“LOVE IS THE ANSWER”: Simply Barbra
On her new CD “Love Is the Answer”, Barbra Streisand explores some musical territory never before ventured in her fiftysomething-year career. In addition to hi-tech hip hop/nu-R&B collaborations with Kanye West and Bow Wow, she teams up with Rihanna for a street-smart reworking of her 1979 classic “Enough is Enough”, and surprises her listeners with new electro-dance club remixes of dance remixes of “Evergreen” and “The Way We Were”!
I’m joking, of course. On her new 13-song album, Ms. Streisand actually doesn’t deviate too far from what she does best, which is singing like, well… Barbra Streisand. There’s no vocoder, state-of-the-art gimmickry, or electronic effects here. This is Simply Barbra, gentlemen and gentlemen. Granted, her audience may not be the kind that gets up and starts dancing at her sold-out concerts anyway. But, for this particular collection of songs, it’s easy for young urban trendsters and concert hall queens alike to just close their eyes and listen, hypnotized by Babs’ inimitable voice. Most of the tracks on the “Love Is the Answer” (The title is a line from the sixth song, “Make Someone Happy”.) are jazz standards that have been heard before; but to her credit, she makes songs like the popular “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” truly her own. The same can be said for the well-known “Make Someone Happy” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”.
Barbra’s 49th album was produced by Diana Krall, a Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and singer in her own right. Krall’s piano work can be heard throughout the album, although some bloggers wondered why there was no duet between the two ladies. “Here’s to Life”, the first track, is an ageless anthem for all of us (Glass of champagne optional…), with lyrics like, “No complaints and no regrets, I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets; For I have learned that all you give is all you get, so give it all you’ve got. I had my share, I drank my fill; and even though I’m satisfied, I’m hungry still; to see what’s down another road beyond the hill, and do it all again…” For the jazz-flavored “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” or the quietly delicious “Like the Gentle Wind” (Love those delicate piano touches!), she reminds us that she can hold some amazing notes. Her voice sounds quite vulnerable on “If You Go Away” (“Ne Me Quitte Pas”), where she warbles about both romance and its flipside, heartbreak… and she gets to sing in French too. The album’s closer “Some Other Time” is a stunner– and based on the lyrics, more than a subtle promise that this is NOT Barbra’s last album!
At 67, Babs’ voice is still astonishingly smooth and unblemished. With minimal musical adornment in the background (Although many tracks, like “Here’s that Rainy Day”, feature some artful piano work.), Barbra’s unmistakable voice is pushed to the forefront. (Would our diva have it any other way?!) Every note seems tirelessly planned and perfected . As an admitted perfectionist, Barbra herself would agree. Love her or hate her, you can’t deny that she gives her fans what they want. And those fans know who they are!