Bette of Roses (1995)
Billboard peak: # 45
Tracks: "I Know This Town" - "In This Life"
- "Bottomless" - "To Comfort You" -
"To Deserve You" - "The Last Time" - "Bed
Of Roses" - "The Perfect Kiss" -
"As Dreams Go By" - "It's Too Late" - "I
Believe In You"
To Audio Samples
Richard Corliss, Time Magazine
every happy ending in country songs lies an answer song about how horrible heaven
must be. Back in the pop world, though, not all love songs are about love left
for dead; many are about born-again amour. On Bette Midler's new album, Bette
of Roses, the songs are mostly upbeat--and the usually caustic Miss M. appears
to be serious, dammit, when she sings, "The only dream that mattered had
come true/ In this life I was loved by you." Optimism being ever suspect
in the arts, Midler has been dished much scorn for the album. Well, pooh to those
for whom a bad attitude is a singer's only prerequisite. The songs here may not
be instant standards, but they allow Midler to show that in her 50th year her
voice is in great shape, able to climb whole registers without sweating, and find
both heart and ache in the lexicon of pop ballads.
Unknown, People Magazine
the five years since her last studio album, Bette Midler has grown so familiar
from TV and movies
(Scenes from a Mall, For the Boys) that it's easy to confuse the Midler persona--who
might be Barbra Streisand's fun andunpretentious kid sister--with Midler the singer.
Her new effort reminds us that she is a lovely vocalist who can handle pop ballads
with a delicate but sure grasp, as she shows on "The Perfect Kiss" and
"I Believe in You." Maria McKee's "To Deserve You" is a brisker
ballad, propelled by winds and synthesized strings and Midler 's hesitant questing
after a man. The lyrics are daring--confessing a woman's fear that she's "too
demanding" and "weak" to be worthy of romance risks an indictment
from the political-correctness police. But this is not a bold album. And Bette
of Roses has a thorny problem: It tends too often to downplay Midler's vocals,
blending them in with back-up singers and instruments for a regrettably homogenized
result. Strange to say about this almost inescapable movie, TV and performing
star, but the still-Divine Miss M deserves more prominence. (Atlantic)
of us have gotten so used to hearing the Divine Miss M routinely overwhelm the
puny pop songs she's built her career on of late that her first studio album in
five years will come as nothing less than a shock. In fact, Bette Of Roses' defining
characteristic is that it doesn't sound at all like a Bette Midler album. Along
with the unusually subdued material, Midler has discovered a completely different
voice, one that has more in common with, say, folk-country thrush Mary Chapin
Carpenter than the scenery-chewing belter of old. While that accomplishment is
wholly remarkable, it does have its downside: The songs that she and producer
Arif Mardin have chosen to showcase her new approach are almost oppressively restrained,
as though the pair were obsessed with the idea of being tasteful. I mean, when
Midler can take a custom-made line like "I don't believe virginity/Is as
common as it used to be" (from I Believe In You) and deliver it without even
the trace of a wink, you know she's taken things too far. Still, Bette Of Roses
(out Tuesday) remains a quietly luminous achievement, and one that bodes especially
well for the next album.
Midler's first release in five years is a sweet, controlled, ballad-heavy confection
her in a new light. No longer a brassy strumpet, the Divine Miss M is now the
Pleasant Miss Bette, quirky singer of pretty songs. Fortunately, Midler has an
endearing, highly expressive voice, making much of this easy listening material
from her folk-singer/songwriter grab-bag, Midler opens BETTE OF ROSES with Cheryl
Wheeler's "I Know This Town," an excellent song that brims with nostalgia,
and one that could find a second life on the country charts if a Trisha, a Dolly
or a Reba was to tackle it.
Comfort You" is a sanitized and languid blues, but its companion piece, the
McKee-penned "To Deserve You," is a complicated
off-kilter track full of musical, vocal and emotional swoops. The swirling "The
Last Time," another McKee composition complete with a previously unheard
of Midler falsetto, is as close to rocking out as Bette gets.
old Bette would have played the disillusionment themes of "Bed Of Roses"
to full force with a sweet opening and her signature, dramatic ending; here, it
is fairy-tale smooth with no hint of histrionics. Even in the closing "I
Believe In Love" Midler doesn't camp it up. Yet, by keeping it straight,
she saves the track from becoming a novelty tune.
"In This Life" is the sort of ballad which made Midler famous in the
first place. It contains hints of the quiver and zeal with which Midler used to
infuse all her songs. But as with lying on a bed of rose petals, the song and
the album pretend to be nothing more than soft and pretty experiences.