Soundtracks are a lot more than movie music...

...or so I'm ready to argue as a 30 year devotee of this sorely under appreciated genre.  So, in an effort to do my part, each week
I'll be making recommendations of soundtracks current and vintage, make a fuss over long awaited soundtrack scores finally getting
a well deserved release, and in general, make some noise about this often overlooked category.  Beyond my long experience as a
listener and as a pianist and songwriter, both of which I've put to use in writing a quarterly soundtrack column for the
Tribune, I can only offer my recommendations.  You'll discern my taste soon enough and upfront I'd like to make it clear that I'll
focus most heavily on SCORE soundtracks.  In the end, all criticism is subjective but if I can point a listener toward a little heard
soundtrack or strongly advise you to either ORDER IMMEDIATELY or SKIP ALTOGETHER, all the better.
These two holiday CDs obviously aren’t soundtracks but these two singing gay icons – both
longtime faves of mine – have certainly lent their voices to enough songs to fill dozens of
soundtracks.  And these are what I’ve been listening to this season so here goes:

Bette Midler has been making the rounds of the daytime talk shows promoting “Cool Yule,”
her first ever Christmas album.  Everywhere she’s gone, it seems, the first question has
been “Why is a Jew making a Christmas album?” to which Midler has the stock answer,
“Well, there are not too many Jewish holiday songs you know.  Just two, in fact” and tee hee
hee.  Every once in a while Bette also mentions that after all Irving Berlin, also a Jew, wrote
“White Christmas,” perhaps the holiday’s biggest classic.

Why, I ask, does Midler have to defend recording a Christmas album?  Didn’t Diva Number
One, Barbra Streisand, do the same thing in 1966 with nary a peep?  As it should be – songs
should be available to whomever wants to record them and any artist of the caliber of a
Midler or Streisand should be encouraged to record a Christmas album not made to defend
it – what could be more American?  As for Midler, for my money, she should have gone the
Christmas route decades ago.  The biggest surprise is that she has waited until now to do

She did record “Somewhere In My Memory” for
Home Alone back in 1990 and included an
earlier version of “White Christmas” on her Rosemary Clooney tribute CD a few years back,
but surprisingly, this is the first all holiday affair she’s done.  “
Cool Yule” is a lot of fun, has
some nice big band arrangements and includes some nice new lyrics on Midler’s personal
chestnut, “From A Distance.”  The requisite ballad classics are here but I love best the duet
with Johnny Mathis, the peppy title track, the little known but beautiful “Merry Christmas” and
especially Midler’s inclusion of the haunting “O Come Emanuel.”  Though this set doesn’t
have the intense depth of Midler at her height or even other Christmas albums, its varied
lineup assures it a rotation spot for at least the next few holidays.

I’ve got it in my player right next to Streisand’s “
Christmas Memories,” which was released in
2001.  Streisand’s found her usual line-up of emotionally satisfying songs, even going so far
as stretching the holiday theme to include Sondheim’s “I Remember.”  The album also
includes the gorgeous “Christmas Love Song,” the pop inspired “It Must Have Been the
Mistletoe” and the heartbreaking “Closer.”  There are also several holiday classics but no
duets (though a bootleg version combining Donna Summer’s “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”
with Babs’ is worth tracking down).  Though there are playful cuts, this is a much more
serious approach to the holiday season.  The arrangements and the songs, matching
Streisand’s commitment, are much more intense than Midler’s, which sounds effortless in

The artwork for both projects really defines what’s going on with them musically.  In Midler’s,
she’s dressed in a 60s inspired white lab coat looking thing, red pumps and one of her
famous red hats trimmed with green mistletoe.  Streisand wears velvet and is curled up on
the sofa and one can imagine the crackling fireplace just out of frame.  Both set each other
off perfectly.  Now if only they’d record a duet.  Wouldn’t that be a great Christmas – and
Hanukah – present for the world?


Don't forget to check out previous soundtrack recommendations by visiting the

Next Recommendation:  TBA
Two world famous Jews, Bette Midler
Barbra Streisand, make gold
with the Shiksa/Shaygetz holiday --
and why not asks the diva loving
homo, lapping up every track