on August 23, 2011
Barbra Streisand is one of the most successful entertainers of our time. She has won 2 Academy Awards, 8 Grammy Awards, 4 Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, an American Film Institute Award and a Peabody Award. Also, she is the best selling female artist on the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) list and the only female in the top 10. Plus has had 31 albums reach Billboard's top ten. She is also the only artist to ever achieve number 1 albums in 5 different decades. Quite impressive, and now she is back with the follow up to 2009's "Love is the Answer." "What Matter's Most" is Streisand's 33rd studio album and she hasn't missed a beat! This two disc set is a collection of songs by Alan and Marilyn Bergman (whom she won Academy Awards with for "Yentl" and "The Way We Were"). Produced by Streisand herself, disc 1 contains Bergman songs she has never before recorded. Disc 2 (on the Deluxe Edition only) is a set of previously recorded songs. Included with a colorful 24 page booklet, Streisand proves yet again she is an extremely talented singer.
"Windmills Of My Mind" (from 1968's "The Thomas Crown Affair") is the opening track and Streisand sounds beautiful, elegant, and as smooth as honey. She hits every note perfectly and shows the dynamic range that made her famous. Another highlight is "Nice n Easy," a song made classic by Frank Sinatra in which she sounds absolutely splendid. Sinatra sang it as a song about falling in love. Streisand's version is a song of seduction; of making love from a woman's point of view. "Alone in the World" is a love song, and this is what she does best. Sounding pure, vibrant yet subtle, the sound is simply amazing. A trumpet solo by Chris Botti adds texture and contributes wonderfully to the sound. "So Many Stars" was originally a hit song by Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66. Streisand adds her own personal touches to this song and can still hit the high notes even at age 69. Featuring an awesome Brazilian beat, she sings Bergman's lyrics in Portuguese. For those of you keeping track, that now makes a total of 8 languages that she has sung in! "What Matters Most" is the closing track, and leaves you wanting more. From the Jon Voight film "The Champ," the lyrics are beautiful, almost as if they were written with Streisand's voice in mind. Streisand is the rare singer who can touch your soul as you listen, and these amazing songs will linger long after you shut off your music player. Highly recommended!!!!
on August 27, 2011
Shes back and sounds better than ever!! For those who keep saying they enjoyed her earlier style, um get with the times, shes 69 and do you really expect her to still sound that way and do the same thing??
This is her best album in almost ten years and blows Love Is the Answer out of the water. This work really reminds me of A Love Like Ours, but a little more upbeat in a way. This is very jazzy, calming, lush, evoking, sexy. Her voice is in amazing condition and you would never know her age by listening. Sure some notes are bit deeper than they once were, but she still has it and there are high octaves here that soar that were missing from 2009's Love is the Answer. This is sweeping, cinema epic, and you can tell the care and research that went into getting this just right. This album also reminds me a little bit of Christmas Memories in its vocal style. Yes you dont go driving down the road cranking up the base expecting a dance beat album for goodness sakes, this is pure classic Streisand that makes you feel and reflect and wonder. I think I read another review on here that said this album reminds the person again why they are a fan, and that is the best way to sum it up. Congratulations Barbra, you have brought it home and then some! Oh and Windmills On My Mind, was never a fan of that song, but wow she owns it now. It just takes you away. More than ten songs would have been nice, but I see why she did it this way. It keeps it cozy and compact, plus the bonus disc of her older songs is a great combo package with the new.
on September 8, 2011
I'm not a die-hard Streisand fan. I love lots of what she's done, and actually always like her in her movies. But, her albums for me, well, some I really like and others, mehh, not so much. I have to admit that I have always respected her willingness to change, expand, grow, and try new things. I also know for most of us, we want our artists to stay in exactly the place we found them and fell in love with them; it's a real push-pull.
Lots of her albums, I've given away. I just wasn't in love with them; some of her music has been too over the top for me. But this one? This one is just wonderful. It's a testament to her gift and her vision. She loves these songs and it shows in each track. I love the sublime tempos, the quality and depth of her voice, the arrangements, and the Bergmans are exceptionally complex writers that make their songs worth repeated hearings. All of it comes together to make a collection worth owning. And, for those who may like her earlier works more, it does remind me of the velvet tones she is obviously able to still produce.
The world is so hectic and harsh these days...what a gift to have something that you can wrap yourself in like your favorite blanket.
Thank you for this collection. It is silky, soft, satisfying, sultry, and superb.
on August 29, 2011
OK.. After reading how this is either the best album ever recorded by Barbra Streisand - or it's the worst.. I figure it's time I toss my 2 cents into the ring as well.
Without question, the girl can still sing. Those who say "time for Barbra to give it up" are wrong. Her voice is still impressive - as is her interpretive style. Streisand remains an incredible talent. There are many fine performances on this CD - some are truly outstanding. But, I also have to agree that the CD becomes... well... boring. I find this disturbing, too. What with the great vocals on this CD, why should it be boring? I don't believe it's because all the songs are ballads (even the uptempo songs are "slow") - case in point? Ella Fitzgerald's "Take Love Easy" album (also recorded late in her career - as is this one, for Barbra). Ella's album is 10 ballads in a row - but never boring. I think that's partly because it's done simply: voice & guitar. That simple. You get drawn into what Ella's doing - and you can hear the fun she's having, singing - even ballads, she's having fun.
With Streisand's new CD, we've got some extraordinary tracks. "Windmills of Your Mind" is stunning. "What Matters Most" is heartbreaking, really - the song, the vocal, the words... truly beautiful. BUT... there are other songs that I feel Streisand was sabotaged... and sabotaged by the string arrangements. "Alone in the World" for instance... What an amazing song, and what a terrific vocal Streisand gives us. But, then... here come the strings. Once you happen to focus on the strings playing, you hear them every step of the way... They never shut up - cluttering the background with so many unnecessary flourishes, you just want to make them stop! I kept trying to imagine that song, without the strings - same thing with "So Many Stars" (and a few other songs as well)... Without those strings going nonstop, she would have wound up with a cleaner sound - a better background to showcase that still exquisite instrument of hers.
Has her voice aged? Of course. But she is still amazing. Does the voice rasp at times? Sure. But I've ached (for years) to hear imperfections in her sometimes too-perfect recordings... I'm actually glad to hear the occasional raspiness. It's incredible to hear this woman sing.
Speaking of "So Many Stars" (mentioned above)... First I've heard anyone other than Sarah Vaughan sing this song (on her Brazilian CD - think it was her last recording). Sarah does a great job on it - and I love her arrangements on that CD. Made me think it'd be a great direction for Streisand to go - an "earthier" band/group behind her... shed the strings, go for the gut emotions - blemishes and all...
Solid highlights on this CD: "Nice & Easy," "That Face," "Windmills of Your Mind," "What Matters Most," & "Solitary Moon."
FYI - I got the 2-CD set, but this review is only for the new recordings. The 2nd CD is made up of songs already released, already reviewed to death.
Do I recommend this CD? You bet. Probably, tho', it'd be better to take a few uptempo tracks from past CDs and intersperse them on this one...
on August 31, 2011
Barbra has always performed best when she believes in what she sings. This is why her songs with lyrics by her long time friends Alan and Marilyn Bergman ring so true and deep with feeling. It is no surprise that she has been drawn to her friends' songs since the late sixties. She owes them this tribute because it is their songs that have helped her to grow as a contemporary vocalist. Her earliest material was written by songwriters from the 20's through 50's which made her seem outdated by the late sixties. She did have much new material that was written for Broadway or was dramatic enough to be a scene from a show or revue and being an actress, Barbra delivered. However, Broadway-styled material could only go so far to sell records. She needed to become more contemporary and though it did not produce hits immediately, her recordings of the Bergmans' lyrics transformed her style making it less over-the-top and more introspective.
One of her earliest recordings of their songs is one of her finest ever, "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" from 1969. The lyrics are typical of their exploration of love and commitment. A far cry from Barbra's earliest ironic songs "Cry Me a River", "Down with Love", and "Love is a Bore" but closer in spirit to her earlier hits "People" and "He Touched Me". So, she was on track when she chose to record their works. It made sense also because the Bergmans wrote so frequently for movies and Barbra always used her acting talents to interpret lyrics. When Barbra sang "The Way We Were" in the background of her movie, it became more than just a beautiful song but her character's inner thoughts and in the end the movie's message. This of course added up to big sales and a number one hit on Billboard. The same combination of meaningful lyrics with superb acting came together for "Yentl" but this time for an entire song score. Both projects brought the Bergmans Academy Awards for writing. So not only did the Bergmans help Barbra's career it was vice versa. "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" was a commercial and artistic triumph when she recorded it with Neil Diamond. The words so resonated with the public that sales of flowers went up as a result. The duet version makes one easily forget their seperate solo recordings.
Listening to What Matters Most, I wonder how did these songs by the Bergmans never get recorded by Barbra before? They are as well suited to Barbra's style as the 51 Bergman songs she previously recorded. At the length of 41:39 its the shortest album of her hers since "Wet" back in 1979 when albums were not much longer than 40 minutes. Barbra says in the liner notes that her total songs recorded by them now totaled 63 after this album which hints that she intended 12 songs originally. But this ten song collection seems the perfect length both in total and individual tracks. With Barbra the sole producer her increased confidence is evident in the choices made. The arrangements are similar to The Movie Album, which was glorious but sometimes a bit overdone, and some songs hard to get into. Every song on What Matters Most draws you in and keeps you there from one moment to the next. It helps to have a common theme of love which is reminiscent of her album A Love Like Ours. But unlike the 1999 release Barbra mixes up the tempos such as "Nice n Easy" which starts out slow and builds to a jazzy finish with arrangement by Patrick Williams. "That Face" which Barbra featured briefly during her Circus Medley on Color Me Barbra gets the full treatment here with a bright, joyful sound that fits with the adoring lyrics. Then there's "So Many Stars" with an exciting Brazilian arrangement by William Ross actually featuring lyrics sung in Portuguese! Barbra was also blessed to have excellent trumpet soloist Chris Botti and sax soloist Dan Higgins. As producer Barbra knows how to assemble the ideal team.
Even with the uptempo arrangements, nothing is more exciting than the first minute of the album when she sings "The Windmills of Your Mind" acapella. It is a risky move for any singer at her age, that is any singer except Barbra. She may have a few slight hoarse moments that would have never been allowed during her earlier perfectionist years. Yet she hits all the high notes and is still the best at conveying a lyricist's intentions. Especially when she has lyrics by the Bergmans who, as Barbra says in the liner notes, have found so many ways to say "I Love You." with lyrics that have a "poetic grace that's completely unique."
****While the deluxe edition does contain tracks that have all appeared on previous Barbra releases (I own all such releases on cd except for one--Barbra Joan Streisand) it is great to have this collection as a companion to the new tracks. It further helps to point out how perfect the Bergmans have been for Barbra and vice versa.
Recommended new tracks: "The Windmills of Your Mind", "The Same Hello, The Same Goodbye", "That Face", "Nice n Easy"
Recommended classic tracks: "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?", "Papa Can You Hear Me?", "You Don't Bring Me Flowers", "The Summer Knows"
on August 28, 2011
Without a doubt and with no exaggeration, What Matters Most is one of the very best albums of Barbra's career. Beautiful songs, exquisite singing. Lyrics and music that suit Barbra perfectly, then infused with all the feelings that come from understanding herself, understanding life, and understanding singing. The voice is lovely, a wonder still and now enriched by the experience and depth of a true artist.
on August 23, 2011
My on-line ordered copy has yet to arrive, so I went at lunch to pick up the Deluxe Edition of the new "What Matters Most", by my beloved Barbra Streisand. Playing Disc 1, featuring all the new versions of Alan & Marilyn Bergman songs that Barbra has not recorded previously, I was driving home from the Mall listening and melting away. During this time is when the earthquake rolled up the East Coast from VA and I never noticed a thing. So much for Barbra soothing an unusual situation. I loved the previous studio album "Love Is The Answer", and this new collection, plus a bonus disc of old favorites, adds to the brilliance that is and will always be Barbra Streisand. I received three gifts with this album:
1 - a new album of great Alan & Marilyn Bergman song that have never been recorded by Barbra previously. The orchestrations and interpretations blend beautifully on all tracks. Chris Botti lends his trumpeting to "Alone In The World". As we've lived along with Barbra all these years, and knowing her interpretations of previous Bergman masterpieces, these are the perfect set of songs for the mature Barbra. Highlights include a few Pourtugeuse lyrics during "So Many Stars" in one of the nicest arrangements of this hit track (previous hit for Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66). "Something New In My Life" is a Bergman song I was unfamiliar with. Barbra and the orchestrations take it to a different stratosphere with a great high note.
2 - A Collection of past Bergman songs from various albums, including two from the "Yentl" soundtrack. This could have been an album in its own right as Barbra's "Best of the Bergmans", so glad it was included with the Deluxe Edition. It is long overdue.
Lastly, 3 - Barbra has recorded probably my most favorite Bergman collaboration, "I'll Never Say Goodbye" from the film "The Promise". Melissa Manchester's version from the film soundtrack (and has yet to land on CD or MP3) has been my definitive version since I first heard it, with a close second by Maureen McGovern. Barbra has now made this song her own, as I've always heard her singing it in the back of my head. Now she has, and I am so pleased.
Fans will not miss this one. It is also a great introduction piece for people curious about Barbra's past catalog and adding new material to it. Alan and Marilyn hear Barbra singing their material when they write it, and right they are. I get the same feeling, and here, Barbra has done just that. This is traditional pop vocals at their best all around. Not to be missed.
on September 18, 2011
Someday, there will be a last Streisand recording. She will repair to her home on the ocean and while away her hours doing other things. Those of us who have known her mostly through her recordings will stop for a moment or two or three and reconsider what she meant to us. We do this everytime she releases something new. We are a family in that way, taking our child and mother to task for what we disapprove of, and for what we find thrilling. Do you suppose she considered retiring when her instrument first showed signs of wear? Do you suppose she has found the artistry still left in the crows-feet that now surround her voice? Once again, she has shown us what is beautiful instead. That face, that face . . . how we have always adored it. I am among those fans who have not always liked her output (I found her last collection of songs masterful but dreary). Here, again, we have the tingle-inducing instrument that Glenn Gould wrote about. The instrument is most apparent in the final cut "What Matters Most" where her cello-like voice plays against and with the piano and strings. Thanks again Ms. Streisand for teaching us what beauty is, and where the lyrics reside (in the heart).
on August 23, 2011
Sometimes, I'm really happy to be wrong. In 2009, when barbra released "Love is the Answer" I thought it was her finest collection of songs since "The Broadway Album", and like most, I prefer the quartet versions. I thought, particularly after the album reached #1, it should be her last--go out on a high note. When she announced that she was recording another studio album, especially an album completely devoted to the Bergman's who she's already recorded very extensively throughout her career, I thought, "Oh, God! This is gonna suck." I am VERY happy to say, I was wrong, wrong, wrong.
The last several years have seen Barbra on a dizzying creative high, and this album, like her last, is essential 'late period Barbra.' It is her finest album with full orchestra since "The Broadway Album." Every detail of the album is handled with loving care, and the utmost respect. The arrangements are lush, but not laboring or overbearing, and barbra is in better voice than she has been in years--there is a little rasp in her belt, but at 69, she still hasn't developed the "wobble" thank goodness, and she still manages to make this rather intricate, rangy melodies seem almost effortless.
For those who stopped buying barbra Streisand albums after 1997's "Higher Ground" they're losing out. I highly reccommend who reads this to purchase this album--as well as "Live in Concert 2006" and "Love is the Answer" if you haven't already. You won't be sorry. This album is a beavenly bubble bath that stays the perfect temperature from its first syllable to its last.
Download This: Windmills of Your Mind
It always amazes me that some people who dislike an artist buy, download and listen to that performer just so they can tear them apart. Makes no sense to me, but I am seeing reviewers who are doing just that, as they have before with the same performer's prior work!!
Barbra Streisand has achieved such success (in all fields, not just recordings) that few can attain this kind of a career. Most falter after a few years. Not so with Miss Streisand. The lady is closing in on 70 years of age. And she still has it! It may not be the same voice of 20 or 30 years ago, but how could it be? Sinatra recorded into his senior years and the voice wasn't the same, but still great. Tony Bennett is still able to do justice to what he sings. Rosemary Clooney, Lena Horne and on and on--they kept singing and none of them sounded like they did in their youth.
On this beautiful album, the music of Michel LeGrand, Sergio Mendes, John Williams and other terrific composers join with the wonderous lyrics of the Bergmans. And Barbra pays tribute to them with ten newly recorded renditions (Disc One) and ten previously recorded cuts (Disc Two).
On the new stuff she does a really nice job of That Face and Nice And Easy. I'll Never Say Goodbye and Windmills of My Mind are highlights. There are a few songs (Solitary Moon and Alone in the World) that I don't care for, but it's not because of her singing. I just don't care for the songs.
The CD is nicely packaged, contains a booklet of nice photos and notes about the recording.
I think Miss Streisand has given another stellar performance. Beautiful, Barbra, beautiful!