Capitalizing on the success of her 2008 compilation Jackpot! The Best Bette, her highest-charting U.K. album in 15 years, the legendary Bette Midler returns with another repackaged collection of material from her extensive back catalog. However, you won't find the likes of "Wind Beneath My Wings," "From a Distance," or "The Rose" on Memories of You, which eschews her biggest hits in favor of 15 of the Great American Songbook interpretations she recorded between 1973 and 2006. Her soundtrack to For the Boys takes center stage, with five tracks taken from the 1991 film in which Midler and James Caan portrayed two USO entertainers traveling and performing across the Korean, Vietnam, and Second World Wars. In addition to musical numbers from St. Louis Woman ("Come Rain or Come Shine") and The Fleet's In ("I Remember You," later made famous by Frank Ifield's yodeling country version), there are two tracks originally recorded in 1934 by Hal Kemp ("For All We Know") and Rudy Vallée ("P.S. I Love You") and Memories of You's sole original composition, the beautiful orchestral ballad "Dreamland." Her 2005 Barry Manilow-produced tribute album to Peggy Lee is also well represented here with High, Wide and Handsome number "The Folks Who Live on the Hill," the title track to the Sammy Davis, Jr. Broadway musical Mr. Wonderful, and the Lieber & Stoller-penned "Is That All There Is?" included alongside a track previously only available on the Barnes & Noble edition of the album, "He Needs Me." Elsewhere, there is a song apiece from 1973's self-titled sophomore album ("Drinkin' Again"), 1990's Some People's Lives (a medley of Rodgers & Hart jazz standard "He Was Too Good to Me" and Brownstone showpiece "Since You Stayed Here"), Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook (the title track), and her most recent studio release, 2006's Cool Yule ("What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"), while there's also a rendition of Fred Astaire's The Sky's the Limit "wandering song" "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)," which she famously performed on the penultimate edition of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Her loyal dedicated fan base patiently waiting for a new studio album may feel slightly cheated by yet another retrospective. But Memories of You, whose track list was personally selected by Midler, is the ideal chance to showcase her uncanny ability to interpret material from any period, and in the process provides an intriguing musical history lesson for those not fully acquainted with the '30s/'40s American classics.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien