American standards delivered with Midler’s characteristic charm.
Adrian Edwards 2010-12-08
Craftily repackaged as to suggest a new album with Ms Midler airbrushed on the sleeve, this release pulls together a selection of American standards from previous albums to remind us of what the star does best, coaxing the listener into a familiar lyric with a fresh interpretation of her very own.
Her delivery is patently sincere, and newly written anecdotal notes on each song reveal what each one means to her. The sequence of songs works well, and for all the familiarity of several of these titles there’s much to tempt the listener eagerly onward. And though there’s a preponderance of slow numbers rich with plush arrangements, everything is beautifully recorded.
Midler sings four Johnny Mercer lyrics, two of them bar ballads, plus the ubiquitous Come Rain or Come Shine and I Remember You – here, a dream-like start gives way to one of the more upbeat arrangements, where she’s joined by a small choral group. But no credit is given to them, or indeed the conductor/arrangers of these numbers.
Artists are remembered, too. There are three songs that Peggy Lee either introduced or popularised, including Is That All There Is? (written for her by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller), Mr. Wonderful and the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein arrangement The Folks Who Live On the Hill. It’s good to be reminded, too, of Gordon Jenkins’ songwriting credits with P.S. I Love You and that Frank Loesser rarity, What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? on which, as Midler writes, the singer is hoping for the best and bracing herself for the worst. In a lesser-known Rodgers and Hart song, He Was Too Good to Me, she makes a special point of observing the tune as written and relishing its upward and downward sweep at the words "He would have brought me the sun / Making me smile / That was his fun".
Across all these songs, Midler explores often subtle ranges of emotion with her characteristic charm and attention to detail.