Barbra Streisand, Partners (2014)

Barbra Streisand, Partners (Columbia 2014)

Barbra’s thirty-fourth album, Partners, is not only brilliantly and cohesively produced by Babyface and Walter Afanasieff, but the pairings or rather “partners” on this record are superb! From Michael Bublé, John Mayer, John Legend and even her own son, Jason Gould, the album shimmers and confirms that even at 72, Streisand’s voice is still stellar! Definite highlights include: “It Had To Be You” (Bublé) “Come Rain or Come Shine (Mayer) “Evergreen” (Babyface) “The Way We Were” (Richie) and, of course, “How Deep is the Ocean” (Gould). This album proves what we have known about Barbra Streisand from the word Go: she is a musical genius.

Streisand’s appearance on Tonight Show last night was a truly “Must See TV.” From her charming medley with Jimmy Fallon, who filled in for Elvis, Blake Shelton, and Michael Bublé was not only delightful but so cute to watch. It is so obvious that Fallon is a Streisand fanboy, he even let her sit behind the host desk.

Her appearance even exploded all over twitter

https://twitter.com/benj_michael/status/511737780045873152

I cannot get over “It Had To Be You” “Evergreen” “Come Rain or Come Shine” and “The Way We Were.” I know these will be on repeat for days. 

I totally hope this album rockets to #1 on the charts!!!

BARBRA and Media

BARBRA!
Screen capture from Sirius.com

So if you’ve been reading any of my posts from 2012 you know, or should know by now, that I love all things STREISAND related. Next week, the legendary Streisand releases a brand new album entitled Partners, featuring 12 new recordings featuring the greatest male vocalists! By male vocalists I mean Josh Groban, John Mayer, John Legend, Lionel Richie, et al. Also she’s getting her own Sirius XM channel starting at 5pm this evening and running, for a special limited engagement, until October 10th!

Featured on Sirius Channel 69 “Escape,” Streisand’ s show will include a Town Hall that was recorded on Wednesday in New York City. A handful of lucky fans got to be in the same room with the legendary vocalist – Lucky devils! Color me completely jealous! That will air on Sunday, September 14th 12:00pm.

Columbia has lined up a complete slew of appearances to plug the new album, and it’s #1 on Amazon! Go BARBRA! For a complete list of her appearances you can visit my favorite site barbra-archives.com 

Okay, that is enough Babs for today. I will be posting my full review of her album, Partners when it debuts next Tuesday!

Blogging and New Media

I just saw on Mashable that Facebook is taking cues from Snapchat and may be experimenting with “Disappearing Posts.” For anyone who uses the Snapchat app, we are all familiar with the 10 second window in which to see someone’s picture or video. Now according to writer, Adario Strange, that same feature may be coming to Facebook. You can read the article here. Apparently Facebook is running a small pilot program for a feature that “lets people schedule deletion of their posts in advance” (according to a Facebook spokesman). I’m not sure I’d be too keen on seeing my own posts expire or be deleted, but I wouldn’t mind seeing annoying posts disappear off my own newsfeed.

To be honest, I wish Facebook would just poll users and ask them what they would like to see happen with Facebook. What sort of integration would users like to see?! How would users improve the messenger app for iOS. Oh! Speaking of the messenger App, what exactly is Facebook planning for its iOS apps with the new iPhone 6 and iOS 8 due out soon?! Hmmm, that may be something to watch.

By the way, the Escape channel on Sirius XM is nothing but glorified elevator music, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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.

New Music: Pet Shop Boys (Electric, 2013)

Apparently, The Guardian is allowing UK subscribers to stream PSB’s new album. Click HERE. So I decided to try and listen for myself; however the article does come with a caveat, “..though sadly this player will not work for readers in the US.” Fortunately, I found my way around that. I love the album! Here are my favorite tracks:

1. Axis
2. Bolshy
3. Love is a Bourgeois Construct
8. Thursday
9. Vocal

I tried to give their last album, Elysium a chance but none of the music connected with me. Truly, it has been a long time since PSB has released anything worth getting worked up about. I will always love their collaborations with Liza (Results) and Dusty Springfield (Reputation) in 1989 and 1990, as those albums have a special place in my heart. However, when I heard Stuart Price was producing the album with the duo, my hope was piqued and for good reason. Price’s work with Madonna on Confessions on a Dance Floor and Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite is nothing short of spectacular.

Electric is special as it returns Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant to their electro roots. The duo have been around for over 30 years now (their hit song “West End Girls” came out in 1984!) and it looks like they will be around for years to come.

Across the board, Electric garnered positive reviews. The Guardian gave it 4/5 stars. =) Not bad!

The Guardian reviewer, Alexis Petridis, wrote near the bottom of his review, “Tennant has talked about being struck by a negative iTunes review of Elysium that demanded “more banging and lasers.” I would like to think that the British Pop duo were so struck by this supposed negative review that they decided to put together an appropriate album. With Stuart Price producing, Electric definitely fits the bill with much banging and lasers, the video promos for the album drive it home.

I truly hope Julian Mendelsohn, the long time PSB producer, will offer up remixes of a few (if not all) of the tracks on the album.

I’ll post a more in depth review next week!

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!