Toronto
2 min

Rhyming orange

Songwriters love Barbra

SHE CARES, DEEP DOWN. Overly lush arrangements can't hide Babs' still incredible voice. Credit: Xtra files

Let’s begin by lodging the obvious complaint: There’s nothing up-tempo on the whole damn CD. Indeed, the relentlessly lush arrangements on Barbra Steisand’s The Movie Album beg to be juxtaposed with something visually ridiculous. (One is reminded of the film Defending Your Life when Albert Brooks, singing along to Barbra’s Broadway Album, crashes his car into a truck.)



But all that is forgivable. For the past 20-plus years Streisand has been embracing a glossy respectability that is only now appropriate. One can excuse her inflated string section because her voice still sounds incredible. And her square taste has somehow become more interesting with the passage of pop-culture time.



For The Movie Album, Barbra chose 12 film songs through which to contemplate her movie-buff self and, despite her unfortunate affinity for Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s syrupy oeuvres, there are some intriguing selections on this CD. On “Goodbye For Now,” she sings the Stephen Sondheim lyric never heard in the film Reds, and invokes the Warren Beatty/Diane Keaton love duet that might have been. And her refreshing decision to visit the trashy Natalie Wood show-biz melodrama Inside Daisy Clover provides us with the final track, “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” by André and Dory Previn. Here it’s less of a showstopper than a wistful homage to Barbra’s younger self… right down to the sly vamp borrowed from “Don’t Rain On My Parade.”



Needless to say, Barbra produced everything . Thankfully, she created some sweet moments. On “Moon River,” she stays true to the melody and demonstrates what a beautiful song Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer wrote. According to her extensive liner notes, Barbra performed this song on TV in 1961 when Breakfast At Tiffany’s was released. That recording would be a real find! “But Beautiful,” a song from Road To Rio, is the first of two Jimmy Van Heusen tunes on the album and here Barbra caresses Johnny Burke’s bittersweet rhymes with some impressive Billie Holliday back-phrasing. And in the one useful track on the bonus DVD, you can watch her recording “I’m In The Mood For Love” in full close-up, her percussive facial tics punctuating Dorothy Fields’ seductive lyric.



Songwriters love Barbra. For this CD, Bob Telson wrote a new verse to his haunting “Calling You” from Bagdad Café. The Bergmans set words to André Previn’s theme from The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse. And the Johnny Mercer estate gave her permission to alter the song from The Americanization Of Emily so that she could sing what was intended for a man.



Yes, songwriters love Barbra because she cares. Deep down, you know? As she told Oprah, she hates the colour orange. And orange is the hardest colour to rhyme.



THE MOVIE ALBUM.

Barbra Streisand.

Sony. $15.99.