Abi Roberts: Beached – The Soundtrack

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Beached – The Soundtrack
A homage to Bette Midler with songs by Abi Roberts, Larry Henley & Jeff Silbar, Randy Newman, Amanda McBroom, Harold Arlen & E. Y. Harburg, Don Raye & Hughie Prince, William J. Hill, Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, Cole Porter, and Julie Gold

Abi Roberts
The Beached Boys: Eamonn Flynn (piano), Billy ‘Shoes’ Johnson (drums), Jamie Brewer (bass) & Todd Swenson (guitar)

Recorded May 2008 in OTR Studios, San Francisco

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: December 2008
Duration: 55 minutes

The launch of this album by singer and comedian Abi Roberts coincides with her appearances at the Leicester Square Theatre in December 2008 in her one-woman show marking the twentieth anniversary of the release of Bette Midler’s film “Beaches”. In the show Roberts includes her own fifteen-minute movie called “Beached” which portrays the journey she made to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in search of Midler whom Roberts considers to be her real (stage) mother. This idea probably stemmed from a review of Abi’s act (she sings, she writes her own songs, she acts, she does stand-up comedy) in which the Daily Telegraph compared her to “The Divine Miss M”. As she says:“I decided Bette was obviously my long-lost mother and I was going to write a movie about her!” She met her writer friend Lisa Marks in Los Angeles, they wrote the script, drove to Las Vegas, shot the film in four days and Abi talked her way into Bette Midler’s after-show party and finally met her heroine over cocktails.

In order to celebrate the life of the woman she wanted to be, Abi Roberts has recorded an album and made her film tribute both of which she is presenting at the Leicester Square Theatre (formerly The Venue) in Leicester Place, London. The CD contains a mixture of songs written by Abi plus several that Bette Midler has sung. ‘The wind beneath my wings’ is the number that inspired Abi to seek out Bette and she does a very good version of the Larry Henley/Jeff Silbar number, perhaps not quite as moving in the way that Midler performed it in “Beaches”. After all then it was a paean to her lost friend.

Bette made Don Raye and Hughie Prince’s ‘Boogie woogie bugle boy’ something of her very own but Abi also manages to put her mark on this rumbustious song. William J. Hill’s ‘The Glory of love’ was made famous by Otis Redding among others and Bette has used it in her stage act. Abi’s version is just as moving. She has a voice that, like Midler’s, can cope with big, open-hearted numbers such as ‘Viva Las Vegas’ (Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman’s hit for Elvis) and the downright amusing ‘I’ve still got my health’ by Cole Porter and still tear your heart out in numbers such as Randy Newman’s ‘I think it’s gonna rain today’ or the Harold Arlen/E. Y. Harburg classic ‘Over the rainbow’.

Amanda McBroom’s song ‘The Rose’ was nearly dropped from the film that Midler based on the life of Janis Joplin. The producers didn’t like it but Bette did; it became a hit and made McBroom’s reputation, arguably one of the best and the cleverest female singer-songwriters in the USA. She can be emotional and she can be funny as her ‘Dieter’s Prayer’ number proves (“Teach me to like, to love cottage cheese, / Grapefruit and celery, oh Lord, if you please”). And Abi is no slouch when she writes her own material, comic or otherwise. ‘Turn the lights back on’ and ‘(Every girl should have a) Gay best friend’ are certainly worthy of becoming classics. The album closes aptly enough with Julie Gold’s semi-gospel anthem ‘From a distance’, a good, rousing end-of-show number.

Abi Roberts doesn’t actually mimic Bette Midler, and there are other singers one might compare her to before getting around to the divine Bette. The comparison made by the Telegraph may refer more to her personality, the mixture of great, belting voice coupled to an odd and earthy sense of humour, which could then describe both Bette and Abi. Vocally Abi has an impressive rock and soul delivery in which there are hints of Lena Horne, Barbra Streisand or even Diana Ross. When all is said and done, however, Abi is not Bette Midler for she is really her own woman, has her own style, doesn’t need any comparisons and as a bonus is a very fine songwriter too.

  • Abi Roberts: Beached – The soundtrack, is on sale at Dress Circle Records, 57-59 Monmouth Street, London WC2H 9DG (020 7240 2227)
  • Abi Roberts
  • Abi Roberts is at Leicester Square Theatre, Leicester Place, London WC2 on 9 & 13 December 2008 at 8 p.m. and 14 & 21 December 2008 at 4 p.m.
  • Leicester Square Theatre

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