Barbra Streisand - Love is the Answer

2009-12-21 10:34
Love is the Answer

"There are notes between notes, you know" said jazz songbird Sarah Vaughan when a reporter once asked her about the secret to singing Great American Songbook standards. Barbra Streisand knows a bit about navigating those spaces. Over the past five decades, she's maintained her status as the world's pre-eminent adult contemporary diva with an unmatched thirty one Top 10 albums that earned her eight Grammy Awards. 

On her first album of romantic jazz ballads she returns to her American Songbook roots for a sublime set of late-night meditations on love's many moods. It's a master class in the lost art of old school standards interpretation with Babs saving Sinatra's "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" from it's bottom of the bottle bravado, relocating Jacques Brel and Rod McKuen's Broadway torch song "If You Go Away" back to its erotic Parisian café song roots and nailing the unbridled bliss of falling in - and out of - love with an ecstatic take on Jerome Kern's "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes".

Maestro Johnny Mandel works his magic throughout, his candlelit string arrangements sidestepping any swinging Vegas lounge bombast to soundtrack Streisand's irresistibly expressive segues between breathless romance ("A Time For Love"), bittersweet heartache ("Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most") and beatific blues ("Make Someone Happy").

Grammy-winning pianist Diana Krall deserves major kudos too, her unfussy production keeping the spotlight trained on Streisand's magnificent voice throughout, while her own supper club jazz solos simply colour Barbra's tender sigh on the stirring chamber ballad "Here's to Life" or shade a melancholic silence on the Brazlian bossa-kissed beauty of "Gentle Rain".

Isn't it annoying constantly hearing some trashy pop tart like Lady Gaga being hailed as a diva when she can barely sing? Sure we all know it's our ludicrous obsession with celebrity, 15 seconds of fame – and yes, Idols is to blame – but what happened to a songbird actually earning her diva status by delivering consistently classy albums over an entire career? What a pleasure then to hear a bona fide diva like Barbra Streisand remind us that vocal artistry is the only real X-factor.

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