The Voice probably will keep The Streak — having a No. 1 album in every decade since the 1960s — intact with her latest outing. The fan base of the legend, 69, remains large and loyal.
says USA Today. Yes from the 60s onwards. That will mean 6 consecutive decades if this goes to number one, and with such popular material there's absolutely no reason why not. It's already at #1 on Amazon.
Streisand's last album, “Love Is the Answer”, was her ninth #1 hit, making her the only artist to have a number 1 album in five different decades. With her latest album, “What Matters Most – Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman” might be about to top her own record? Well if The Los Angeles Times is anything to go by, yes:
Is it possible Barbra Streisand's voice could actually get better with age?
That seems like an iffy proposition, with 70 around the corner next year and an upper range that can't last forever. Yet she's never sounded more appealing than she does on her 33rd studio album, “What Matters Most: Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman.”
The occasional slight rasp in her voice — we're talking very slight — makes her sound almost human. The intersection of near-perfection and near-mortal turns out to be a sweet spot.
The Montreal Gazette is in complete agreement,
No question: Babs knows how to kick off an album with authority.
The song is the quasi-standard The Windmills of Your Mind. It's among the most enduringly poetic pages from the formidable catalogue of lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, the songwriting couple – now 85 and 81 respectively – whose work Streisand celebrates here. The platinum melody is by Michel Legrand.
So how does the superstar make her entrance? A cappella and frighteningly perfect in pitch and phrasing. The orchestra, conducted by her long-time arranger Bill Ross, eventually touches the hem of the diva's garment and oh so gently helps bring the song home. It's a triumph all the way.
As Streisand has now recorded more than 60 songs with lyrics by the Bergmans, she wanted to record some of those favourites that she has never sung before.
Since the then-18-year-old club singer first met lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, she's recorded 51 of their compositions, including songs from her 1983 film “Yentl”. The most successful living female recording artist 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.
says a LA Times blog.
In her last album there were two Bergman tracks, the Diana Krall and Tommy LiPuma-produced “Love Is the Answer”, released two years ago, included two tracks with Bergman lyrics. This time Streisand has produced the disc, selecting 10 songs by the couple and various collaborators.
The first critics agree on the uniqueness and staying power of her pipes.
The famous voice is still in grand shape. Her ability to send shivers as she hits certain notes or rolls off a perfect turn of phrase is as deeply touching as ever.
says The Boston Globe. The Montreal Gazette adds,
Streisand does nothing here to raise concerns over the National Treasure status of her pipes. She remains pretty much incomparable, and her phrasing still sounds as fussed-over as ever. One need only listen to the way she hits the crescendo at the word “on” near the end of Something New in My Life or her warm reading of The Same Hello, the Same Goodbye to get the message.
So what's the negative?
As strong as the interpretations can be – and props are given to the various composers of the melodies – this is a very sedate record. Streisand, who produced it herself, has a soft spot for orchestrations that are just a little too sweet, languid piano balladry, and lilting, midtempo cocktail-hour ambience that would be more fun if it had some swing.
said The Boston Globe.
The melodies from their various musical collaborators tend toward adult-contemporary sameness, and some arrangements are snoozy.
The USA Today added. But overall a hit, as the LA Times says,
Regardless of whether these are the songs you've been itching to hear her sing, “What Matters Most” marks another credible entry in the musical renaissance that began a few years ago, and you won't even have to believe her gracefully aging voice isn't butter. It is, still, the odds notwithstanding.
When asked if she enjoyed performing in an CBS interview on Sunday, Streisand replied,
“Not particularly, no. I mean, I love the audience response and that, you know, feeling. But when you're performing and people pay money, a lot of money for tickets, it's an obligation to – every aspect has to be, I don't want to use the word perfect, 'cause nothing's perfect. I strive for excellence, I would say, yeah, yeah; I'm a work in progress.”
And her mother whose shadow stills follows her day to day,
“My mother never really thought I could become anything. She would tell me I'm too skinny. I'm, you know, my voice isn't strong enough, or whatever her comments were when she first saw me sing or act. But my point is I'm grateful to her for that. Because in a sense it made me who I am today.
“That's why I don't ever say that I'm retired,” she said. “I mean, I think I could record for years to come, and direct movies, and act in a few more, you know. And write much more. So it ain't over 'til it's over.”
Maybe she won't have a #1 hit in the 20s, but there are still another 9 years in this decade to fill. It ain't over yet.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.