Music And Concerts



Bette Midler Sings The Rosemary Clooney Songbook
(Sept 30,

US: Gold
Billboard peak: # 14

Tracks: "You'll Never Know" - "This Ole House" -
"On A Slow Boat To China" (with Barry Manilow) - "Hey There" - "Tenderly" -
"Come On-A My House" - "Mambo Italiano" - "Sisters" (with Linda Ronstadt) -
"Memories Of You" - "In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening" -
"White Christmas"

Listen To Audio Samples

Seattle Gay News
Oct. 10, 2003

It makes perfect sense for Bette Midler to immerse her divine self into a catalog of songs by the late, great Rosemary Clooney. She's essentially one of her followers. With the help of old friend Barry Manilow, who produced her first two breakthrough albums, Midler settles right into a
string of the Girl Singer's hits, all originally recorded in the 1950's.

Midler's perky persona makes a delightful presence on the sprightly "Come On-A My House" and the zesty "Mambo Italiano," which features a high-kicking arrangement by Manilow and Robbie Buchanan, who also serve as co-producers for this fine, timely tribute. When she isn't getting
cheeky with Manilow, as in the Bing Crosby/Clooney bopper "On a Slow Boat to China," she's singing shoulder to shoulder with Linda Ronstadt on "Sisters." The album's finest moments are Midler's down-home, bluegrassy version of "This Ole House" and her glistening touch to
Crosby's nostalgic "White Christmas," which Clooney repolished in 1954.

Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook is a soaring success in two ways. First, it provides a glorious avenue for Midler to strut her pop-to-showtunes vocal expertise. And second, it packs in plenty of va-va voom in an homage to a singer who put style and class on an out-of-reach shelf. Given the chance to do a legend justice, Midler simply marvels.

Recorded at Sony Music Studios, Culver City, California; The Hop, Studio City, California; Schnee Studios, North Hollywood, California. Includes liner notes by Bette Midler, Barry Manilow.

Bette Midler occupies a unique place in the world of pop vocalists; she's recorded in so many styles (blowsy rockers, glossy pop ballads, intimate cabaret) that she's impossible to pigeonhole. So it's not such a shock to find her reaching back to an earlier era of pop singing for THE ROSEMARY CLOONEY SONGBOOK. In paying tribute to her beloved Clooney, Midler engages the services of none other than MOR icon Barry Manilow as arranger, a role he played for her before embarking on his solo career. This is far from a by-the-numbers stroll through the Clooney catalog, though. Midler and Manilow dip into smooth jazz ("Come On-A My House"), boogie-woogie ("On a Slow Boat to China"), Americana ("This Ole House"), and orchestrated jazz ("Hey There") among other modes, introducing these Clooney-associated tunes to a whole new generation.

Orlando Sentinel
Published October 3, 2003
Columnist Commander Coconut

Come on-a give-a listen

I haven't bought a new Bette Midler album in a while. The first ones were much the best, still fun to listen to after all these years, especially anything live (Live at Last in 1977, Mud Will Be Flung Tonight in 1985).

But I like her new CD, Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook.

Bette and her producer, Barry Manilow, were on Today Wednesday talking up the CD and performing -- doing two of the best cuts from the album, "Come On-a My House" and "On a Slow Boat to China" (they might have done more, but I didn't watch Today's third hour).

"Slow Boat," by the way, has this fun couplet: "Out on the briny/ Where the moon's big and shiny."

Two of the album's cuts don't work ("Hey There," "This Ole House"), but it's interesting that two others, better others, are songs that Clooney had said she didn't much care for: "Come On-a My House" and "Mambo Italiano."

Midler has always liked songs, usually more obscure ones, that have tricky or eccentric lyrics, so both "House" and "Mambo" fit that bill as does "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening."

Both Midler and Manilow had known Clooney for years. Manilow, who said he was thrilled when Clooney recorded "When October Goes," a Johnny Mercer lyric that he set to music, came up with the idea of the tribute album and got in touch with Midler. The two first hooked up when he was her pianist at her famous and infamous gig at the Continental Baths in New York. Later, famously, they had something of a falling-out, but both said they had a fine time doing the Clooney album.

Another of Clooney's good singer friends was Linda Ronstadt; she and Midler duet on "Sisters," the Irving Berlin song Rosemary sang in the movie White Christmas.

The album begins and ends with beautiful ballads: "You'll Never Know" and "White Christmas."

Matt Collar

Cabaret icon Bette Midler reunites with her old piano partner Barry Manilow for the first time in over 30 years to toast one of their mutual idols on Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook. Clooney was one of the top jazz/pop vocalists of the '50s whose clear, bright tone, impeccable melodicism, and smiling, girl-next-door image came together to make classics out of tunes like "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" and "Hey There" — both covered here. In that tradition, Midler's plucky blonde persona and genre-crossing style and Manilow's modern day blend of Mercer and Porter make this album work — most of the time. Mostly what you get is the Divine Miss M and "Mister Manila," as Midler affectionately refers to Manilow, returning to their '70s New York roots on "On a Slow Boat to China," a solid and classy version of "Sisters" with Linda Ronstadt taking the Betty Clooney role, and a very Dixie Chicks-esque contemporary bluegrass reworking of "This Ole House." Least of all, you get limp, hip-hop-lite arrangements of "Come On-A My House" and "Mambo Italiano," which only serve to drain the songs of any swing and makes the twee-period lyrics all the more cloying. Nonetheless, Midler — who can carry a tune on personality alone — sounds elegant and alive here and Manilow's classy orchestral arrangements frame the proceedings with the urbane glow of nostalgia for a time — be it the '50s or the '70s — when a big band, a great song, and blonde with a nice voice were all you needed for a good time. — Matt Collar

Washington Times
Rosie, Bette's way
By T.L. Ponick

Rosemary Clooney, who lost her life to lung cancer in 2002 at age 74, was proof positive that America is the land of the second chance.

After a meteoric rise to musical fame culminating in her appearance with Bing Crosby in 1954's hit film "White Christmas," the blond, fresh-faced girl singer from Kentucky made a string of hit recordings and married film star Jose Ferrer seemingly out of the blue. Hardly pausing for breath, she cranked out five babies in short order and also landed her own TV show, but her personal wheel of fortune took an abrupt downward spin in the 1960s.

With her marriage on the rocks, the demanding pressures of TV, movie, radio, and recording appearances soon drove her to an overdependence on tranquilizers and prescription drugs. The violent death of her friend, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who was gunned down in a Los Angeles hotel only a few yards away from the singer, sank her further into a deep, clinical depression, and she retired from showbiz for years.

After many years of therapy, and buoyed by a successful 1976 tour with Bing Crosby — the Old Groaner's last — Miss Clooney gradually returned to the limelight, resurrecting her career, this time as a surprisingly successful jazz artist and song stylist. Once again she had a string of successful recordings and CDs on the Concord label and won respect among a new generation of fans both here and abroad.

Actress-singer-camp diva Bette Midler now revives the first half of Miss Clooney's career with the new CD, "Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook." This re-imagining of Rosie's greatest hits gets a big assist from Barry Manilow, who has vividly re-created arrangements for most of them, giving them the right dash of contemporary panache without obliterating their distinctive Eisenhower-era flavor.

For those of us who grew up mainlining on 1950s TV variety shows, this disc is a pleasant blast from the past. Each and every track was once a bona fide hit in its day. From the sentimental "You'll Never Know" to the still risque "Come On-a My House" — Miss Clooney's bizarre breakthrough hit — it's surprising how well this songbook wears. The tunes are still spiffy, and the lyrics actually convey complex adult emotions, something lost on today's infantilized music moguls and mavens.

Bette Midler is no Rosemary Clooney. Her voice lacks the depth, the nuance, the subtle shadings — indeed, the authority — of the older diva, particularly in the disc's concluding arrangement of "White Christmas," the greatest holiday schmaltz classic of all time.

Still, Miss Midler is a trooper, and she clearly holds Miss Clooney in high esteem. Drawn out, richly melodic vowels, crystalline enunciation, hard consonants and Midwestern "r's" were all part of the Clooney arsenal, and Miss Midler replicates these vocal characteristics with astonishing faithfulness. It's the sustained notes that Miss Midler has a harder time with.

Miss Midler does a workmanlike job on classic ballads such as "Hey There" and "Tenderly." However, she's at her best in upbeat, jazzy novelty songs like the aforementioned "Come On-a My House," — which retains the weird harpsichord riffs of the original — as well as "Mambo Italiano," "This Ole House" and the sublimely silly "Sisters," where she gets an effective assist from Linda Ronstadt.

Miss Midler's reverently retro CD re-creates bygone days that weren't nearly as drab and lifeless as tendentious post-'60s social history pretends. True Clooney aficionados will still prefer to find original recordings of these '50s classics in second-hand racks or in new compilations. Still, for a new generation, this album could be the missing link to a less in-your-face, more optimistic and melodious past — a time when lyrical adult songs and the artists who sang them conjured up for a more innocent youth a magical sense of the richly emotional life that would soon be theirs.

Billboard Magazine
Originally Reviewed: October 12, 2003

Album Title: Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook
Producer(s): Barry Manilow, Robbie Buchanan
Genre: POP
Label/Catalog Number: Columbia 90350
Release Date: Sept. 30
Source: Billboard Magazine
Originally Reviewed: October 12, 2003

Standards have never been this much fun. "Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook," a tribute to the late singer's 1951-1958 heyday, reaches far beyond the typically maudlin collection of golden oldies, injecting humor and sarcasm into a crafty selection of chestnuts. The production role of Midler's original arranger, Barry Manilow (with Robbie Buchanan) is essential, with his persuasive versatility showcased on the lush "Tenderly," the bare-bones album opener and 1952 No. 1 "You'll Never Know" and the subtly folky "This Ole House." But the best moment comes in Midler and Manilow's duet "On a Slow Boat to China" (originally recorded with Clooney and Bing Crosby), which frolics like the good old daysClooney's and Midler/Manilow's. Songbook" is yet another milestone album in the career of one of pop culture's most enduring entertainers. Clooney must be swinging from on high. CT

Christian Science Monitor
Gregory M. Lamb
From the October 10, 2003 edition


Rosemary Clooney Rosemary Clooney: The Best of the Concord Years (Concord Records) and Bette Midler Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook (Columbia Records): Incomparable vocal stylist Rosemary Clooney, who died last year, spent 25 years recording pop standards at Concord Records. Its new two-CD set shows off her mature work: a confident, warm voice that can swing or torch it up with the best. Her sensitive renditions give songs like "How Long Has This Been Going On" and "Stormy Weather" back to songwriters Gershwin and Arlen.

Bette Midler is a diva of a later era, but her tribute CD shows how easily the Divine Miss M might have fit in with Clooney, Judy Garland, and Dinah Shore. It's a sweet confection that melts far too fast. Serious fans may want both, since only three songs overlap (compare Clooney's famous originals on "Mambo Italiano," "Hey There," and "White Christmas" with Midler's bright covers). -


Cincinnati Post - Oct. 1, 2003
By Nick Clooney
Midler's CD tribute to Rosie is a winner

Many of you reading these words are friends and fans of my late sister Rosemary. I have good news for you. The fiery singer and actress Bette Midler was also a friend and fan of Rosemary's. She, unlike the rest of us, was in a position to do something about that respect and affection.

As it happens, her one-time pianist and longtime collaborator Barry Manilow was Rosemary's fan and friend, too.

They have produced what I stubbornly continue to call an album which is a salute to Rosemary and her music. It is called "Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook." It is on Columbia Records, it is available as
of today, and it is terrific. Run, don't walk, to get it.

Bette and Barry picked a wide range of Rosemary's songs. Obviously, they picked some that were their personal favorites, but they did not neglect
Rosemary's biggest hits.

Bette's saucy treatment of "Hey There" would have had Rosemary's full approval. And the way she approached "This Ole House" would have made the writer of the song, Stuart Hamblen, very happy. As I have pointed out in this corner before, Mr. Hamblen never thought Rosemary gave it quite the
country touch he envisioned. He did, however, cash all the royalty checks. Bette gives the folk tune its full country due.

Throughout this fine album, Bette did Rosemary and the rest of us the great favor of not trying to copy her. Frankly, no one can do that, anyway.

Instead, Bette is Bette, which is quite a remarkable thing to be. The arrangements are uniformly excellent. They evoke the originals without ever mimicking them.

Something surprised me. When I saw the list of songs on the label, I assumed Bette would be most comfortable with the tempo and novelty hits. What blindsided me was her excellent -- dare I say sweet? -- treatment of Rosemary's trademark "Tenderly."

How to handle the duet "Slow Boat to China" with Bing Crosby? Just call on the talents of producer Barry Manilow.

How to handle the duet "Sisters" with our sister Betty Clooney? Just call on the talents of Linda Ronstadt, the most recent star of the Rosemary Clooney Music Festival in Maysville.

Incidentally, personal thanks to my colleague at The Post, Wayne Perry, who got his hands on an advance copy of the album -- er, CD -- and sent it to me. I have nearly worn it out.

If one may be allowed a professional observation, Miss Midler seems to be in excellent voice for this session, as good as I have heard in years.

Bette and Barry have chosen a couple of selections from an early album of Academy Award-winning songs, including the opener, "You'll Never Know."

Miss Midler, always courageous, does not even shrink from pop music's third rail, "White Christmas."

All in all, it is a wonderfully satisfying exposition of the gifts of Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, Linda Ronstadt and many top-notch musicians, all tipping the hat to the talent and life of Rosemary Clooney.

Perhaps only one mild disappointment. As some of you know, Mr. Manilow was a friend of the widow of the premier lyricist of his day, Johnny Mercer. Ginger Mercer drew Barry's attention to one of the poems Johnny left behind, a powerful evocation of life's twilight years. Barry put
music to it worthy of the giants of the classical pop era and the result was a poignant masterpiece, "When October Goes."

Barry took the song to Rosemary and I believe it one of the three best recordings of her later period. It would have been a great salute to that remarkable extension of her career into her mature years. But that is a wish, not a criticism.

Go out and buy it. That's what I'm going to do, to send to friends. Then sit down and listen with someone you love. That's what I am doing right now.

Nick Clooney writes for The Post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

By: Chuck Arnold
October 13, 2003

It's hard to imagine anyone who would have been better for this Rosemary Clooney tribute than the Divine Miss M. With just the right combination of swing and sass, Midler perfectly captures the spirit of the pop- jazz chanteuse, who rose to fame in the '50s and died at 74 last year. The disc reunites Midler with Barry Manilow, who produced her first two albums. Manilow coproduced this CD, plus he sings and plays piano on a playful, punchy version of "On a Slow Boat to China." Midler seems to be having a blast with these faithful yet fresh renditions, making Clooney classics like 1951's "Come on-a My House" inviting once again.

CD REVIEW: Cincinatti Post
Midler delivers the songs of 'girl singer' pal Clooney
By Rick Bird
Post staff reporter

Bette Midler, "Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook"

The Divine Miss M is out with the first tribute album to Rosemary Clooney since Clooney's death last year, and while the effort is not totally divine it does have plenty of pleasing moments.

The effort was arranged and produced by Barry Manilow, who produced Midler's earliest albums and also performed with Clooney on some projects in the '90s.

Manilow sings with Midler on a great campy version of "Slow Boat to China," reprising the Clooney-Bing Crosby performance from 1958.

But Manilow's arrangments are a little too slick and over-the-top at times, frequently coming off achingly sweet and lush.

To Midler's credit, she plays it fairly straight as a pop singer, staying true to Clooney's intimate delivery as Midler mostly resists the effort to resort to her cabaret camp roots. She does a tremendous job on "Hey There," "Tenderly" and "White Christmas."

She rightfully gets back into hamming it up on "Mambo Italiano."

The highlight of the album is Midler's thoroughly delightful duet with Linda Ronstadt on "Sisters," which Rosemary originally sang with her sister Betty for the 1954 movie "White Christmas."

The nagging problem for some longtime Clooney fans may be the selection of material, which stops short of being the "Rosemary Clooney Songbook."

The emphasis is on Clooney's '50s hits. So it doesn't include the exquisite arrangements she did later with Nelson Riddle, nor does it draw from Clooney's seminal Concord jazz recordings in the '70s.

Indeed, Clooney herself was known to grow to detest some of those '50s hits, which she felt were fluff.

She hardly ever performed "Come On-a My House" or "Mambo Italiano" in the last half of her career.

And Midler's inclusion of the twangy "This Ole House" is similarly puzzling.

Despite the quibbles, Midler delivers a heartfelt Clooney tribute with her voice as spirited and charismatic as ever and shows she is indeed a card-carrying member of Rosemary's "girl singer" club.


CD Review: U-Bulletin

Bette Midler, "Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook" ' -- Rosemary Clooney is one of America's beloved singers. With Midler on vocals and Barry Manilow working behind the scenes, the pair release a heartfelt tribute to the late songstress. Manilow does "A Slow Boat to China," ' and Linda Ronstadt prepares a fun duet with Midler on "Sisters."

By Gene Stout

The late Rosemary Clooney -- yep, George Clooney's aunt -- was among the top female vocalists of the 1950s. Bette Midler pays tribute to the warm and sometimes swinging songstress in an album that reunites Midler with her original piano accompanist and musical director, Barry Manilow. Together, M&M offer a sentimental look at the Clooney era with well-orchestrated versions "This Ole House," "Hey There" and "Mambo Italiano," as well as pop classics "Tenderly," "Come on-a My House," "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," and, of course, "White Christmas" -- just in time for the pre-Christmas buying season. (Gene Stout)


Barnes & Noble (AMG)
By William Pearl

Bette Midler and Barry Manilow -- contemporary musical legends touched by the personal warmth and grand vocal artistry of the late Rosemary Clooney -- have come together to pay homage to one of the greatest and most beloved American singers. Although he does sing on one of the album’s tracks (“A Slow Boat to China”), Manilow mainly sticks to behind-the-scenes roles as producer and arranger; the spotlight remains on Midler’s still strong, spunky, and affecting vocals. Clooney put her stamp on some endearing and enduring material over the years, and here Midler turns her sights on such signature numbers as the touching ballads “Hey There,” and “Tenderly,” as well as the humorous hits “Come On-a My House” and “Mambo Italiano.” (Linda Ronstadt has fun dueting with Midler on “Sisters”). As heartfelt as it is well executed, this pleasurable tribute reflects well on Midler, Manilow, and the absent lady of the hour, Rosemary Clooney. William Pearl
By Elisabeth Vincentelli

It's nice to see Bette Midler putting her spin on an American classic after less-than-convincing detours through adult-contemporary cheese. This tribute focuses on Rosemary Clooney in the early to mid-1950s--so we don't get any of the fabulous Nelson Riddle material--but it's a fairly strong offering. It was produced and arranged by Midler's old musical director, Barry Manilow--who actually dueted with Clooney on a couple of songs in the 1990s and here replaces Bing Crosby on the duet "On a Slow Boat to China." Mostly, the CD is about hits: "Hey There" and "White Christmas" are done in straightforward manner, while Linda Ronstadt fills in for Rosemary's actual sister Betty on a slinky version of "Sisters." Happily, Midler plays "Come On-A My House" down instead of up (the old Bette would have milked its comic aspect) but the singer lets loose on "Mambo Italiano." That's pretty much the only time the Divine Miss M peeks out from behind Clooney's elegant persona, and it's a delight. --Elisabeth Vincentelli

Entertainment Weekly
By Kristina Feliciano
10-03-2003, pp 72.

Nonessential but not to be written off entirely, thanks to some winning interpretations: "On a Slow Boat to China" (a duet with Barry Manilow, one of the CD's coproducers) is crisply merry, and "Tenderly" is suffused with dusky restraint. Midler is clearly in her element with these songs, which Clooney recorded in the '50s. But she might have avoided novelties like "Mambo Italiano"--if you thought its modest charm had already been exhausted, this labored rendition could bring out your resentful side. C+

Lexington Herald-Leader
Posted on Fri, Oct. 17, 2003

There are moments on Songbook when it's tough to accept that Midler is actually the one singing. A vocalist of great sensitivity who often loses her way in tacky camp, Midler is on good behavior here. Part of the reason, tough as it is to admit, is a reunion with Barry Manilow as a producer. More than 30 years ago, Manilow produced Midler's first two albums, before his own career as one of pop's more maudlin stylists erupted. The tribute takes a few risks, as in its placing of breezy banjo by country/bluegrass great Herb Pederson alongside synthesized whistles on This Ole House. Tenderly, with more expected orchestration, will please Clooney die-hards. Not everything works. The Midler/Manilow duet on Slow Boat to China is total corn. The swing on In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening sounds oddly stiff. Still, it's been ages since Ms. M has sounded anywhere near this divine.

Miami Herald
Oct. 17, 2003

Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook (Columbia) ***

Singing standards has always been Bette Midler's forte, unlike other aging popsters looking for career rejuvenating (Rod Stewart, Boz Scaggs, Aaron Neville, Cyndi Lauper). Her return to the genre is also a reunion with producer-arranger Barry Manilow on a swinging jazz-pop tribute to the late Rosemary Clooney.

Manilow knows Midler's strengths and on this 30-minute, refreshingly flab-free CD, he plays to these and the two team for a playful duet of On a Slow Boat to China.

Fans of adult pop should consider this one a best Bette.

From Metro Weekly
Babs or Bette
Barbra Streisand falters with bland love songs,
Bette Midler bats Clooney out of the park
by Doug Rule
Published on 11/20/2003

Barbra Streisand poses bestride a film camera in a newly released Annie Liebowitz photo. But the noted filmmaker hasn’t made a new movie. Instead, Streisand’s released another high-concept album, this time one made up of songs from movies that have inspired her through her 40 years in the biz -- and none of them her own. Too bad she wasn’t inspired by at least one mid-tempo movie song, or one with any real spark of energy. As it is there’s little in this mushy mish-mash of a collection to inspire the rest of us, starting with the highly uninspiring title -- a better moniker could have been snagged from one of the album’s songs: "How Do You Keep the Music Playing? "


Streisand answers that question by loading up an album -- her sixtieth -- with too-precise renditions of sad love songs and slow love songs and haunting love songs. Every song is overproduced and overwrought. Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly sounded nowhere near as go-heavy and gloppy as Streisand on "Moon River, " for example. At another point, Streisand teeters on the brink of losing her studied composure. In "Calling You, " she shouts in a shrill voice, "oh can you hear me? " -- pronounced "may, " showing that she’s learned a trick or two about modern-day pop pronunciation. It’s an outburst that otherwise mars her best cover, taken from the underappreciated film Baghdad Café.

Is she really worried no one’s listening? Well, she doesn’t make it easy. Actually, she makes it as difficult as possible. So "inspired " was she by three of the 12 songs here that she decided to change them, in each case adding lyrics. It’s not clear why she did this, especially on "Calling You, " where she conscripted composer Bob Telson to add a third verse that doesn’t add any meaning. Did she add it so that she wouldn’t sound quite so desperate shouting at us to listen several bars earlier?

It shows real chutzpah that she even approached Telson, composer Andre Previn ("More In Love With You ") and lyricist Johnny Mercer ("Emily "), asking them to alter their work. It’s Streisand, so of course they can’t say no. And, being Streisand, they must have assumed her natural chutzpah would shine through in her versions of their songs, or that she would work with her arrangers to make these songs actually sing.

If only. The album is a slog, uniform in tempo and feeling. Don’t read her liner notes expecting a break from her sentimental mood. She’s added comments about each song, written in blog-style navel-gazing, using precious language. She recounts when her "sweet little nine-year-old Bijon-Frise " had to be "put to sleep "; alludes to her "little crush " on ‘50s actor Tony Franciosa; and mentions a song from her wedding, performed "with a chamber orchestra arrangement by my friend Marvin Hamlisch. "


Streisand’s album is just one of many to appear with special appeal to gays in advance of the 2003 end-of-year holiday season. You’ll find a better bet in Bette Midler’s take on the swinging ‘50s songs of Rosemary Clooney, who died last year. Two of the arrangers who worked with Streisand, Jorge Calandrelli and Rob Buchanan, also worked with Midler. But you won’t hear any similarities as you listen to Midler’s winning new album, which is regrettably short at just thirty minutes.

Bette Midler sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook

Bette sasses up Clooney standards, striding confidently through most of them, but not all: She knocks the wind right out of the Clooney standard "Come-on A My House " with an unthinkably inappropriate smooth jazz programmed beat as accompaniment. Still, she outdoes Clooney’s original on "This Ole House, " stripping the song down to bare-bones bluegrass that adds shades of moodiness.

Midler worked on the album with Barry Manilow, who also accompanies her on the jaunty "On A Slow Boat to China, " subbing for the original’s Bing Crosby. It’s a reunion for Midler and Manilow, who started out performing together thirty years ago at a gay bathhouse, and later on Midler’s first two albums.

On her best behavior Midler exudes the same playful charm that Clooney did. Nowhere is that more on display than on "Sisters, " one of two Irving Berlin songs featured from the Clooney-starring film White Christmas. Midler is joined by, of all people, Linda Rondstadt, who hams it up alongside Midler, singing lines tailor-made for dueting drag queens. "Many men have tried to split us up but no one can, " they sing in their best put-on girly-girl voices. It’s a hoot.

Chicago Sun Times
Spin Control

What a glorious tribute indeed to one legend from another. Not a misstep along the way, as Midler's much- matured and deeply rich vocals faithfully take charge of some of Clooney's most beloved melodies from 1951-58.

On board for the sweet, sweet ride is her long-ago arranger-piano player -- one Barry Manilow -- who co-produced and arranged the whole fabulous shebang. Manilow also adds his vocal chops to a playful "On a Slow Boat to China" which aptly showcases the dynamic duo's ability to have fun with a song and with each other's artistic sensibilities.

With an 84-piece orchestra in tow, Midler is bold and brassy on "Come On A My House" one moment, and tugging at your heartstrings on "You'll Never Know" the next.

There's no stopping her by the time she gets to "Mambo Italiano," which plays out like the sexy, jazzed romp it was born to be. She's a spitfire on the big band duet of "Sisters" with Linda Rondstadt. And her sweetly intimate turn "White Christmas" would have melted Irving Berlin's heart. Brava, Bette!

Cleveland Free Times -
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Retrovision :
The Divine Miss C : Bette Midler is the Rose — Clooney, that is
By Keith A. Joseph

BETTE MIDLER DOES NOT HAVE many admirers in the almost exclusively heterosexual domain of jazz guardians. The only reference she rates in Will Friedwald's book Jazz Singing is as an “attitude-heavy harridan.”

That's because the jazz boys have little tolerance for camp and will
brook no subversion in their divas. They expect them to fall into one of
two categories: the icy, preferably blonde, purveyors of ennui and regret (Peggy Lee) and the exquisitely tuned singing machines (Ella Fitzgerald).

Midler comes with no jazz pedigree. Never a band singer, never honed her craft in smoky dives, never beaten by a hot-tempered trumpeter, no drug busts, no breakdowns and no egomaniac driving her into the booby hatch.

Instead, she chose to control her own destiny. She started her career
playing one of Tevye's daughters on Broadway and went on to spread gay euphoria at the Continental Baths. She managed to make the Andrews Sisters' “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” a hit all over again when the rest of the pop world was busy “Stayin' Alive.”

Before the iron curtain of sexual mores collapsed, all show-biz dames
were divided between red-hot mama whores and virginal girls next door. Midler took her cue from the former. She appropriated Sophie Tucker's vaudeville bawdiness and artfully blended it with Mae West's ability to satirize sex without seeming smutty. Vocally, she upgraded Lotte Lenya's defiant Teutonic growl into Americana. The secret of the Divine Miss M's success is that under all the ersatz raunch, you can sense the wink of a shrewd Jewish bourgeois matron performing party tricks. She can silence a heckler with “Shut your hole, honey — mine makes money” without alienating the Kiwanis Club contingent.

Her career has been a roller coaster ride. In her concerts she essayed a madcap mermaid. On screen she's played everything from a coked-out rock diva ( The Rose ) to a loquacious Jacqueline Susann ( Isn't She Great ). There was also a failed TV series and an attempt to climb Mt. Everest when she played a gloriously sung but far too likable Madame Rose in a TV version of Gypsy .

Now, reunited with her former musical mentor, Barry Manilow, she's
focused her attention on another Rose. Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook (Sony/Columbia) would strike a Retrovisionist as being as perverse as Madonna doing an MTV tribute to Doris Day. Yet where Madonna is like one of those Gypsy strippers eternally hunting for a gimmick, Midler is an inspired artist trying to solve a riddle: How does a professional floozy pay homage to one of the most wholesome singing sweethearts of the 1950s? It's a dizzying paradox. The most natural model for the gravel-voiced, Hawaiian-born Jewish bombshell would be the world-weary, post-nervous breakdown, zaftig Clooney of the '70s.

Midler and Manilow, however, have focused on the novelty-singing,
ultra-sincere den mother of the Eisenhower years, when Clooney was Bing Crosby's earnest Yuletide consort, the Mitch Miller songbird who inspired middle-aged bridge players to mambo, and club ladies to weep into their Jell-O molds.

The first thing the shrewd Barry and Bette do is to undo the mayhem of Mitch Miller, Clooney's maniacal Svengali, whom Friedwald characterizes as “the genius par excellence of bad music.” The strategy of the album entails achieving just the right balance of knowing when to spin kitsch into camp, and when to revere Rosie.

Midler transforms Clooney's hit “Come On-A My House” from a Cub Scout bribe into early-'60s Lesley Gore bubblegum. “Mambo Italiano” is updated into '70s disco-lite, with which one can envision Midler livening up a gay cotillion. Clooney and Crosby's original duet of “On a Slow Boat to China” was destroyed by Sy Oliver's overly busy and hurried arrangement, which annihilated Frank Loesser's fine melody. The New Age remake of the duet with Manilow is sexier and wiser; it sounds like a seductive vamp kidding her gay best buddy with mock flirtation. Most importantly, the song is simplified and the melody restored.

When it comes time for the more serious numbers, Midler reveals her
earth-mother side by rendering the plangent WWII ballad “You'll Never Know” in the past tense and turning it into an elegy to the recently departed Clooney. “White Christmas,” sung with the rarely heard verse, is as open-hearted and direct as Irving Berlin intended it.

Midler has pulled off a sly bit of retro subversion by creating an album
warm and nostalgic enough to delight the listeners of any geezer radio station and also, naughtily enough, to please the irony queens at the local piano bar.

The Philippine Star
Bette the singer
By Baby A. Gil

Bette Midler is such a wonderful actress people often forget she is a great song artist, too. Think Wind Beneath My Wings from the movie Beaches or In My Life from the soundtrack of For the Boys. Maybe it is because she is an actress that she is able "to locate the heart of a song and touch the heart of the listener." That is how Barry Manilow, who played piano for Bette during their early days, describes her in his note on the cover of the album Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook.

Produced by Barry and Robbie Buchanan, the album has Bette paying tribute to one of the greatest girl singers of all time. Barry continues, "Rosemary Clooney also had this gift. When I was thinking about who we could pay tribute to and at the same time, reinvent these splendid songs Rosemary first introduced to the world, Bette was my first .and only choice."

When I was a child, long before I became aware of Ella or Billie or Peggy, there already was Rosemary. She must have been my mother's favorite because the radio seemed to play her songs all the time and one of my earliest memories was hearing my Mom humming Tenderly around the house. Then I saw White Christmas and maybe because she looked good in that red costume, I thought she was the star of the movie and not Bing Crosby. I came to appreciate her more as I grew up, marveling at the sureness of her tones, that unique catch in the throat in her singing, the warmth in her voice. I
enjoy listening to Ella and the other females in that esteemed company but Rosie's CDs gets played more often in my room.

Bette does not sound like Rosie but she comes close. She radiates sincerity in every word and I get goosebumps listening to the beautiful songs they chose to include in the album, each one rearranged and mixed to perfection. You'll Never Know, This Ole House, On a Slow Boat to China, a rousing number where Bette duets with Barry, Hey There, Tenderly, Come On-A My House, Mambo Italiano, Sisters, a duet with another girl singer I admire a lot, Linda Ronstadt, Memories of You, In the Cool, Cool Cool of the Evening and White Christmas.

The only gripe I have about this album is that there are only 11 cuts. I
want more. I want more Rosie songs sang by Bette and produced by Barry and Robbie. Where are Half as Much, Love You Didn't Do Right By Me, Mixed Emotions or Count Your Blessings. I am sure they could have even thought of doing something new to reinvent Rosie's Botch-a-Me. But when you think of all the love and artistry that went into every song, I say 11 is more than enough.

I am sure lots of you out there will enjoy this one.

CD Review: Washington Blade
The Washington Blade
Dec. 12, 2003

Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook
Like Bette Midler, this album is short and sassy.

Perhaps the best of the bunch, the Divine Miss M joins Barry Manilow, everyone’s favorite gay icon and her original piano player and musical director, to pay tribute to one of the first divas of cabaret in “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook.” Clooney died in June 2002.

Columbia Records’ quality compilation starts slow and steady, with Clooney’s “You’ll Never Know,” and “This Ole House.” The set picks up when Midler croons “On a Slow Boat to China” with her trademark harmonies. And it positively sizzles mid-album, when she belts out very urban renditions of “Come On-A My House,” and “Mambo Italiano.”

In addition to her duet with Manilow on “On a Slow Boat to China,” Midler teams up with Linda Ronstadt on “Sisters.”

The album ends on a sweet, though not syrupy, note with “White Christmas,” which Clooney originally recorded in 1954.

CD Review:

Midler’s tribute, with arrangements and even some vocal help from her old pal and bathhouse accompanist Barry Manilow, isn’t a substitute for Clooney’s originals but will stand beside them nicely. The selections focus on Clooney’s 1950s pop songbird era, when she recorded some fine tunes that were worthy of her talents (“Tenderly”), some silly novelties that weren’t (“Come on-a My House”), and some that have become such a part of our cultural—and camp!—sensibilities that they defy criticism (“Sisters”). Midler does pretty well with songs from all these categories. Her performance of “Tenderly” is outstanding—passionate and heartfelt—and she’s appropriately torchy on “Memories of You” but is not quite as warm as Clooney on another great ballad, “You’ll Never Know.” She’s fine on the novelties “Come on-a My House” and “Mambo Italiano,” although we didn’t really need to hear those songs again; much more fun are her rollicking rendition of the pseudogospel “This Ole House” and her humorous banter with Manilow on the swinging “Slow Boat to China,” a highlight of the disc. Of course, no Clooney homage would be complete without tunes from the movie White Christmas, and Midler’s excellent versions of “Sisters” with Linda Ronstadt and the title carol, including its oft-deleted verse, will remind fans why they loved the flick in the first place and may inspire the uninitiated to check out Rosie and Bing this holiday season. And if this disc inspires listeners to pick up some Clooney recordings, both the pop stuff from the ’50s and her later work as a gifted jazz interpreter, so much the better—you Bette! Trudy Ring

CD Review: Memphis Commercial Appeal


Even though numerous record companies are re-releasing Clooney's songs, Midler's efforts and apparent understanding of the "popular" songs Clooney made famous in the 1950s bring an energy to what might have been thrown away as dated in the rush to applaud and appreciate the late singer for the jazz that made her popular in the late 20th century. Songs that saw brief shining moments are recreated with bright arrangements and a sense of fun that makes "Mambo Italiano," "This Ole House," and "Come On-A My House," perfectly palatable to people who pooh-poohed and put-down their parents' generation and the singers who sang for them.

Bette Midler, the divine Miss M, continues to show us what a well-trained voice and slick professionalism can accomplish. If the accent needs to be sharp, it is. If the tone is country, then her voice carries just enough country to pull it off. And if a nudge and a wink are required, she pulls it off. Best of all, Midler sounds like she is having fun doing it.

And the pair of songs lifted from the film "White Christmas," including title song and the duet "Sisters," have new arrangements. Adding Linda Ronstadt to the duet was an inspired choice as their voices mesh while adding excellent shading to the notes. - LARRY ROBERTS

Carl F Gauze

Here's a quick gift idea for those relatives who don't wear black exclusively or have fewer than five piercings. Many of you know that Rosemary Clooney was one of the great voices of the mid-20th century, and mastered most of the post-war styles from Broadway to Country to Lounge. One of the great voices of the late-20th century, Bette Midler, teams with Barry Manilow and an enormous orchestra to perform some of Clooney's best songs. The combination of Midler's vocals and Manilow's piano playing place these covers in beautiful, lush arrangements, while preserving most of the original impact of Clooney's styling. Every song is a stunner, even if you're not in tune with this retro vocal styling. Pour yourself a Sapphire Martini and drop this in the player. You'll groove to the Broadway sounds of "You'll Never Know" or the fakey pastiche of "Mambo Italian," or pretend you're at the classiest Hoedown east of 6th avenue with country standard "This Ole House."

These are standards, or very close, written by Irving Berlin and Hoagie Carmichael and a handful of lesser know but vitally significant American song writers. Your parents, and theirs as well, listened to this sound, and there's nothing short of global warming or the RIAA that will keep your great grandchildren from buying this record when they reach "that certain age." Yeah, you'd rather be caught voting Republican than buying anything with Manilow on it, but it's for Mom. Secretly, you'll love it too, and drop it in the music rotation for that classy New Year's party you've always wanted.

CD Review: From Malaysia!
Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook
Artist: Bette Midler
Reviewer: Goh Ee Koon

THIS album is all about nostalgia as the irrepressible Bette Midler ropes in her old piano accompanist Barry Manilow (they worked the New York circuit together in the early day of their careers) and pays tribute to one of their musical heroes.

The dominant style of this album is quite different from that of the girl-next-door vibe exuded by the late singer. The orchestrations are downright opulent, and Midler and Manilow (who co-produces this album) offer a robust set that suits Midler’s powerful voice. One of the strongest aspects of this album is Midler’s style, which is warm, big-hearted and full of life. She brings a charming earthiness to most of the songs.

The album is gives us an interesting insight into Midler’s and Manilow’s comfortable relationship, which is apparently still thriving after all these years (the banter in On a Slow Boat to China bears testament to this). Some hip shaking occurs in the robust Mambo Italiano as well as Sisters, on which Midler duets with Linda Ronstadt. Their voices play off admirably against each other and the song comes off as an elegant remake.

The best songs, though are ones Midler tackles alone. Great examples of these include You’ll Never Know, Hey There and a sure-voiced Tenderly. Nice for a foot-tapping evening, this.

by Christopher Loudon
Artist: Midler, Bette
Title of CD: Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook
Record Label: Sony

It's taken far too long for someone to get around to paying tribute to Rosemary Clooney. Surprisingly (in a good way), that someone turned out to be Bette Midler. Safely sidestepping anything that might smack of jazz, the Divine Miss M. stays focused on the mid-'50s hitmaker Clooney throughout Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook (Columbia). Fortunately, several of Clooney's signature tunes-"Hey There," "Tenderly," "You'll Never Know," "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening"-also happen to be terrific songs. Reuniting with former accompanist Barry Manilow (who, literally he claims, dreamed up the idea and coproduced the album with Robbie Buchanan) has done Midler a world of good. In recent interviews she's conceded that for once she abandoned her control freakishness and let Manilow run the show. Wise decision. Gone is all the scenery-chewing, Streisandesque grandiosity. In its place is a refreshingly muted Midler who comes remarkably close to approximating Clooney's distinctive phrasing and inimitable sincerity. We'll forgive her getting overly rambunctious (sounding suddenly like Bette 'N the Hood) on the goofy "Mambo Italiano," especially since her "Memories of You" is so softly reverential and her sugary duet with Linda Ronstadt on "Sisters" is so relentlessly adorable.