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Barbra Streisand - What Matters Most

Barbra Streisand, What Matters Most

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FOR her first new album since September 2009, Barbra Streisand has opted – once more – to stretch herself and indulge a passion, while maintaining her own high standards in the process.

What Matters Most therefore marks the realisation of a long-cherished desire to release an album of music with lyrics exclusively written by her collaborators and friends, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and which she has never previously recorded.

That means that previous songs the duo have written for her, including The Way We Were, aren’t included unless you buy the deluxe edition (released the same day).

Rather, this is Streisand revisiting some classics and bringing her own inimitable and classy interpretations to them. And the 10 songs that ensue are firm evidence of a singer at the top of her game clearly having fun.

Not that she’s gone for anything easy! Opening track The Windmill of Your Mind, for instance, is delivered early on in a capella fashion… thereby showcasing Streisand’s striking, yet sensitive vocals and showing just how difficult it is to pull off.

It’s a beguiling moment… a hold your breath moment even. But the gradual layering in of instrumentals is superbly done: subtle, simple and yet cinematic (as if tipping its hat to the roots of the song in The Thomas Crown Affair). It’s a sumptuous opening.

Thereafter, there’s a tender beauty to Something New In My Life, which is as much Streisand thanking her writers for providing a fresh challenge, as it is the honouring of a great song. It’s delivered with such emotion, though, that it also stops you in your tracks to listen and contemplate what it has to say.

Further highlights come in the form of her sensual take on the Frank Sinatra classic, Nice ‘n’ Easy (backed by string arrangements and the subtlest piano), So Many Stars, which finds Streisand picking up the tempo slightly for a Samba vibe that honours the Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66 original, the bittersweet The Same Hello, The Same Goodbye and That Face, a perfectly honed (and somewhat cinematic) interpretation of a song that was first recorded by Fred Astaire.

If there’s perhaps a minor criticism, it’s that Streisand has opted for a more slow-burning, deliberate style in her selections that owes more to balladry.
But that’s what makes the rare moments she does pick up the tempo (such as That Face) all the more fun and rewarding: you can almost see her smile during such moments.

Overall, though, this is a stunning and highly rewarding collection that only looks set to enhance Streisand’s reputation further. And that’s no mean feat for an artist who has already won two Oscars, five Emmys, 10 Golden Globes, eight Grammys, a special Tony Award and two Cable Ace awards!

Download picks: The Windmill of Your Mind, Something New In My Life, So Many Stars, That Face, The Same Hello, The Same Goodbye

Track listing:

  1. The Windmills of Your Mind
  2. Something New in My Life
  3. Solitary Moon
  4. Nice ‘n’ Easy
  5. Alone in The World
  6. So Many Stars
  7. The Same Hello, The Same Goodbye
  8. That Face
  9. I’ll Never Say Goodbye
  10. What Matters Most