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Album Review

Barbra Streisand, 'Love Is the Answer'

September 28, 2009

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Jazz
Barbra Streisand Love Is the Answer
Columbia
ESSENTIAL “Here’s to Life’’

At this point in her career, Barbra Streisand has nothing to prove. She’s the best, everyone knows it, and all that’s required is a dozen or so great songs, a few talented collaborators, and voila. But over the years Streisand has released a remarkable string of duds, schmaltzy or misguided collections that pit her bountiful gifts against her questionable taste and make tomorrow’s arrival of “Love Is the Answer’’ a happy event. The disc is a return to basics, which in traditional pop parlance means jazz standards and theater gems: “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,’’ “Spring Can Really Hang You Up,’’ “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,’’ “Here’s That Rainy Day,’’ and the like. At 67, Streisand’s gorgeous tones and powers of interpretation are utterly intact, and also front-and-center thanks to producer Diana Krall’s class-conscious pairing of her own understated quartet with Johnny Mandel’s velvety orchestrations. The album’s deluxe edition comes with a second disc of quartet-only tracks, which will please fans (including this one) who prefer their love songs unsweetened. Refined as they are, all those placid strings and feathery flutes seem to mock, rather than embellish, Streisand’s pointed, bittersweet reflections. (Out tomorrow) JOAN ANDERMAN