Release me - Pure gold from the Vaults
What an opportunity for Streisandlovers and voice aficionados:
Simultaneously with her 50th recording anniversary, America's most significant and consistently successful singer decided to be less self-critical. The momentary result is the CD "Release Me", with 11 previously unreleased recordings from 1967 - 2011. According to information currently available, further albums are at least in the planning stage.
Digging and searching in the depths of the Columbia / Sony archives brought forward various acoustic treasures. For "Release Me" offers a range of large contrast. No more monotony, which had characterized some of Streisand's albums the past few years and which she had been accused of by some of her insatiable fans. Interestingly in this regard, was that the so-called "professional critics" rated her monotonous CDs (eg. Love is the answer, 2009) higher than some of her most faithful fans.
But now, with "Release Me", finally the Streisand-voice of her best years pours out of the speakers broadly, preciously and lavishly like pure gold. Or directly from the headphones into the ear canal. What a pleasure! Her rich vocal range plumbing the depths of these songs.
Soft tones alternate with steely, sustained vocal fanfares in the first song, "Being Good Is not Good Enough." A musical song, but the overall sound being much bulkier and more dynamic than most of the memorable songs from Webber musicals that grandmothers and operetta lovers enjoy.
With the most beautiful jewel of the CD "I Think It's Going To Rain Today", we hear Streisand with delicate harp-like tones, wonderfully fitting Randy Newman's sparse piano accompaniment. This song has already achieved fame with Nina Simone's, Cleo Laine's or Dusty Springfield's recordings. One critic found a musical closeness to Schubert in Streisand's version.
In "Mother and Child", Barbra Streisand bewitches with an almost painful, crystal clarity in her heights. The Billie Holiday classic "Willow Weep For Me", she interprets with impeccable taste, beautiful sound and more convincing than the Holiday song "God Bless the Child" (from the Butterfly Session1974 - also a powerful song, but somewhat too stilted for my taste.
With "Try To Win A Friend" Barbra took me by surprise, because I normally do not appreciate country music. But the song's beautiful melody and Barbra's voice impressed me with its unmatched quality - each note being a treat. In "How Are Things In Glocca Morra", musically surely the more demanding piece, she outsings herself. In other words, she revels! In this piece, I remember the words of Don Black, who wrote the libretto for "Sunset Boulevard". After Streisand's triumphant concert tour in 1994, he summarized: "To me, that sounded like liquid diamonds, I thought: it's not fair that there exists such a voice"
One could also feel that way with "Didn't We". For with topmost skills, Streisand creates a transition from the most delicate tones to an overwhelming fortissimo.
With "Lost In Wonderland", opinions will presumably differ widely . An exceptional bossa nova song, light and breezy, butextremely tricky in its melody. One has to be able to sing that! This requires an impeccable intonation - whichStreisand achieved as early as 1968. Despite "Bossa Nova", a rather unusual song, but also very humorous, maybe takes a little getting used to - but it brings me much joy.
A slight disappointment for me is "With One More Look At You" - but only because the movie version (as a medley) is so heavenly. The recording can not keep up and does not convey this great intensity. However, the studio version is by no means badly sung, and it remains a great song.
"Home" the musical centerpiece of the (black) musical "The Wiz", is demanding and audibly - strains Streisand's voice. In some passages she sounds somewhat exerted, something hard - but maybe that is only natural, after all it is not a simple ditty! I had come across the song only in poor quality as a "Streisand Bootleg" - it never particularly appealed to me. Now the sound quality is excellent - and as a "modern dashing aria" in which she can really get going like in the old days, I've come to appreciate the song more and more!
To conclude this review, a word about "If It's Meant To Me." It's the latest Streisand recording from August 2011 and it practically "creeps" in between the recordings from 1967 to 1988. If you listen to the CD in one go - and even if one pays very close attention to her voice: only tiny differences in voice quality are noticeable. In fact one would not even notice that her voice is twenty or thirty years older here. Now, this song is a ballad, without a straining melody, however considerable changes in height, which Barbra accomplishes absolutely flawlessly.
"Release Me" is a sound document which is both pleasing and convincing and which brings to mind, what a great artist this planet owns in Barbra Streisand. Her artistic caliber and significance will not be repeated in this manner. She is and will remain a legend.
October 9th, 2012
A big " thank you" to Ruth for her great translation -even for my "substantial formulations" as you said... you found the right words!