New York Times
It’s The Girls
Nov 3, 2014
The spark of madcap mischief that has lit up Bette Midler’s performances for more than four decades has hardly dimmed, as evidenced by “It’s the Girls!,” her bubbly first studio album in eight years and one of her best. This tribute to girl groups, from the Boswell Sisters to TLC, was produced with Ms. Midler’s longtime collaborator, Marc Shaiman, the composer of “Hairspray,” some of whose songs strongly echo classic ’60s hits produced by Phil Spector. That music, along with Motown, is in Ms. Midler and Mr. Shaiman’s bones, and their fit is as comfortable as ever.
Ms. Midler’s brash, mouthy vocal persona is still capable of sounding playfully transgressive, at least by ’60s standards. She injects songs like the Marvelettes’ “Too Many Fish in the Sea” with a defiant air of girl power, which in those days was synonymous with winning and worshiping a sexy bad boy.
As vintage oldies mellow into latter-day standards, the reverence surrounding them tends to inhibit any remakes, but not here. The tempos are breezy on the album’s remakes of the Exciters’ “Tell Him” and the Chiffons’ “One Fine Day.” A lighthearted, cotton candy version of “Be My Baby” is all the better for not pushing a martial grandiosity.
Not all the songs adhere to the style of the originals. The Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman” is infused with zany Hawaiian guitar that makes its funny/gushy lyrics even more amusing.
Most important, Ms. Midler brings her sense of humor. At the end of the Shangri-Las’ hit “Give Him a Great Big Kiss,” she announces that she must rush back to the I.C.U. to visit her sweetheart: “He’s 98, you know,” she explains. “I’ve known him since this record came out.” STEPHEN HOLDEN