This double album celebrates Streisand’s enduring star quality.
Adrian Edwards 2009-09-28
Barbra Streisand still retains the youthful vocal allure of a singer half her age, her lower register mellower and with a greater resonance, as caught by some close microphone work. Her musicianship, her choice of material and her response to a lyric remain acute as ever, whilst she has few peers in her ability to make a phrase soar. She’s taken care of her voice across the course of her career.
This new recording was made in the famous Capitol Tower, a venue synonymous with artists like Judy Garland, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra. Moreover, the gentle mood of Sinatra’s Capitol album, In the Wee Small Hours (a title included here), is reflected in slow ballads and introspective lyrics. On the first disc, Johnny Mandel’s discreet and luminous arrangements always make space for Diana Krall’s distinctive piano. The second offers the same songs stripped down to piano and guitar, bass and drums accompaniment. The vocal changes between the two sets are subtle. In the intimate surroundings of the jazz quartet on the second CD, the listener is drawn in closer to the story behind the poignant lyrics of Where Do You Start?. Her jazz interpretation of the classic ballad Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is unsurpassed, and very appealing in both versions.
The cliché-resistant choice of songs is very welcome, and brings its own rewards. These include the affirmative opener, Here’s to Life; Love Dance, a Brazilian bossa nova; Bernstein’s song of parting, Some Other Time from On the Town; and a Michel Legrand rarity, You Must Believe in Spring, with Bill Evans-inspired piano. Autobiographical reference points include Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most, a jazz standard that Streisand first sang when she was 18 years old, and Make Someone Happy, whose lyric gives the album its title, which was composed by Jule Styne, who wrote Funny Girl, the show that marked Streisand’s Broadway debut.
By embracing a winning diversity and presenting its material in two different, but perfectly paired ways, this double album celebrates Streisand’s enduring star quality.