With these discs from some of Broadway's greatest leading ladies, music lovers will find themselves exploring a broad range of expertly delivered show and pop music -- including some terrific forgotten gems.
With Love is the Answer, Barbra Streisand has returned to the #1 spot on the charts and deservedly so. This is a terrifically satisfying album that finds the legendary performer in a subdued and surprisingly intimate mood. Working with jazz star Diana Krall, Streisand has selected a baker's dozen of classic songs and delivers them with remarkable emotion and deliberate precision.
Streisand's voice has lost none of its power or beauty, and whether she's crooning "Make Someone Happy" or gently caressing Jerome Kern's languorous "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," it's impossible to not wonder when the singer might burst into her signature vocal crescendos. But they never come. Instead, she seems to be reining in the power, drawing the listener into her art and the tunes. Each of the tracks is, in its own right, something special, but there are two on the disc that are particularly worth noting. The first is Streisand's remarkably sensitive and persuasive interpretation of Jacques Brel's "If You Go Away" and the second is her rendition of "Some Other Time," in which she embraces the minor shifts in Leonard Bernstein's melody with heartfelt remorse, her vocals ably supported by Alan Broadbent's gentle piano accompaniment.
Chita Rivera's And Now I Swing, a second exceptional release from the new Yellow Sound Label, is very much like the cabaret act on which its based: pure, unalloyed joy. Rivera's voice sounds supple and sexy throughout. The legendary star -- who is probably best known for her interpretations of Bob Fosse's choreography -- begins ironically with "I Won't Dance." The song is carefully grafted onto "Let Me Sing" and this tune presciently sets the stage for what's to come: 10 more gorgeously rendered songs that range from "Nowadays" (the song from Chicago that Rivera originally delivered with Gwen Verdon), which features a terrific trumpet solo from Trevor Neumann, to "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square."
Each of the tunes on the disc is terrifically satisfying, with Rivera displaying a remarkable versatility, but there are three that are definitive highlights: "Where Am I Going?," (from Sweet Charity, in which she starred on tour) which Rivera imbues with a deeply felt anguish; a gently melancholy, and yet somehow exultant, interpretation of Carol Hall's "Circle of Friends" and "Love and Love Alone," a song from John Kander and Fred Ebb's musical, The Visit, which Rivera fills with leonine intensity.
Next Page: Essential Barbara Cook & Elaine Paige Live