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Bette Midler – The Divine Miss M
Oh, behave! Bette Midler’s sparkling, energy-pulsing 1972 debut features the singer honing her trademark brassy personality as well as showing off an intimate, raw edge that fell by the wayside later in her career. Witness her forlorn, melancholic, and heartbroken moods, all conveyed with supreme emotion on several riveting ballads. But this LP is no downer. Midler offsets any bleakness with playfully campy songs laced with unadulterated enthusiasm and joyous defiance. This is a diva lover’s delight. The music is astonishingly alive. A superstar is born!
Bette Midler – The Rose
Bette Midler’s first leading role in a musical remains her best. As the soundtrack for that film, The Rose spotlights The Divine Miss M’s outstanding performance as a character in the persona of Janis Joplin. Midler received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, and while the record contains no visuals, it punctuates the raw emotion and show-stopping persuasion that the singer brings to upbeat, rollicking fare composed in tribute to the late Joplin. Her reading of “When A Man Loves a Woman” remains definitive and unique for being sung from a female’s perspective.
The Sisters of Mercy – First and Last and Always
The template for all goth-rock records that followed, Sisters of Mercy’s First And Last And Always stands as one of the—if not the most—influential albums of its kind ever released. Distinguished by Andrew Eldritch’s ghostly singing, which gives the impression of hearing a forlorn ghoul croon from a foggy English graveyard, the 1985 set is drenched in gloom, claustrophobia, black humor, and dance-ready beats that provide exhilarating contrasts. Fans of the Cure, Depeche Mode, Love and Rockets, Peter Murphy, mid-period Nick Cave, and Joy Division will find it to be a new favorite record.
Willie Nelson – Stardust
“Why be predictable?,” Willie Nelson asked Columbia Records executive Nick Blackburn, after the latter resisted the Red Headed Stranger’s decision to make an album of classic pop tunes. Talk about outlaw country. Cutting against the genre’s traditions and Music Row conventions, Nelson’s Stardust remains a genius-level creation as well as the icon’s most commercially successful release, a truly gorgeous record infused with ultimate respect for composers and lyrics and many of the finest performances of his career. It is a quintessential part of any catalog.