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Christmas Memories is Barbra's first new album of Christmas and Holiday music in 34 years. Track lis ting: " I'll Be Home for Christmas", " Snowbound" " Grown Up Christmas List".
What's a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn cum internationally renowned pop diva doing releasing a(nother) Christmas album? Well, maintaining a long-lived American tradition, for one thing. But then, this companion piece to Barbra Streisand's 1967 A Christmas Album has a mature, jazzy charm and sometimes smoky atmosphere that don't exactly conjure chestnuts roasting by an open fire. Just as Streisand has always used music as a stepping stone to something more ambitiously dramatic, she's used the holiday season here as an excuse to explore rich emotional sentiments, if not necessarily sentimentalism itself. As on its 1960s forebear, her choice of material here is mostly as fresh as it is surprising. Among the contemporary More Usual Suspects (David Foster's "Grown-up Christmas List," "A Christmas Love Song," and "Christmas Mem'ries" by Alan and Marilyn Bergman) are gems familiar ("I'll Be Home For Christmas," "What Are You Doing Christmas Eve?") and rare (Sondheim's updated "I Remember," "It Must Have Been the Mistletoe"). While not bathos-exempt (see "Closer"), Streisand's rich, ever-expressive voice masterfully drives a collection that stretches from "Ave Maria" (Schubert's, this time) to the ecumenical timeliness of "One God." --Jerry McCulley
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I definitely was not a fan of the "TIMELESS" cd or broadcast. I kept wishing she would just stop with the "business" of making music - and simply MAKE MUSIC! You know - let's go back to when I know she loved hearing the sound of her voice soaring... when she was "into" the art of making music.
Then I bought this CD.
When I heard her first few notes, I immediately picked up the CD to see WHEN WAS THIS RECORDED??? It sounded to me like it'd been recorded around the time of SIMPLY STREISAND - she seemed like she was using her voice in a similar fashion, like she did way back then. But, no - it's a new recording. (As the arrangement went on, it's clear that the recording is new. Her high notes are hit the way she hits them now - as opposed to the 1960's high notes... if that makes any sense to you...)
So, it's a new recording.
But it's a terrific new recording. Not all the songs are worthy of the Streisand voice (in my own opinion), but song #3 ("I REMEMBER") is without question one of the finest studio performances Ms. Streisand has ever done. It's one of those recordings where you know the song meant something to her... Her voice is used so delicately - every note used to paint the picture... She's allowing that fantastic vibrato to creep into her sustained notes every now & then (Remember how fantastic her vibrato was at the end of "LOOK AT THAT FACE" on her COLOR ME BARBRA album? We used to play that last note over & over again, when I was a kid...) - and the results are breathtaking. Her voice is rich, her vocals "real."
There are many fine performances on this CD. It is a recording that helped get me into - and through - the Christmas season.
Thanks, Barbra, for still being with us - for still being BARBRA STREISAND.
I was particularly pleased at the inclusion of It must have been the mistletoe, a rarely recorded song. It appears on Barbara Mandrell's album Christmas at our house and has also been recorded by Vikki Carr, but I know of no other versions. The only frequently recorded songs here are I'll be home for Christmas and Ave Maria, but Barbra sings them beautifully, as she sings all the songs here. The other familiar song is What are doing New Year's Eve. I do not recognize any of the other songs here but they are all wonderful - I particularly like Christmas memories and Grown up Christmas list.
I prefer this to Barbra's 1967 Christmas album but I know that there are plenty who will disagree. You must make up your own mind. My main reason for preferring this one is that, overall, I feel the song selection was superior.
The production (largely by Streisand and William Ross) is more tasteful and inventive than anything she's done since the mid-eighties, and her voice sounds fantastic. Along with 2000's live TIMELESS, I would say that Barbra's voice hasn't sounded this lovely since 1985's THE BROADWAY ALBUM. Barbra expertly covers some Christmas standards ("I'll Be Home For Christmas," "What Are You Doing New Years Eve?"), as well as some perfectly selected lessor-known material ("Snowbound," the semi-title track "Christmas Mem'ries"). Two of the best songs come at the very end - newly-written "Closer" (which puts a different spin on Christmas time and relationships) and the thrilling, timely "One God" (which Streisand originally on a 1950's Johnny Mathis record). Barbra even manages to add another Stephen Sondheim composition ("I'll Remember," a brilliant recording) to her ever-growing cannon of the composers work.
Fans responded to the disc, sending to #15 on the Hot 100 (very impressive for a Christmas recording) and all the way to #3 on the Seasonal Album Chart. The album was certified Platinum in sales before the end of the year, and even managed to spawn a minor radio hit with the delightful "It Must Have Been The Mistletoe" (#24 Adult Contemporary). Considering that all of the songs are slow to mid-tempo, CHRISTMAS MEMORIES has a more vulnerable, poignant feeling that most holiday albums lack. A very beautiful, somber recording, CHRISTMAS MEMORIES is exactly what we needed in winter of 2001.
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