BootLeg Betty

CD Review: Out.com

Midler’s tribute, with arrangements and even some vocal help from her old pal and bathhouse accompanist Barry Manilow, isn’t a substitute for Clooney’s originals but will stand beside them nicely. The selections focus on Clooney’s 1950s pop songbird era, when she recorded some fine tunes that were worthy of her talents (“Tenderly”), some silly novelties that weren’t (“Come on-a My House”), and some that have become such a part of our cultural—and camp!—sensibilities that they defy criticism (“Sisters”). Midler does pretty well with songs from all these categories. Her performance of “Tenderly” is outstanding—passionate and heartfelt—and she’s appropriately torchy on “Memories of You” but is not quite as warm as Clooney on another great ballad, “You’ll Never Know.” She’s fine on the novelties “Come on-a My House” and “Mambo Italiano,” although we didn’t really need to hear those songs again; much more fun are her rollicking rendition of the pseudogospel “This Ole House” and her humorous banter with Manilow on the swinging “Slow Boat to China,” a highlight of the disc. Of course, no Clooney homage would be complete without tunes from the movie White Christmas, and Midler’s excellent versions of “Sisters” with Linda Ronstadt and the title carol, including its oft-deleted verse, will remind fans why they loved the flick in the first place and may inspire the uninitiated to check out Rosie and Bing this holiday season. And if this disc inspires listeners to pick up some Clooney recordings, both the pop stuff from the ’50s and her later work as a gifted jazz interpreter, so much the better—you Bette! Trudy Ring

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