reviewed by John Makoni
Picture: Bette talking to Chris Isaak
Bette Midler is back. Her new album is simply titled “Bette” and mostly comprises cover songs. There’s all the evidence to believe that four decades on, Midler is still loving it.
When she sings “But still I need those kisses so desperately” on “That How Heartaches Are Made”, a Ben Raleigh/Bob Haley number, the truth is in her breath.
“In These Shoes” is a good times samba tune, whose most arresting point is the Spanish chorus: “No le gusta caminar/No pueda montar a caballo/Como se puede ballar/Es un escandalo”.
Midler once again ventures outside her more traditional boundaries on “Moses”, a heavily rumba-laden piece. Otherwise she sticks to the soft songs for which she’s mostly known.
Her only original song on the CD is “Nobody Else But You” but then again, it is written with the collaboration of Marc Shaiman. The song’s changes in tempo turn out to be the chief reason it resembles Diana Ross and The Supremes’ “Chain Reaction”.
However, it cannot be denied that Midler the veteran, is also Midler the perfect hostess – she knows just what to include in her mix to pull you (and in crowds at that) to her party. Her selection is exquisite. Her soft voice is almost in flight on “God Give Me Strength”, it knows just how to tackle the topical lines on “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)”; and on the soulful “Love TKO”, popularised by Cecil and Linda Womack (who penned the song with Gip Noble Jr), that same voice is firmly in control.
The excellent piano playing of Bobby Lyle ushers in “Colour of Roses” and as can be deduced from its title, it is a soft and romantic song, perhaps the softest on this album.
Surprising still is the fact that at 56, Midler still needs her kisses: “And in this dream we share/Let us not miss one kiss”. Maybe that expains why after all these years, she has remained in vogue.
That she has remained in vogue is confirmed on “Bless You Child”, a typically modern dance number. Isn’t it good then, one might want to ask, that those in their sixties as well as those in their teens can all unite in their love for Midler? Midler at least succeeds here in reaching out to grandparents and their grandchildren.
Midler, the ageing star who has kept in touch with modern tastes, equally knows just how to please with her version of The Manhattans’ “Shining Star”. She dishes out a stripped down rendition, suitable for these times.