Music And Concerts



Bathhouse Betty (1998)

US: Gold
Billboard peak: # 32

Tracks: "Song Of Bernadette" - "I'm Beautiful" - "Lullaby In Blue" - "Ukukeke Lady" - "i'm Hip" - "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman" - "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" - "Boxing" - "Big Socks" - "That's How Love Moves" - "My One True Friend" - "Laughing Matters"

Listen To Audio Samples

Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

It's not fair that the Diva Divine makes albums only as vacations from movies and motherhood, for her genius is as a singer-entertainer. Midler's vocal voltage and pristine song salesmanship are on display here in tunes by Leonard Cohen, Chuckii Booker, Carole King, Ben Folds--lots of fine folk. Her voice can ache with hard-won wisdom (on the first single, My One True Friend) or smile with the sweet clarity of her Honolulu youth (Gus Kahn's 1925 Ukulele Lady). Songs like Laughing Matters, I'm Beautiful and I'm Hip give the album the sassy intimacy of a pep talk from an old friend. But Midler is not aging; those pipes are still brass-bold and silk-smooth. At 52, Bette's still best.

S.D., People Magazine

The title of Midler's 17th album promises delight, alluding as it does to her early '70s incarnation as the Divine Miss M, the vampy, campy and bawdacious singer who entertained at the Continental Baths, then one of New York City's gay men's clubs. And so the sentimental, string-soaked opening track "Song of Bernadette" seems more reminiscent of her late-'80s Grammy-winning doppelganger ("Wind Beneath My Wings"), and out of place here. A windy ode that shows off her gorgeous voice but not a jot of her humor, the song would have been better left to Celine Dion. But Midler redeems herself on "I'm Beautiful," in which her old, Divine Miss M persona returns, hawking her own "cosmic fabulosity," and she keeps up her Mae-West-meets-the-Andrews-Sisters schtick with songs like "Ukulele Lady," "I'm Hip" and "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show." But Midler has more than gags and good humor to sell. "Lullaby in Blue," a mother's bittersweet song for a daughter long ago put up for adoption, is beautiful and heartrending. Bottom Line: One lame track but otherwise divine

CD Universe, Staff

Bette Midler's got all the bases covered on this exuberant album, from swelling, big-voiced ballads ("That's How Love Moves") to quieter, soulful songs ("Song of Bernadette," "Lullaby in Blue"), the loud, hip-hop bitchfest "I'm Beautiful" and the peculiar and campy ("Ukulele Lady," and "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show'").

For the uninitiated, BATHHOUSE BETTY is likely to be mystifying but oddly irresistible, while Midler's longtime fans will find this album to be a comeback of sorts, a return to the uninhibited energy of her 1972 debut in a way that none of her interim releases have even hinted at.

We've known for some time that Midler has a big, ferocious voice which can go all soft and sweet or soar to meet the heights of "Wind Beneath My Wings," but what we might have forgotten (and she reminds us) is what being a diva is all about.

E-OnLine, Staff

Too many people, and perhaps the diva herself, had forgotten that BetteMidler's best role has always been that of the Divine Miss M. Hallelujah!

Our sassy, strutting heroine returns on her first new release since 1995's all-ballad Bette of Roses, displaying the diversity, vulgarity and vulnerability of her wonderful early albums.

Try to pick a favorite: "I'm Beautiful," a dance-powered indictment of prejudice; "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show," a ripping version of the Big Maybelle tune with the Royal Crown Revue; or a stirring cover of Ben Fold's haunting "Boxing."

Alas, there are sops to the saps, like "My One True Friend," the obligatory movie theme produced by dreck-meister David Foster. Just call it "Wind(bag) Beneath My Wings" and program your CD to skip it.

Jane Stevenson -- Toronto Sun

For those of you who may have forgotten, Midler got her start singing in New York City's Continental Baths during the '70s.

And the inspiration for the title of this latest album -- Midler's first since 1995's Bette Of Roses -- was apparently a drunken fan shouting "Bathhouse Betty!" outside her beachhouse one night.

Midler, who wanted to get back to the campiness of some of her earlier albums, does so less successfully on this uneven collection that is in desperate need of a musical identity.

Three cases in point: The truly awful I'm Beautiful, which begins with a snippet of the film The Producers and falls apart shortly afterward.

(The sure sign of trouble here is that this song was recommended to Midler by her hairdresser, who I'm sure is a lovely person, but shouldn't be anyone's musical adviser.)

Two others that cause some major cringing is Midler's cover of an offbeat Ben Folds Five song Boxing and her attempt at funky r & b on the poorly named Big Socks, written by Bobby Brown collaborator Chuckii Booker.

As for the rest of the album, thankfully there is something to recommend, and with Canadian content to boot.

First of all, uberproducer David Foster co-wrote (with Carole King and Carole Bayer Sager) and helmed the first single, My Own True Friend, from the Meryl Streep film One True Thing.

It's pretty overblown stuff, but expect to hear it often if this movie is a hit.

Other ballads that get solid Midler treatment are Leonard Cohen's Song Of Bernadette -- although truth be told, co-writer Jennifer Warnes does it better -- and Adam Cohen's Lullaby In Blue.

Midler also doesn't neglect her Hawaiian roots on the oldie but goodie Ukulele Lady, while big-band swing saves I'm Hip from becoming a parody of itself.

The Royal Crown Revue join Midler effectively on One Monkey Don't Stop The Show, although my favourites are the old torch song I Sold My Heart To The Junkman and the retro-sounding Laughing Matters, from the show When Pigs Fly.

Consumer Guide, Robert Christgau

Reclaiming her integrity if not--waddaya want?--her edge ("I'm Beautiful," "Lullabye in Blue").