Mister D: Yes, I brought my stupid laptop! But don’t push it! 🙂
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook”
Part of being a pop singer, and of being Bette Midler in particular, is playing “let’s pretend”: all right, boys and girls, who are we going to be today? Will we play it for laughs or for tears? On the “Peggy Lee Songbook,” Ms. Midler plays it for both, as she revisits 10 songs associated with that great Benny Goodman vocalist turned legendary nightclub singer.
Photo: Bob Barket
For Ms. Midler, whose personality is as strong and defined as any legend she could honor, playing let’s pretend doesn’t mean literally assuming another persona, but affectionately translating an alien mystique into her own language. Where Ms. Lee, who died in 2002, could become dangerously and masochistically tangled in a torch song, Ms. Midler’s residual optimism and humor reassure you, even when it’s pouring rain, that the moment’s misery is only a glitch in a fair-weather world.
It’s not that Ms. Midler can’t dive into the depths of a ballad. Her version of “The Folks Who Live on the Hill,” the dreamy Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein fantasy of marital bliss, is as deep and touching as Ms. Lee’s classic rendition on her Frank Sinatra-conducted album, “The Man I Love.” But what Ms. Lee evoked as a wistful faraway vision of contentment, Ms. Midler makes palpably present.
On the lighter side, Ms. Midler’s brassy-sexy “Fever” is an irresistible goof. And “Is That All There Is?,” in which Lee embraced disappointment and nihilism with a sly, sinister wink, is inverted into an exhilarating celebration of living in the moment.
The album, produced by Ms. Midler’s old pal Barry Manilow allows the singer and the songs room to breathe; it swings, and Ms. Midler’s vocals burst with confidence and generosity of spirit. STEPHEN HOLDEN