After a streaming flow of records for two decades, Bette Midler took a five-year hiatus. "Studio recording vacation" would make a better term, because the energetic entertainer never stays too still. She performed as Gypsy Rose Lee for a Gypsy television musical and performed the bulk of the soundtrack For the Boys, for which she also won a best actress Academy Award nod. If it seemed like Midler was straying in vast directions, she brought a very focused album together in 1995 with Bette of Roses. Said to have personally chosen the track listing from hundreds and hundreds of songs, Midler brings a very poignant and inspiring set this time round; with less emphasis on laughs, it almost works as an extension of 1990's Some People's Lives. It appears Midler is an admirer of singer/songwriter Maria McKee, who provides the demanding and grasping "To Deserve You" which spawned a club version hit remix, as well as "The Last Time" with charming vocal lifts which are as elastic as Midler herself. Andy Hill, who gave Celine Dion the spiritual gospel ballad "Call the Man," works a similar stylish ballad called "As Dreams Go By," which ranks among Midler's greatest. Bette Midler is the kind of woman who has the voice and charisma to carry herself through any song; so as long as her material is worth its weight, the album will succeed. There is a certain degree of sentimentality on Bette of Roses, but it never turns drippy. One of the best examples is "I Know This Town," which takes on a subject as heartaching as a childhood town (and especially the childhood memories) destroyed because of urban civilization. Playing mid-tempo, it works because of its core truth and doesn't manipulate with teary additions. Bette of Roses, like so many of the Divine Miss M's offerings, is cause for celebration.
Bette of Roses Review
by Peter Fawthrop