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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Audio Beaverhausen: Barbra Streisand, "Release Me"

Archival material is wonderful because it already comes with a sense of adoration of its subject and of nostalgia. Barbra Streisand's Release Me releases some of the singer's archival material unheard by the general public before this album, available Tuesday, October 9.

Babs recently told Katie Curic, in essence, that she has mellowed with age and is not as much of a control freak, regarding her recordings, as she used to be.  This sentiment is echoed in the cd's liner notes. Of course, being supported by, next to, and under James Brolin probably has loosened the old girl up, I can only imagine. I'm sure Barbra was a pain in the ass to work with for many producers (as are most perfectionists; Dusty Springfield being a classic example). Yet, the results of working with Ms S = priceless.

And, so, here we are with 11 previously unreleased tracks, covering four decades, on Release Me. All right already, you're released! So what, exactly, do we have here?

Fans and casual listeners alike surely will enjoy the strong coloratura voice; one of the last essential, pure pop voices out there from an era that knew and appreciated authentic talent. All songs collected on this album are solid but vary in quality based on production and arrangement. For example, we were disappointed in Babs' rendition of "I Think It's Going to Rain Today." Very spare, with its songwriter, Randy Newman, on piano, it seems Streisand doesn't quite plant herself solidly in this number. We still prefer the versions by Judy Collins and Bette Midler.

The album opens and closes with its strongest productions, "Being Good Isn't Good Enough" (slyly referential to Barbra's motive for putting the kibosh on these tunes) and "Home," from the Broadway show, The Wiz, which thrills with its big build up to a glorious vocal and orchestral crescendo. (Hear it at the link provided below.) And Barbra is indeed coming home this month to perform in Brooklyn!

Betwixed and between are the 1964 "Willow Weep for Me," showcasing Barbra's earlier, instinctive phrasing of a song; "With One More Look At You," cut from the soundtrack of "A Star Is Born;" Jimmy Webb's "Didn't We" (unbelievable this ever got the axe); "Try to Win a Friend," country-flavored and penned by Larry Gatlin; and the beautifully sung and arranged "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?/Heather on the Hill" from Finnian's Rainbow/Brigadoon.

The only mess on this miscellany of music is the badly conceived and executed bossa nova number,  "Lost in Wonderland." "Girl from Ipanema" it ain't, if you know what I'm sayin'!

These songs could have stayed in a vault, but thank Babs, they're collected on this album for us to appreciate. Overall, a winning kit and caboodle from the grand dame of pop, who, thankfully, got over her OCD so she could deliver these goods. Thank God for the way she was.

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