Jackpot! The Best Bette is one of many Bette Midler best-of collections, but never before has one been so thorough. This one pleasantly covers her exquisite cabaret acts ("In the Mood"), her passionate rock anthems ("Beast of Burden"), and the adult contemporary singles that range between the harrowing ("The Rose") to the delictibly cheesy ("From a Distance").
It may not all literally be here, as Bette hasn't truly had a career stacked with hits and her previously compendiums have appreciated that fact rather than hide it, packing many an album-track onto them. The compilations seem rather to celebrate the memorable as opposed to the #1s, although in the case of "Wind Beneath My Wings" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," those are featured as well. Interestingly, the #1 "To Deserve You" is omitted.
As with any greatest hits CD, the emphasis seems to be largely be on what isn't included than what is, even if what is, is truly top notch. Legit singles "Chapel of Love," "Big Noise from Winnetka," "Strangers in the Night," "Favorite Waste of Time," "Under the Boardwalk," "Fever," "I'm Beautiful," "In My Life," and still others are nowhere to be found. That said, something has to give for time constraints (although no one could argue with a 2-disc version). "My One True Friend," sappy as it is, was a single but is hardly among her best (and rightfully gets relegated to a bonus track for Amazon) alongside "The Gift of Love."
The swanky "Just My Imagination," depressing and amazing "Hello in There," comforting "Baby Mine," sweet "Tenderly," underrated "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," and the great "This Ole House" fill in the gaps quite beautifully. One can assume that the sassy but nonessential "I've Still Got My Health" from Beaches sneaked on because it's easy to make room for a minute-and-a-half song. "Cool Yule" is cute and all, but it takes up real estate and could've easily been chugged for something else. Perhaps something from her extraordinary performance of Gypsy?
Midler is at her most sexy with "Do You Want to Dance?," rough and ragged with "When a Man Loves a Woman," and most at home with "Friends," which will remain her signature far more comfortably than "Wind" or "Distance" may have you believe. For die-hard Midler fans, it's the Side B version that's included.
Because of its diversity (or hell, Bette Midler's diversity), it tries extra hard to cover all the bases and sometimes that can be jarring, and is no doubt the reason so many worthy tracks didn't make it on, even with a surprisingly complimentary sequence.
"Something Your Heart's Been Telling Me" is a nice groovy midtempo number that comes from the vaults of 1984 (between 1983's No Frills and 1988's Beaches when Bette was busy having back-to-back movie hits) that is long but pleasant.
A double-disc would've added further muscle to the album and made sense since this, the 5th digest, really should mark itself as the definitive anthology, not yet another mixtape. No doubt that a double-disc will come eventually; in fact, why hasn't a Millennium Collection one come up yet? Surely if Michael Jackson and Barbra Streisand warrant 2 discs, Midler, who has made a career on appealing to just about everyone has earned it, and we long to deserve it.
Worth noting, while it was released in unison with her Las Vegas show, The Showgirl Must Go On, the disc shares only 9 songs in common in a setlist of 17.
Bonus Game: count how many synonyms I used for "greatest hits collection!"