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Album Review

‘What Matters Most: Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman’

(Siggi Bucher/Reuters/File 2007)
By Sarah Rodman
August 23, 2011

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The legendary diva has already recorded 51 songs with lyrics penned by the Oscar-winning songwriting couple she pays tribute to here, including, of course, “The Way We Were’’ and “Papa, Can You Hear Me?’’ So what may be most impressive about the Bergmans is the prolificacy that allowed Streisand to find 10 more love songs worthy of her time.

The famous voice is still in grand shape. Her ability to send shivers as she hits certain notes or rolls off a perfect turn of phrase is as deeply touching as ever.

On “Something New in My Life,’’ she ably evokes the thrill of finding love and then discovering that it can endure. She shows off a smidge of her playful side on the sexy, funny lament “That Face.’’ And she nails the wistfulness of endless possibilities on “So Many Stars.’’ As strong as the interpretations can be - and props are given to the various composers of the melodies - this is a very sedate record. Streisand, who produced it herself, has a soft spot for orchestrations that are just a little too sweet, languid piano balladry, and lilting, midtempo cocktail-hour ambience that would be more fun if it had some swing.

But if you love Streisand and you love the manner in which the Bergmans write about love, then you will love “What Matters Most.’’ (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “Something New in My Life’’