesy to get off the screen fairly quickly; this record goes on for over half an hour, during which time slows to a virtual crawl.
“Love is really blind, that’s for sure,” Allman shrugged in a 1982 interview while looking back on his broken marriage with Cher, failing to add that in this case, it must have also been deaf. Two the Hard Way is dreadful, but like a number of shitty late ’70s records, it never quite musters up enough energy to be an interesting failure — once you get past the novelty of hearing Allman and Cher sing together, the album basically becomes the audio equivalent of being smothered in beige velour.
Even without looking it up, you can tell this record was released in 1977 — it just has that airless feel to it, that crushing combination of obvious musical competence (most of it mustered by a well-paid backing band of session vets that included Willie Weeks, Fred Tackett, and Randall Bramblett) smothered under syrupy late ’70s audio glurge. You can tell money was spent on this recording, just as you can tell it was purely a paycheck gig for pretty much everyone who strolled into the studio. To call these performances half-hearted seems insufficient, but I’m not willing to devote real thought to this album if Allman and (ugh) Woman couldn’t be bothered, so it’ll have to do.
It’s worth noting that while it’s long since been relegated to punchline status, Two the Hard Way has always had its defenders. At least one critic liked it at the time, and a cursory look at any Allman and Woman YouTube clip is all it takes to prove the existence of actual people who claim to genuinely believe this is the best record either performer ever released. Opinions! Everyone’s got ’em. The album is objectively lame, but again, not in that “fascinating trainwreck” way you’d hope; even at their nadir, these two were terrific singers, and despite not having any evident interest in effectively interpreting any of these songs (Allman always sounds like his teeth are falling out, Cher like she’s singing to someone in another county) you can only be so bad when you’re covering Smokey Robinson, Jimmy Webb, and Jackson Browne with a studio full of triple-scale professionals. Allman’s take on the Sanford-Townsend number “In for the Night” even has something approaching a pulse.
All of which is not to say that this album has ever been or ever will be anything other than a colossal, dispiriting waste of time — just that if you someday find yourself listening to Allman and Woman’s Two the Hard Way, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that you’ll survive the experience, just as I did, and emerge sadder, wiser, and filled with determination to rain a razor-tipped hail of payback on the shitty person who inflicted these songs on you. Your day is coming, Lifton.