Midler’s latest album lacks old excitement
By Jim Carnes
February 22, 1976
Some performers, once they find a formula that works, stick with it through successive albums. That’s what Emmylou Harris has done (we’ll discuss her latest. Elite Hotel, a little later), and that’s what Tom Jones (Memories Don’t Leave Like People Do) and Black Oak Arkansas (Lite Mutha) have done.
Not so, however. Bette Midler. The only thing standard about her latest album Songs for the New Depression (Atlantic SD18155). is the way the singer will attack any material, old or new. On this set/songs range from ‘Ol Cape Cod to Strangers in the Night with a duet with Bob Dylan on his Buckets of Rain thrown in.
Strangers opens the set. and its disco beat is a little unsettling at first. It takes some getting used to, but finally becomes acceptable. I Don’t Want The Night to End, which follows, is an exquisite little song, while Mr. Rockefeller is a mere filler piece.
Old Cape Cod is a beautiful old tune preserved intact with quite a nice voice, but the undisputed high point comes with Buckets of Rain. The energy and vocal interplay is good, and Dylan gets in a nice dig at another male singer who was supposed to sing with Ms. Midler before, when he says. “I think Paul Simon shouldda done this.”
Love Says It’s Waiting is an extremely short selection with a nice string arrangement but nothing else exceptional going for it.
Side Two opens with a quiet, lovely song with really effective sound effects. Shiver Me Timbers is excellently produced with just the right amount of sea gull sounds in the background. It is followed by Samedi at Vendredi, a samba with French lyrics that Ms. Midler cowrote.
No Jestering is a humorous song that fills a gap but contributes little, while Tragedy gets a treatment that suggests the singer’s work on another rock standard on a previous album. It fares well.
Marahuana is a funny little ode to “grass,” praising its power to help love. The album ends with a ballad, Let Me Just Follow Behind.
There is not the same excitement about this album as each of the performer’s other two created in the listener, but there is some quite nice material here. It has been a couple of years since Bette Midler released an album, and while one might have expected a bit more, Songs for the New Depression is not a major disappointment.