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Barbra Shows Us How It's Done
on November 5, 2009
The Mark of Barbra is all over this CD. From the concept, the song selection, the arrangements, the instrumentalists and the artwork to the voice of Barbra herself, this project delivers what fans have come to expect from this great artist: an impeccable musical production. Without knowing any of Barbra's personal details, even a first-time listener will easily surmise that she is a peaceful, happy, wise person who has sought and found true love and wants to share its wondrous message with others. And because it's Barbra, the message is expressed as beautifully as any singer possibly could. If you're familiar with these songs at all, you'll be moved, as I was, by Barbra's ability to shine a new light on old material. "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" is a good example. I've heard the song before, but never like this.
The idea of presenting the songs in two formats, one with orchestra and one with small back-up combo, was brilliant. Both formats are equally good.
Barbra can still "belt" when she wants to, and she occasionally lets it fly on this CD, but for the most part she prefers to croon. We've gotten used to the vocal meanderings of singers whose lack of training and technique forces them to distort vowels, change tone colors when they can't manage a note, yodel, breathe in the middle of a phrase, strain, scream and grandstand, and hope nobody will notice -- or will even admire them for it. Want to know what really good singing sounds like? Let the Master demonstrate how it's done.
Although individually the performances are first-rate in a subtle, yet deeply emotional way, the fact that the album is 100% ballads takes its toll after awhile, and I start to get bored. To counteract this, I listen to the CD in sections, rather than all at once. Because of this lack of variety I've rated it 4 stars. And, although Barbra brings all her dramatic and vocal powers to the effort, I admit that I detest Jacques Brel's song "If You Go Away/Ne Me Quitte Pas," which is a maudlin bore in any language, including the original French.
Having said that, I'd like to underscore that if you're a fan of the American Songbook, you'll want to own this gorgeously sung and produced CD by one of America's all-time great musical treasures. Thank you for your lifetime of musical service, Barbra. Thank you very much.