Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Audio Beaverhausen: Bette Gives Us a Great Big Kiss
Covering the girl-group oeuvre is nothing new for the Divine Miss M who, on her new concept album, returns to her roots. Why, she was singing these songs before they were back in fashion, ever since her performances at the Continental Baths in the early 1970s. She created the girl-group revival for crying out loud! Her debut album included covers of The Dixie Cups' "Chapel of Love," The Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" and, quite famously, The Andrew Sisters' "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B."
At the time, this was all done with a high camp flare. And it started a trend toward embracing vintage songs and the styles of pop music from previous decades, often with a sly wink. Forty years later, the public has come to love and to respect the girl-group sound. Time and tide has replaced the camp value of these songs with a new sense of esteem. The style of female harmonies in popular music has survived changing tastes throughout the many years. And so, it is no surprise that Miss Midler approaches the songs on It's the Girls quite differently than in her bathhouse days for the most part.
The album is Bette's first in eight years. It is produced by Marc Shaiman, who composed the songs for the Broadway musical version of Hairspray, and who obviously has studied the '60s girl-group sound scrupulously. Shaiman has produced tracks for Ms Midler in the past. No surprise, then, that this labor of love is such an effervescent concoction. In fact, it's the feel-good album of the season.
The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" is respectfully covered by Bette and kicks off It's the Girls with a pleasant but rather middle-of-the-road arrangement (though given a Phil Spector-lite treatment with heavy percussion, Bette's harmonies on back-up vocals (as The Support Ho's) and castanets). The follow-up track, "One Fine Day," is done with similar obeisance.
It's a joy to hear Bette impersonate The Andrew Sisters once more ("Bei Mir Bist du Schoen") and rock out with "Baby, It's You," "Tell Him," "Too Many Fish in the Sea" and "You Can't Hurry Love." (Take that, Diana Ross!) I especially delighted in hearing Bette duet with her friend, legendary girl-group icon, Darlene Love, on "He's Sure the Boy I Love."
Bette makes "Mr Sandman" her own with a Hawaiian feel, "Come and Get These Memories" gets delivered herein as an achy-breaky ballad and 90's girl group TLC's "Waterfalls" is particularly heartbreaking as covered by our Miss M. Carol King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" is, likewise, poignantly interpreted.
Bette's virtually back at the Baths with her campy rendition of The Shangri-Las' "Give Him a Great Big Kiss." (Bette famously referred to them as "the toughest girls in show biz.") Her spoken end to this song is not to be missed!
Bette swings out, sisters, on the closing track, The Boswell Sisters' "It's the Girl." An upbeat end to a great 15 tracks.
Run, don't walk to snatch up It's the Girls. The cd has lots of nice photos of its star and liner credits. And tell them Buddy Beaverhausen sent you to their record stores. Not that it'll get you anywhere but you can spread my name around indiscriminately. I rather like the idea.
Bette will be touring in the summer, promoting her new cd. I plan to be there.