Picks and Pans Review: Bette of Roses

updated 08/14/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/14/1995 01:00AM

Bette Midler

In 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 and unpretentious 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)

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