With eight Grammy Awards and 32 studio albums that have sold over 140 million copies worldwide, Barbra Streisand is not simply a singer but a musical phenomenon. At the center of it all, she is just a girl who loves singing and making music.
“What Matters Most — Barbra Streisand sings the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman ” is her 33rd studio album over a staggering 48 years in the musical industry. As the name suggests, Streisand pays homage to Oscar-winning lyricist couple and longtime friends Alan and Marilyn Bergman. “I just love their words, I love their sentiments,” Streisand said of the couple. “They understand the craft of songwriting.”
Their friendship goes back to the days when Streisand was just breaking into the music scene and her first performance brought Marilyn to tears. The rest is history; with over 60 collaborated songs including classic hits “Papa, Can You Hear Me” from the movie “Yentl,” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” a duet with Neil Diamond. Streisand and Bergman are back — but with a twist.
One could call “What Matters Most” a 10-song cover album as it showcases Streisand singing Bergman hits previously unrecorded by her.
Academy Award-winning song “The Windmills of your Mind,” from the movie “The Thomas Crown Affair,” is the opening song of the 41-minute album. Streisand opens with a subtle charisma, which pulls you into the whole album. It is followed by hits such as “Nice ‘n’ Easy,” which was popularized by Frank Sinatra, Academy Award-nominated “I’ll Never Say Goodbye” and many more.
With each song, Streisand brings her own personality and perspective, all the while staying true to her Broadway roots even though the originals spanned over many genres. “That Face,” immortalized by Fred Astaire, is the perfect example. It starts similar to the original, with a string orchestra of harps and violins, but quickly transcends into a jazz number with bass plucking, faster beats and a trumpet undertone. “The Same Hello, The Same Goodbye” epitomizes the Barbra Streisand phenomenon. It starts off softly but gains momentum with a climax so incandescent that the song almost leaves listeners asking for more.
One of the best tracks on the album is definitely “I’ll Never Say Goodbye.” First sung by Melissa Manchester, Streisand’s version seems to be taken out straight from one of her very own musicals. The high notes that she pulls off on this song are sensational. However, this might not always work in her favor. Although her voice is hands down amazing, it sometimes gets quite nasal and shrill. ”Solitary Moon” is one such track; you can practically only listen to it once.
The interesting thing about this album is that even though these acclaimed songs were sung by other artists, it seems that the songs were made for and sung by Streisand alone. Whether she is put up with a 58-piece orchestra or just violin strings and a piano, it is her unrestrained voice that makes you stop and pay attention.
Alan and Marilyn Bergman are famously known for their poetic lyrics about love, relationships and matters of the heart, adding character and meaning to songs through their brilliant lyrics. One such example is “The Windmills of your Mind,” with lyrics like “Lovers walk along a shore / And leave their footprints in the sand” Here, lost love reveals why the husband-wife duo are Oscar winning artists.
For a long time, Streisand had been toying with the idea to make this album, so it comes as no surprise that she has poured her love and soul into it since its conception. The perfectionist that she is, this album surely reaches perfection.
For die-hard Barbra Streisand fans, the deluxe version has 10 previously released Barbra Streisand songs penned by the Bergmans: Academy Award-nominated “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?” and, “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”; the 1978 hit, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” with Neil Diamond; and the classic, “Papa, Can You Hear Me,” recently covered by Lea Michele from “Glee,” are some of the great line-ups you will find enjoyable.
One of the few artists who is an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) recipient, Barbra Streisand has been entertaining for generations and is clearly a virtuoso. However, “What Matters Most” for her are dear friends and her unquestionable love for music. As she herself sings, “The world is a concerto / Each day begins with music.”
Rating: 4 out of 5