Filed under: album, review | Tags: 2009, andy wasley, barbra streisand, diana krall, music
Love Is The Answer •••½
Love Is The Answer is the product of a partnership between Barbara Streisand and acclaimed Canadian jazz star Diana Krall. Given both artists’ pulling power, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the album debuted at #1 in the US Billboard chart, giving Streisand a new record of five decades in which she has scored a chart-topping album, and subsequently soared to the top of the UK countdown this weekend. Fans were bound to welcome the album, having waited four years since Streisand’s last outing, Guilty Too, which saw her rejuvenate her multi-platinum selling 1980 collaboration with The Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb. Since Guilty Too was a firmly (and, perhaps, disappointingly) mainstream album, a return to Streisand’s jazzy, stagey roots makes for a welcome addition to her extensive discography.
Anything bearing the stamp of two of the world’s most successful – and, in their own ways, original – female artists is going to contain some gems. In this regard, Love Is The Answer certainly doesn’t fail, with a number of standout tracks enabling Streisand to justify her legendary status. ‘If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’, a Jacques Brel classic, gives Streisand a chance to throw some French flair into an already perfectly sultry track. Her restrained, stage-perfect histrionics come through well in the Sinatra classic ‘In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning’, too, with Krall’s piano solo adding a hypnotic touch to a well-executed midnight reflection on loneliness and longing. ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’, one of jazz’s most recorded numbers, is also given a well-judged, smooth and sweet treatment, a welcome break from some of its more brassy renditions (j’accuse Shirley Bassey).
There is, however, a problem. Krall’s tracks are usually laid down first with a string quartet in the studio, with the heavier orchestration added later, and her influence is felt in Streisand’s offering. Streisand admits in the album notes that she was “reticent” to record this way; alas, that reticence would have served her well. We’ve noted before that if there is any criticism that could fairly be levelled at Krall, it is that the string accompaniment to her tracks often sounds overly bland, detracting somewhat from her expressive vocals. Here, too, Streisand is all-too-often flooded by the omnipresent strings, arranged by Grammy winning compose Johnny Mandel, which bear all the turgid sentimentalism of Mantovani-style elevator music and do absolutely nothing to add finesse or colour to the music. The real treasure lies in the deluxe edition’s bonus disc of the original quartet recordings, where Streisand really is on top form.
It’s hard to knock the album overall; it’s just a shame that so much stock is placed in the orchestrations. Nevertheless, Love Is The Answer remains a welcome return to form from one of music’s most gifted interpreters.
UK release date: 28/09/09; www.myspace.com/barbrastreisand
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