This season sees the return of two larger-than-life female vocalists, Aretha Franklin and Bette Midler, both of whom were missing from the recording studio for a while now. For their comeback projects, both Franklin and Midler are putting out cover records – Franklin’s will be a collection of classics from fellow divas, while Midler’s album is a set of girl group numbers.
Midler’s cover of “Be My Baby” is a very faithful remake of the Phil Spector classic. It’s not surprising that she’s successful in her homage to the Ronettes – Midler’s always been a nostalgia artist (she practically is Sophie Tucker and the Andrew Sisters combined). Her expressive voice hasn’t changed much in her absence, and is still appealing and distinct, but the best thing about the song is Midler’s empathy and ease with this kind of material.
Aretha Franklin takes on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and also does some great work. Her voice has taken on bruised quality – a combination of age and a life-long addiction to smoking. But no worries, it’s still the most soulful voice in pop music. Like Midler’s cover, Franklin also is pretty faithful to Adele’s original, but manages to imbue some of her legendary tics like the vocal sweeps, dips, and wails. And if covering one postmodern diva isn’t enough, she mashes “Rolling in the Deep” with Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” that works surprisingly well.
If these singles are any indication of their parent albums, both Franklin and Midler have some big hits on their hands.
Click here to buy/download Aretha Franklin’s “Rolling in the Deep” or the full album Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics from amazon.com.