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Barbra Streisand's What Matters Most

A report on the legendary singer's newest CD.

Barbra Streisand returns to the work of two lyricists with whom she has long been associated on her newest CD, the 10-track What Matters Most - Barbra Streisand Sings The Lyrics of Alan And Marilyn Bergman
. Some of Streisand's biggest hits, including "The Way We Were" and "Papa Can You Hear Me?," have featured the Bergmans' forthright and emotionally charged lyrics, and this newest collaboration with the team once again demonstrates how well her powerfully precise musicality serves their work.

With the disc's first track, Michel Legrand's classic "The Windmills of Your Mind" that begins with Streisand performing a cappella, it seems as though this new album will be a true follow-up to her last disc, the subdued Love Is the Answer, but soon, a lavish string section accompaniment surges in to meet the singer's perfectly phrased delivery. It's a gorgeous beginning to this always satisfying recording that showcases the singer at her most subtle and her most expansive.

This duality is perhaps best heard in the differences in her delivery of "Something New in My Life" (also by Legrand and written for the movie Micki and Maude), which reveals Streisand's voice at its most silvery and gentle, and Jerry Goldsmith's "Alone in the World" (from the film The Russia House), in which the singer's vocals truly soar.

Streisand returns to more intimate song stylings with one number long associated with Frank Sinatra -- Lew Spence's "Nice 'n' Easy" -- and in doing so, puts her own inimitable spin on it, making it a delectably teasing tune. A second number on the disc, John Williams' "The Same Hello, The Same Goodbye," was actually written for Sinatra, but he never recorded it. It's a relatively obscure tune, and in Streisand's delivery it simply pulses with an astute blend of melancholic regret and inescapable passion.

This latter track is followed by what might be the two most exemplary ones on the disc. In the first, "That Face," Streisand's voice has an almost incandescent quality that simply proves riveting. In the second, David Shire's "The Promise (I'll Never Say Goodbye), which she performed at the 2011 MusiCares Person of the Year concert, she mines both the intense emotions of both the melody and the lyrics to stirring effect.

The recording is rounded out with not only the title track (written for the movie The Champ), Johnny Mandel's "Solitary Moon," and Segio Mendes' So Many Stars." And when these tracks are combined with the others, it makes for a recording that is, quite simply, transporting.

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