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Barbra Streisand What Matters Most Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

An unmissable feast of song from an artist who continues to surprise.

Adrian Edwards 2011

At an age when many singers would be content to re-record earlier hits and package the end product as a ‘new’ release, Barbra Streisand has here produced 10 wholly new recordings of material featuring words by lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, a duo with whom she has enjoyed a long and successful partnership, on both disc and film.

Throwing down the gauntlet, she begins by singing the first verse of one of their best loved songs, The Windmills of Your Mind, unaccompanied. It’s a daring move, but one that she pulls off thanks to her innate artistry; though it’s notable that even her peerless technique can’t quite disguise the greater effort required in sustaining the extended vocal lines. Many of the more familiar Bergman titles previously tackled by Streisand, like The Way We Were and You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, can be heard on the second disc contained in the deluxe edition of this CD.

For the single-disc version, though, Streisand focuses on new recordings, and she has roamed far and wide reintroducing songs that were written for Fred Astaire (That Face) and Frank Sinatra (Nice n Easy) – the latter a song so tailor-made for Ol’ Blue Eyes that it could well have been written by his house songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. Both arrangements include swing passages that show off the expertise of the orchestra. Other songs are romantic and frequently nostalgic in tone, including many titles from well off the beaten track. Some come from the world of jazz, including compositions by Johnny Mandel and Dave Grusin, and from the cinema with credits for John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith. So Many Stars, a gentle bossa nova from Sergio Mendes, rounds off the composer credits.

Something New In My Life is a real highlight. A rarely heard piece by Michel Legrand, composer of The Windmills of Your Mind, it brings out a new expressive vein in the Bergmans’ lyrics. Fans of John Williams will note his inimitable harmonic touch and lyrical style in The Same Hello, the Same Goodbye, originally composed for an enraptured Sinatra. The state of the art recording ensures that this is another unmissable feast of song from an artist seemingly unstoppable in her continuing quest to present something new to her worldwide audience.

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