Release Me

Release Me
Barbra Streisand (Columbia, 2012)

CK Rating: 5 Stars / A+

Since Columbia released the vinyl edition of Release Me  on September 25th, the company has posted other tracks on Soundcloud for all to hear. Finally, the album was released today, and I also got notification that QVC shipped my CD/DVD set. I love every track on the recording. Most fans have been dying to hear these unreleased gems for decades. After years of waiting and wishing, Barbra fans have them in three formats: CD, vinyl and digital download. The vinyl edition of the album took me by surprise for reasons: she said back in 1986, “I never want to hear vinyl again,” and Love Is The Answer Barbra’s 2009 offering had a double-Lp release that was super limited. I find it so intriguing that after not having a vinyl pressing of a Barbra Streisand for decades, her 2012 release of “unreleased” material gets released on Lp. Nice choice for Columbia to do that, or did Barbra Streisand change her tune on conventional records?

Here are my thoughts on my favorite tracks:

“Being Good Isn’t Good Enough,” an outtake from the 1985 Broadway Album  sessions, opens the album with an anthem that seems to be perfect for Streisand – “being good isn’t good enough.” The song perfectly summarizes Streisand. Once labeled a perfectionist, the lyrics suit the ideal that being good just isn’t enough. In musical terms this is true, if Streisand heard a wrong note, or was unhappy with her vocal take, she would shelve a song or perhaps an entire session of work. The track was supposed to open the  GRAMMY winning album; however, the business related “Putting it Together” by Stephen Sondheim with commentary on Streisand’s struggles in the music made the album.

“Didn’t We” is a classic Jimmy Webb song, which was featured during Streisand’s live concert at the Forum. Strangely enough, it didn’t have a studio version release. That injustice has been corrected. Streisand’s voice soars on the track and blows her live version from 1972 out of the water.

“Willow Weep For Me” recorded during the Simply Streisand  sessions with Ray Ellis, in 1967, is beautiful, jazzy and smooth. The arrangement by Ellis is perfectly suited to Streisand’s early voice.

“How Are Things in Glocca Morra?/Heather on the Hill” – The medley of two classic Broadway songs, is from the 1988  Back to Broadway sessions with the brilliant Rupert Holmes, who had created the successful Mystery of Edwin Drood  for Broadway in 1986. The wonderful thing about these sessions is they’re available on YouTube. The video footage of Barbra in full recording mode is fascinating, albeit dated. The process of recording the arrangement, tempo, orchestra and voice just right is so intriguing. Amazingly, Streisand makes it all look and sound effortless. The track on Release Me is just beautiful. Editorializing, I wish she had gone ahead with her  Back to Broadway  sessions in 1988, instead of what Columbia released in 1993.

“Mother And Child” is a duet between Barbra and herself in two roles: mother and child. The track is taken from a Michel Legrand (and Bergman) song cycle from the 1970s. The song is wonderful, almost something from Sesame Street like the classic “Sing” by Joe Raposo. I love the whole thing. When I was listening to the song, for some reason, I shed tears. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the lyrics? The Music? I don’t know. Subesquently listenings moved me to tears as well.

“Home” – from The Wiz  was made famous by Diana Ross when she sang the song in the motion picture version of the musical. Streisand’s interpretation doesn’t offer anything new; however, she does add her signature styling to the song. The song was recorded initially for the The Broadway Album in 1985. Fortunately, the arrangement has been slightly updated to fully realize the potential of the song. Barbra is in her element on this song. She should include it on her new tour!

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