Photo: Bette Singing “To Deserve You”
Windy City Times
by Gregg Shapiro
Bette Midler has always had exceptional taste in cover material when it comes to contemporary songwriters. Over the years, she has performed songs by Tom Waits, Marshall Crenshaw, Patty Griffin, Ben Folds, Beth Nielsen Chapman and the late Kirsty MacColl, to name a few. Still, I’ll never forget how surprised and delighted I was when, on her Bette Of Roses CD, she covered a pair of songs by Maria McKee. McKee was, at that time, already an established solo artist after having made her debut as the lead singer of the ‘80s cow-punk band Lone Justice. A belter with a flair for the dramatic, I never realized how perfectly matched McKee and Midler were until I heard the latter’s renditions of “To Deserve You” and “The Last Time.” On her new CD of original material, High Dive (Viewfinder), Maria McKee performs a 14-song cycle that sounds like it is custom made for Bette Midler. Not that McKee’s renditions aren’t spectacular, especially on the wind-whistling-through-your-hair number “To The Open Spaces,” the sexy ‘70s soul of “Be My Joy,” “In My Constellation,” the piano and vocal tune “No Gala,” the nearly indescribable theatrics of “From Our T.V. Teens To The Tomb,” and the diva drama of “My Friend Foe.” Still, I couldn’t help listening to these songs and hope that Midler was also listening and considering interpreting some of them. It would be a delight to hear Midler sing one song in particular, “Life Is Sweet,” which McKee performed in a different version on her 1996 album of the same name.