[Dixielandjazz] Everybody Wants To Get Into The Act

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Oct 31 06:38:05 PST 2005

Interesting that Ms. Midler should put out a "jazzy", if not jazz album of
songs associated with Peggy Lee. (And that Columbia will bet on the album's
commercial success) Is this more proof that, in what many describe as a
musical wasteland, there is a growing audience for a fresh approach to
"tuneful" music? 

Note especially paragraph 2 and Mr. Holden's thoughts about "translating"
the past into current terms rather than "assuming" the past persona.

"Is That All There Is?" (to it) :-) VBG


Critics' Choice - New CD's - THE NEW YORK TIMES - October 31, 2005

"Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook" (Columbia) - STEPHEN HOLDEN

Part of being a pop singer, and of being Bette Midler in particular, is
playing "let's pretend": all right, boys and girls, who are we going to be
today? Will we play it for laughs or for tears? On the "Peggy Lee Songbook,"
Ms. Midler plays it for both, as she revisits 10 songs associated with that
great Benny Goodman vocalist turned legendary nightclub singer.

For Ms. Midler, whose personality is as strong and defined as any legend she
could honor, playing let's pretend doesn't mean literally assuming another
persona, but affectionately translating an alien mystique into her own
language. Where Ms. Lee, who died in 2002, could become dangerously and
masochistically tangled in a torch song, Ms. Midler's residual optimism and
humor reassure you, even when it's pouring rain, that the moment's misery is
only a glitch in a fair-weather world.

It's not that Ms. Midler can't dive into the depths of a ballad. Her version
of "The Folks Who Live on the Hill," the dreamy Jerome Kern-Oscar
Hammerstein fantasy of marital bliss, is as deep and touching as Ms. Lee's
classic rendition on her Frank Sinatra-conducted album, "The Man I Love."
But what Ms. Lee evoked as a wistful faraway vision of contentment, Ms.
Midler makes palpably present.

On the lighter side, Ms. Midler's brassy-sexy "Fever" is an irresistible
goof. And "Is That All There Is?," in which Lee embraced disappointment and
nihilism with a sly, sinister wink, is inverted into an exhilarating
celebration of living in the moment.

The album, produced by Ms. Midler's old pal Barry Manilow allows the singer
and the songs room to breathe; it swings, and Ms. Midler's vocals burst with
confidence and generosity of spirit. 

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