Collection from the Divine Miss M that covers Bette Midler's career up to 1993, Experience the Divine hits all the familiar high points. Yes, "The Rose" and "Wind Beneath My Wings' are here along with longtime favorites like her sultry version of the old '60s dance hit "Do You Wanna Dance?" and her theatrical take on Tom Waits' "Shiver Me Timbers". Midler's true genius, a quality that only her biggest fans have noticed over the years, is the way that she's casually, almost surreptitiously, updated the Great American Songbook, showing how familiar pre-Rock standards, including "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)" and Cole Porter's "Miss Otis Regrets", fit seamlessly next to songs like the girl-group classic "Chapel of Love" and John Prine's "Hello in There". Truly magical. Atlantic.
From her early days in the bathhouses to her rise as the star of her own concert film, Bette Midler has always brought a campy playfulness to her performances. Experience the Divine
focuses on her radio hits for the bulk of its resources, although the kicky "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" is here. Midler's voice easily adapts itself to the material she's performing: "When a Man Loves a Woman" is charged with a raw sensuality whereas "In My Life," is as tender as a lullaby. The recent standards are here, "From a Distance" and "Wind Beneath My Wings," along with her star-making turn, "The Rose." Whether she's handling Cole Porter ("Miss Otis Regrets") or the Beatles, Bette Midler's voice is dynamic and expressive, according to the needs of the song. This astute ability to interpret without always going for the kill makes her versions of her chosen material some of the best ever recorded. --Steve Gdula