Release Date: Nov 4, 2014
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Vocal, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock
Bette Midler's 2014 effort, It's the Girls!, finds the legendary vocalist paying homage to female girl groups from the '40s, '50s, and '60s. Never one to be underestimated, however, Midler also brings the homage full circle with a reworking of TLC's 1995 R&B hit "Waterfalls." Midler's 14th studio album and 25th album overall, It's the Girls! follows up her successful compilation Memories of You. Though it represents an all-new effort in the studio, It's the Girls! nonetheless feels like a retrospective, a return to the cabaret and theatrical style of her early career.
The reason to make an album of girl-group covers, as Bette Midler has here, is also the biggest challenge: Everyone loves "Be My Baby," so you'd better nail it. The good news is that Midler has a voice that's rich enough to reanimate any pop standard – see her showstopping version of the Shirelles' "Baby It's You," which she reinvents as a gospel-flavored ballad. She cannily includes some new choices, too, like a low, silky take on TLC's "Waterfalls" – a Nineties hit that she makes utterly her own – alongside the work of the Sixties queens.
Midler has lengthy form when it comes to celebrating girl groups, with stage shows stretching as far back as the 70s incorporating a comic version of The Shangri-Las’ Leader Of The Pack. Midler’s own rendition of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy became something of a signature tune for her, especially among fans unfamiliar with The Andrews Sisters’ wartime original. Here she flits across the decades for 15 new recordings, dropping in again on both of the above acts (Give Him A Great Big Kiss, Bei Mir Bist Du Schon), and moving as far forward as the 90s to take on TLC’s Waterfalls.
Throughout her career, Bette Midler has proven herself a versatile vocalist capable of tackling everything from bawdy cabaret to saccharine-sweet adult contemporary fare. On It’s the Girls!, Midler finds her muse in the works of girl groups from the Andrews and Boswell Sisters through to the Ronettes and Chiffons through to TLC. It’s a somewhat scatter-shot approach to the notion of the girl group sound that ultimately works perhaps a bit better than it should given the disparity of the acts represented.
For her first album in eight years, Bette Midler scores with a fizzy and fun tribute to the classic girl-group sound. With the help of producer Marc Shaiman (“Hairspray”), Midler is both reverent and mischievous on “It’s the Girls.” Midler offers faithful renditions of classics like the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and the Shangri-Las’ “Give Him a Great Big Kiss,” while reworking others to fine effect, including a countrified take on the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” and a mournful piano rendition of TLC’s “Waterfalls” — mercifully, sans an attempt at Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes’ rap. Midler teams up with pal Darlene Love for a swinging duet on “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” from Love’s Crystals.
“Storytone” is, for one thing, Neil Young’s latest experiment in arranging: 10 new songs recorded with orchestral or big-band accompaniment, played and sung together, live in studios. It comes in single- and double-album versions; the double adds solo performances of the same songs. The orchestral tracks provide a panoramic backdrop of sustained strings and swirls of harp, while the big-band horns punch up songs grounded in Chicago blues.