Mister D: Thanks Leslie for the shout out on this one!
Bette Midler and musical director Barry Manilow follow their successful tribute to Rosemary Clooney with a collection of songs immortalized by Peggy Lee.
It starts off with the inevitable “Fever,” which Midler does in a brassy, finger-snapping way that would feel more at home at the Sands c. 1960 than in a dimly lit 1950s boudoir. It’s a deliberate, clever choice that works for Midler.
The selection hits predictable bases (“Is That All There Is?”, “Big Spender”) but it’s hard to argue when those bases are so loaded. Midler actually sounds a lot more at ease than on the Clooney disc.
She handles the upbeat material as well as could be expected, but she also shines on the slower numbers, delivering sultry takes on “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe,” “I’m a Woman,” and “He’s a Tramp” (a song copenned by Lee, from the Disney movie Lady and the Tramp).
The neglected gem in the collection is Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “The Folks Who Live on the Hill,” popularized by Irene Dunne in 1937 before being covered by Lee.
Manilow’s arrangements are deliciously lush and Midler uses a slight vibrato at carefully chosen moments, somehow sounding as if she had suddenly been lifted back to the 1940s.
It’s a real treat that epitomizes an accomplished album. —Elisabeth Vincentelli