It’s been 44 years since Bette Midler released her debut album and a mere six since Rumer released hers, but if they share a common ground it’s as fine interpreters of song – be they standards or new compositions and, in Rumer’s case, some rather lovely self-penned tunes.
Midler has the edgier voice, as this deluxe reissue of her iconic The Divine Miss M debut record attests. It’s a voice full of emotion and humour and pain and longing and coquettishness and the album is suitably, wonderfully all over the place.
Bette picked up the Divine nickname when she performed in the gay bathhouses of New York, performing to a bunch of men in towels and with Barry Manilow accompanying her on the piano. A couple of years later this pint-sized sensation landed a record contract but, as Midler recalls in the new sleeve notes, the early recording sessions weren’t up to much. They were too polished so she went back and redid a lot of the tracks live, resulting in a record alive with Bette’s energy and emotion.
Listened to now, in a masterful remaster, it still sounds fresh and iconoclastic, kicking off with a sultry Do You Want To Dance and ending with a chirpy Friends. In between there are classics like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and ballads like Hello In There plus a bonkers cover of Leader Of The Pack that speeds up, slows down, speeds up again and races to a noisy finish. Like the album as a whole it’s a bit mad, full of passion and something only Bette could pull off.
The two-disc set comes with single edits, demos, alternate versions, and a fabulously glittery sleeve.
Midler would go on to appear on Burt Bacharach’s TV show. Rumer has bettered Bette there because the legendary songwriter has performed with her, sung her praises, had her over for tea – which makes her new album This Girl’s In Love something of a thank-you to Burt.
And what a glorious thank-you it is. Having done a couple of Bacharach covers before, it was only a matter of time before the singer whose voice has favourably been compared to the late, great Karen Carpenter would get around to a full album of Bacharach-David covers.
Hal did the lyrics and they’re among the most evocative in the history of pop. Couple the sentiment of the words to Close To You, The Look Of Love and ten other classics with Burt’s gorgeous melodies, throw in Rumer’s lovely-as-chocolate voice and you’ve got a truly delightful album.
Highlights include the lesser-known Balance Of Nature and the much-covered Walk On By but the whole thing is exquisite. Pour yourself a glass of wine, press play and swoon.
Words: Simon Button