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This soundtrack to the film inspired by Janis Joplin was produced by Paul Rothschild-producer of Joplin's Pearl . This 1979 LP has Bette's smash The Rose ; hit take on When a Man Loves a Woman , plus Stay with Me; Midnight in Memphis , and more!
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With "Midnight in Memphis" Midler proves she could be a pretty great blues signer and "Stay With Me" takes on almost epic proportions as the Rose self-destructs on stage before her hometown audience. The flaw of this album, if you want to call it that, is that these songs are performed in character. You have to pity the person who pickes up this soundtrack without having seen the film and does not understand why Midler's voice goes through some serious deterioration in the final set of tracks. Compare "Stay With Me" with her cover of "When a Man Loves a Woman" and you have a sense of what might have been (or the version on "Divine Madness"). Still, there is something to be said for staying faithful to the film in this regard, which is why it is a pity the concert monologue has been sanitized. Of course, if you have seen the movie then you have to wonder why the tour de force version of Bob Seger's "Fire Down Below," which the Rose does with a bevy of female impersonators, was ommitted from the soundtrack because there is no way it would be considered the least worthy song from the film.
This album was produced by Paul Rothchild, who also did "Pearl," Joplin's final studio album, which certainly explains how Midler manages to capture the Joplin sound during the concerts recorded in the summer of 1978. You have to wonder what sort of demons Rothchild exorcised in putting this album together. The album made it to #12 on the Billboard charts while the the cover of "When a Man Loves a Woman" made it to #35 and then the title song made it to #3 as a single after Midler got her Oscar nomination (how it avoided hitting the top I do not know). In retrospect it seems there was no place for Midler to go but down after her smash film debut, but while she has never had a cinematic success to rival "The Rose," this is the film that put her on the A list of performers, a spot that she still inhabits. Final Note: I always liked "Camellia," the instrumental piece that Steve Hunter wrote as the Rose's introduction music. Like most of the songs on this album, it is one when the images of the film and the music are entwined in my mind.
The album's succeeds in no small part due to the able musicians backing Midler. They are more than some ad-hoc Big Brother and the Holding Company; they have the bite and energy of a real band. I'd have liked to see them showcased even more on the record. (They do get a brief instrumental number to themselves.)
And then there's the Big Hit Ballad, which seems to come from another musical universe entirely. It doesn't fit the album at all; it's as if tracks 1-11 are song by The Rose (the character from the movie) and track 12 is sung by Bette Midler (the AC superstar). But at least the version included here is the piano-only track, which I much prefer to the orchestra-backed single version.
Not Janis, but not a knock-off either, this is music to be enjoyed in its own right. You can argue that this isn't "real" rock/blues - it's an actor giving a performance. Maybe so, but at least it's a *good* performance, of good songs.