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Album Review: Barbra Streisand's 'What Matters Most: Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman'

August 22, 2011 |  7:09 pm

   Streisand

 For her thirty-something-th album, Barbra Streisand returns to old married friends for 10 songs of bleeding-heart inspiration. Since the then-18-year-old club singer first met lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, she’s recorded 51 of their compositions (she says in the liner notes for “What Matters Most”), including songs from her 1983 film “Yentl.” The most successful living female recording artist (judging by record sales and awards) knows a good thing when she’s got it. “What Matters Most” is a lovefest: romantic songs drenched in strings and a booklet crammed with photos of Streisand nestled up to the Bergmans, the prodigal daughter and her musical parents.

But Streisand’s somber production and emotional vocals evoke melancholy more than joy — a fitting mood for these theatrical but not sentimental songs. This career couple returns to themes of the struggle of commitment, the torment of passion, the loneliness of love (“Solitary Moon” and “Alone in the World”). Streisand, who has made her mark in part by dragging out the drama of ballads and pop tunes, sets the tone by singing the first few verses of the psychological thriller “The Windmills of Your Mind” a cappella. She precisely cups the mouthful of metaphors — “Like a clock whose hands are sweeping/ Past the minutes of its face’’ — in her sure, lovely tones, unshaken by age. She sings the Ol’ Blue Eyes toe-tapper “Nice ‘n’ Easy” nice and slow.

Not until the eighth track, the sprightly Cole Porter-esque “That Face,” does the old funny girl show up. But she doesn’t stick around for long, because love is a serious matter — the matter that matters most, as the Bergmans write in the title track. If this album goes to No. 1, Streisand will have topped the charts during six decades, demonstrating that even in pop, there’s such a thing as timeless talent.

Barbra Streisand

'What Matters Most: Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman'

(Columbia)

Three stars (Out of four)

ALSO:

Album review: Sly Stone's 'I'm Back! Family & Friends'

Album review: Jeff Bridges' 'Jeff Bridges'

Album review: David Serby's 'Poor Man's Poem'

--Evelyn McDonnell

 

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