THE IMMACULATE COLLECTION
Madonna (Sire 26440)
For any ordinary pop star, a greatest hits album would be just that -- a quick spin through the biggest singles, with an extra song or two tacked on to make the set seem au courant. Madonna is no ordinary pop star, however, and "The Immaculate Collection" is no mere greatest hits. Although it touches all the obvious bases, from the bubbly dance pop of "Holiday" to the sleek, hi-tech groove of "Vogue," the album's greatest value is in providing perspective on Madonna's career. After all, what stands out about these singles isn't Madonna's sense of melody, but her ability to convey a range of emotion, whether it be the sensual abandon of "Into the Groove," the adolescent anxiety of "Papa Don't Preach" or the simmering passion of her current single, "Justify My Love." Immaculate? Impeccable is more like it.
Bette Midler (Atlantic 82129)
As a singer, Bette Midler is something of a throwback, a big-voiced belter whose phrasing and sense of style is better suited to swing tunes and production numbers than contemporary pop. But pop is what sells, so Midler tries to compromise, building her albums around dramatic ballads and tricked-up oldies. "Some People's Lives" is no exception; the title tune treads the same treacly turf as last year's "Wind Beneath My Wings," while the bitter wit of Cole Porter's "Miss Otis Regrets" practically drowns in brassy camp. But when Midler moves away from her usual stomping grounds to dabble in dance pop ("Moonlight Dancing") and hip-hop ("One More Round"), the album goes from mildly irritating to downright annoying.