Back To Brooklyn, a review

Barbra: Back To Brooklyn
Barbra Streisand (Columbia, 2013) Audio CD
***** 5 stars

promotional image from germany, for “Back To Brooklyn”

I wrote this in a rush. Please excuse grammar errors, they are unintentional.

I remember seeing her on October 11, 2012 – it was a night I will never soon forget. Barbra was truly and utterly sublime. The audio recording is a marvel, the sound is fantastic. The orchestra sounds so lush and Streisand’s voice is front and center!  Was she really 70 years old last fall?! Her voice remains beautifully intact after five decades of dazzling millions worldwide. There isn’t a single track on the CD that warrants skipping, honestly it’s Barbra, why would anyone skip over a song she sings.

The album opens with what has to be the greatest comeback song ever written, it is of course, “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Sunset Boulevard. Streisand used it almost 20 years ago to open her triumph New Years Eve concert at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in 1993/94.  Here, the song gets retooled with new lyrics to commemorate Barbra’s return to her hometown. Funny, poignant and moving, the crowd roars its approval when she reaches that immortal line, “I’ve come home at last” – simply amazing!

“The Way He Makes Me Feel” from Yentl, is one of the songs that Barbra has never performed live in concert! Now that the film has celebrated its 30th anniversary, the song is all the more special. Barbra’s voice sparkles here and it’s amazing to me how wonderful she sounds.

B2B_back_cover

“Didn’t We” is a song Barbra sang live in 1972 for the McGovern fundraiser and her earlier version can of course be found on Live Concert at the Forum. I loved this when I heard it at the concert, Barbra’s voice is strong and the reverb on the big chord near the end is fantastic! I saw video footage from Phildelphia (10/8/12) and she talks about that back in 2006, she and music director, William Ross, tried to do the song but it didn’t work. I’m glad Barbra decided to try it out again, it’s wonderful!

“The Way We Were/Through the Eyes of Love” needs no introduction, her tribute to her dear and late friend, Marvin Hamlisch is so emotional. Listen to it! If you don’t get even a little misty-eyed then you have no soul.

“Rose’s Turn/Some People/Don’t Rain on My Parade” – The Styne medley is a killer, and possibly the best track on the album. Seriously, I repeated it like four times. Her shout at the end, “You bet your ass, Papa” is the best – it’s a remarkable statement to Streisand’s naysayers who frequently shout that she’s too old (or she can’t sing anymore) to play the role of Mama Rose in Styne and Sondheim’s Gypsy. Although it’s a missed opportunity, she could have tackled “Rose’s Turn” and ended the concert’s first act with a big bang. Nevertheless, it’s a showstopper as only Barbra can deliver!

“You’re The Top” is definitely from the second night (10/13) as during Thursday night’s performance, the song seemed clunky and out of place. It’s been polished and rehearsed, again with special lyrics dedicated to all things Brooklyn. Barbra really seems to have fun with it, so does the audience.

What’ll I Do/My Funny Valentine and Lost Inside of You” 

Despite the fact that I am thankful Chris Botti’s solos were cut from the audio CD, his duets with Barbra are wonderful and his trumpet playing is a great compliment to her voice. I also love the arrangements of these pieces. The high note near the end of “Lost Inside of You” gets a great reaction from the audience.

“How Deep is the Ocean” 

Jason Gould has a beautiful voice. Obviously, he has inherited his mother’s gift of singing. The mother and son duet is beautiful! Don’t take my word for it, give it a listen.

“People” 

How many version of this song has she performed live?! Not that it matters, this one is just as beautiful as any of the others!

“Make Our Garden Grow” 

This is the big finale and Barbra delivers her money-note at the end with great gusto! This is identical to the arrangement Rupert Holmes did in 1988 for the abandoned Back To Broadway sessions. It’s funny too, IL Volo also sings but their duet with Barbra on “Smile” isn’t included. The end of truncated as the tail end of “Somewhere” is left off, which was heard during the concert. I love this song from Candide, and I can only hope that the studio version of it recorded in 1988 will come out soon! 

The Voice: I just read a recent review front the New York Daily News, in which Jim Farber writes, “…her lower notes have a phlegmier texture. When she wants to belt, she turns hoarse before chopping the note down to a length she can sustain. That means bravura numbers, like “Don’t Rain on My Parade” or a rare “Rose’s Turn” from “Gypsy,” have to borrow some of their drama from acting rather than vocal chops.” I will admit, Barbra’s voice has lowered since her last live concert tour in 2006. No, she doesn’t sound like she did 20 years, even 30 years ago – but who would expect her to? The woman is 71 years old. Yes Mr. Farber is entitled to his opinion; however, I think he’s being a bit unfair – obviously he forgets that the voice is also part of the body, it ages too.  Barbra is well aware of her narrowing vocal range, but does that stop her?! No. The concert tour was still SOLD OUT. Age has unfortunately taken some of her higher register; however, her middle range is lush and intact. On such gems like, “The Way He Makes Me Feel” you can hardly tell that her voice has aged at all.

Verdict: Barbra is in fine form on the album, I am stunned that she is 71 years old.. truly! This definitely deserves repeated playing.  The mastering is great, there’s a real improvement in this CD than the two disc 2006 outing. Too bad we don’t get any extras (read: bonus tracks) like “On A Clear Day” which was used as an opener later in the tour and there are other varied songs that Barbra performed elsewhere but not in Brooklyn.

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