Someone, namely my best friend, is probably going to hit me for this, but I don't get the big deal. I mean, I get the big deal, but not the huge, obsessive, big deal. Maybe I was just a part of the wrong generation to properly appreciate Ms. Streisand. My favorite female like-minded singer while I was growing up was Celine Dion. I saw Barbara as a woman who probably helped give influence with a beautiful voice, but she never struck me as an incredible woman. Eh, I'm cynical and can't always think of decent entertainment female role models to begin with.
This doesn't mean I lack respect for the woman in any way, shape, or form! She's got a legacy of a career, and has spanned the entertainment spectrum. Anyone who can do everything she has deserves that respect. Anyone who's come that far can also do whatever damn projects she feels like, including a two-disc set of standards from two writers, without question. Oh, what's that? That's what we're listening to today? Sweet, then let's do this.
"The Windmills of Your Mind" starts disc one, track one. We're greeted to the album only by Barbra's voice - and yes, it's as lovely as I remember. No one can ever take her talent away from her, for sure. She's got a very gentle way about her voice, with a clearly theatrically trained way about her. You can clearly hear every single word into the mic, with every consonant said out. The orchestra joins in with her about a minute in, but we're already entranced by her voice alone, with no need for the flourish from the rest.
I didn't mention earlier, but this is Barbra's 33rd studio album. Not too many artists can say that, you have to admit. This first disc is all new songs from Bergman that have had yet to be released, including "Something New In My Life." It's a very pretty love song, and personally it seems appropriate for a musical to my ears. This is the first time, but probably not the last, that her maturity is very clear. This is no young woman's voice, let alone song. This is a love for the ages, despite the title, just based on the deep and strong passion in her voice in celebration of it.
"Solitary Moon" comes one with a gorgeous harp flurry, and the orchestra cradles us into the nighttime. This is one of those pretty standards you'd hear at an old-fashioned club, and it's for the couples to dance to while the vocalist just smiles and enjoys how she gets to effect the men and womens' lives for a few moments. There's a great saxophone that intercepts in-between verses, just adding that extra spark of romance.
Oh, I think we know the next one, at least vaguely. This is "Nice 'n' Easy." It's a slow song here, and what I think we can all hope for in love. Eventually it does get to this point, right? I mean, Babs says so! God, songs like this take me back to drives in my Grandfather's car. He would always play the great crooners (when there wasn't a Yankees game on, mind you), while we drove with my Mema and Mom to dinner or my aunt's house. We were in a black Cadillac mind you - so classy.
"Alone In The World" is possibly one of the most depressing song titles I've seen in quite some time, and it's only exasperated by the trumpet. It's not meant to be a sad song, I think. It sounds more like they're two people who are ignoring the rest of the world, and standing in defiance of it together. Okay, it's actually a very romantic song I suppose. In that light, the trumpet doesn't come across as quite so sadly anymore. "Love is the refuge that sees us through" is probably the line, along with "kiss the world away," that gave it away. I see.
It's not easy to listen to an album like this in the middle of the day. It's much more of a nighttime album, and not at all a driving one (with the exclusion of the cadillac). "So Many Stars" has a little Latin beat of sorts to it, and again, I can only see those old clubs that still featured a solo singer with a band. I have dreams of someday owning a bar/nightclub with this level of class, at least a day or two a week. Cue in black and white and gold coloring through the decor, and I think it'd be a nice throwback. Whoa, Babs just went.. Spanish, I think, on me. I wasn't really paying attention, but way to go. Love those moments.
"The Same Hello, The Same Goodbye" is quite nice, given the piano accompaniment simplifying the song a lot. These are the kind of classic songs that strike a chord because they speak with so little. The orchestra does come in, bringing it back to the same sound as the rest of the tracks. The story's still there though - undeniable love that tries to see others but can't. They continue to encounter each other as ever before, regardless of the denial that it will be different. Once again, they're thrown back together, and once again, they say goodbye.
A violin leads us in to "That Face." There's definitely an element of memory here. It turns into a light swing song, which is a break from the ballads we've been hearing. Barbra keeps the beat up and just seems to be enjoying the whole thing really. It's a nice break but maintains the love-song theme I think we've been going for throughout.
"I'll Never Say Goodbye" is another romantic one, though let's just admit that the title deems it a little obsessive. That's intense love songs for you though. This is how it works. This sounds like a Rachel Berry graduation song possibility though. I mean, really, Ryan Murphy apparently wants her, Kurt, and Finn to all stay around next year, so it would be sickeningly appropriate. And now I'm on a tangent. But hey, that's what happens when you do an album where songs sound very similar - the listener tries to grasp as straws to make differences appear between them each.
And of course, to close out disc one, we get the title track, "What Matters Most." It's a lovely ending with the full string orchestra and piano to accompany her. It has the sound of an ending song, really. She sings of how nothing matters quantity wise, it's the quality. That is, of course, simplifying it quite a bit, but this is a song that the words within it are much more important than anything I can say about it. "What matters most is that we loved at all."
Onto Disc Two!
So, this second disc contains all songs of Bergman's that she has recorded before. I don't know if they are new recordings, or just selections. But here we go, first with "The Way We Were." Barbra stars just humming along to a very simple piano coming in, then gives way to singing of the memories. Come on, you know this one from the very first time she sings out the word "memories." I can't tell if she sounds younger, but the band accompanying her is definitely different. There's a use of slight guitar and almost brings us on back to the 70's a bit.
"What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?" is quite a pick up line. It's also the title of this song! Heh, sorry folks, just trying to lighten the mood. Ms. Streisand is so serious about this love stuff that we need a little light humor. I mean, this is kind of an intense song. Great standard sound. Great song for a wedding, or at least a proposal. But man, this album is heavy. I'm getting pretty convinced that these are separate recordings from the first album though. Her belting ability comes just a little more naturally, and the sound is just a little different. That could be because she's used to these songs though, as they're previously recorded numbers.
Neil Diamond comes on for the next track, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." They sing of a couple whose love has been fading out after a while, when they had started off so strong. So, they both realize it - I mean, at least that's what I get from the whole duet perspective. I'm not sure how invested we are in finding out how they work out in the end. It seems like the memory is sweet at least, even if the goodbye is on the horizon.
"Papa, Can You Hear Me?" is one that was done on "Glee." It is definitely meant for a great singer, so no issues there. It's an emotional stage song no matter which way you slice it. It's also a pretty damn tough song to sing. I mean, emotion aside, the range and dynamics are intense and build and fade up and down throughout. The trills up and down are challenging to just about any singer out there. Not that Babs has issue with that - she is one of the best, right? Just commenting on the complicated nature.
Oh this one's got a cute little sound to it with the harmonica. "PIeces of Dreams" seems like something right out of Oklahoma! and just creates a very sweet sound. This is actually the first time that I'm having a little bit of a hard time understanding the words being said. I think it's the tone of the voice, not so much the voice itself. She's just not as crisp here as the notes go into her lower register, so some things are getting lost unless extreme attention is being paid.
"The Island" is really a smooth jazz piece. Actually, it's a smooth jazz piece I'm a little uncomfortable listening to. I mean, it's just... well, it's the bedroom song, as I've mentioned occurs in almost every single album. I mean, I guess this one's a little different - this time they're on an island. Unless that's a metaphor for a bed. Eh, there's something uncomfortable about this one for some reason. I think it's because it takes the love she's been singing about throughout the album and makes it into a very private realm. And, moving on.
In a much less lounge-type piece, we start in on "The Summer Knows." It's got a movie feel, for sure. But more like the old movies, a la Grease, where there's an opening make-out scene on the beach, amongst the crashing waves. Now I'm wondering if this was a movie theme somewhere along the line. If not, get me a time machine, stat. I need to go back to like, 1960, and write and make the next big flick.
"How Do You Keep The Music Playing?" seems like a dumb question to me on first glance. Why is that difficult - it's everywhere and should always be one anyway. But I'm sure it actually has something to do with keeping the spark alive in a relationship. Oh yeah, listen to those music metaphors. Nicely done Bergman. My favorite, so far "how do you keep it from fading too fast?" It's a little heartbreaking of a song. She's getting too attached too quickly, and it's scaring the hell out of her. And that's putting it bluntly, and saying it out of experience.
There's this really gorgeous classical guitar being played throughout this song - just lightly being plucked. Eh, okay, I'm listening to "After the Rain" a little more closely, and that may actually be a harp. Sorry, it's been a long day. Cut a little more of the echo of this, and this song would actually be pretty perfect for a beautiful night. I think I now know the secret to listening to this music. I just put in my headphones (we're hitting midnight soon), and the music sounds so much better and more alive in stereo. So, in other words, get this album if you have a great stereo system to play it on.
"A Piece of Sky" is the final song to this two-disc set. Barbra begins by showing off that range - she can hit very lovely high notes, and bring it all the way back down, never getting annoying at any point in-between. The harp and a slight bass drum are driving this song forward, emphasizing a story instead of just a subject. The whole thing is pulling lines from "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" This is the big epic ending song. While not listed, these two songs are from Yenti, a movie from 1983. This one is the third song from the ending, the big moment where the main character (I'm guessing - I've never seen it) reveals she's come a long way and wants more and, more importantly, is ready for so much more.
Added to My Playlist:
- "The Same Hello, The Same Goodbye"
- "What Matters Most"
- "A Piece of Sky"