Syracuse Herald Journal
Flack, Midler collections great
August 22, 1993
ROBERTA FLACK ****
“Softly With These Songs: The Besl of Roberla Flack.” Atlantic Records.
BETTE MIDLER ****
“Experience the Divine: Bette Midler‘s Greatest Hits.” Atlantic Records.
Atlantic Records must be waxing nostalgic these days if the back-to-back release of two “greatest hits” compilations is any indication.
Two great ladies of song. Roberta Flack and Bette Midler, traipse down memory lane – and it’s a pure joy ride for listeners. These songs of the ’60s. 70s and beyond might have been mired in the bubble gum of oldies radio but for the fact that these talented ladies knew how to turn them into timeless tunes.
Fl a ck’s “Sof t ly W i th The se Songs” is a compilation of her Grammy-winning hits “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “Where Is the Love” and “Killing Me Softly With His Song.” as well as memorable duels wi th Donny Hathaway
(“The Closer I Get to You” and “Back Together Again”). Peabo Bryson (“Tonight. I Celebrate My Love”) and Maxi Priest (“Set the Night to Music”). There are 16 song tracks and one house mix total, all with superb orchestrations.
Belling is not Flack’s style, so Ihe compilation boasts a sort of soothing sameness as her smoky, well-modulated voice focuses more on style than expression. Perfect for candlelit evenings for two.
Expression is Midler’s forte, and hence “Experience the Divine” is a fasten-your-seat-bell excursion. It starts off slow with the poignant old-age ballad “Hello in There.” and b u i l ds m o m e n t um with “Do You Want to Dance?.” the h y m n l i kc “From a Distance.” a j a z z cd-up “Chapel of Love” and the swingtime “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
Keep your car tuned to the lyrical humor of her jazzy version of Cole Porter’s “Miss Otis Regrets” and the intro by Johnny Carson on “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road).” recorded on the final night of his show. Of course, no Midler c omp i l a t i on wo u ld be compl e te w i t h o ut h er b u d dy a n t h e m, . “Friends.”
– Betsy Kline. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette