FOR THE BOYS
Original Soundtrack (Atlantic 82329)
Considering that Bette Midler built her reputation around sassy send-ups of big band-era songs, her musical contributions to the soundtrack album from "For the Boys" ought to show off all her strengths. And indeed, they do -- up to a point. Give her a ballad as brassy as "Come Rain or Come Shine" or an arrangement as understated as "In My Life," and she shines. But saddle her with second-rate songs or a third-rate duet partner -- in this case, actor and vocal non-entity James Caan -- and all visible signs of Midler's charm cloud over, leaving much of the album with little listener appeal.
HOWLIN' WOLF: THE CHESS BOX
Howlin' Wolf (Chess/MCA 9332)
Howlin' Wolf's background was pure Delta blues, as might be expected of a man who learned guitar from Charlie Patton and harmonica from Rice Miller (Sonny Boy Williamson). But his sound was far more ferocious, so much so that even the best-known rock remakes of his work -- like Cream's version of "Spoonful," or the Rolling Stones' rethink of "The Red Rooster" -- seem almost timid when compared to the originals. With 75 selections, including rarities, outtakes and interview snippets, "Howlin' Wolf: The Chess Box" captures both the flavor of the man, and the fury of his music, making it essential listening for anyone interested in the blues.