Monday, October 8, 2012

Back to Barbra (Music Review: Barbra Streisand, Release Me)

Barbra goes back to Barbra. She digs deep in her vaults in her new record, "Release Me," releasing eleven tracks, spanning 45 years. Perfectionist that she is, she had thought these were not up to her standards at the time, but as she writes on her liner notes, "this gal wasn't half bad."  Most die-hard collectors of her music (raises hand) have already procured some of these tracks, but it is always nice to get them packaged, and in superior sound. People who have complained about her overproduced latter recordings will enjoy these comparatively stripped performances - these do not represent the reverb-crazy Barbra. What I find most interesting here is how her sound has adjusted and fit in as musical genres changed through the years. And you can hear different kinds of Barbra here, too - from the "hungry" enthusiastic one in "Willow Weep For Me,' to the weathered mellow in "If It's Meant To Be." Put those tracks back to back and you will see how her voice has aged. In between, we get glorious tracks like "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today," a 70s mellow-touch ballad with composer Randy Newman on piano, and a definitive version of Jimmy Webb's "Didn't We."  Show queen that I am, I loved the leftover tracks from Broadways shows: the twinset of "How Are Things In Gloca Morra/The Heather On The Hill," and her rousing "Home." (Though on the latter, I miss Miss Ross's vulnerability) Honestly, I do understand why these songs were cut, but I must say they still stand on their own. It's funny how Streisand was always accused of oversinging, but compared to the bloated monstrosities of today, she seems a minimialist. Buttah will always be...buttah.

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