Streisand: ENCORE

Barbra Streisand - Encore / Movie Partners Sing Broadway




As like  "Streisand Partners" (2014) I had this time also reservations as   "Encore - Movie Partners Sing Broadway" was announced. I prefer Streisand with solo recordings ... and now again a duet album. This looks like a ploy:  the primary purpose  to land again a No. 1 on the Billboard album charts, as with "Streisand Partners," her most commercially successful album for about 20 years.

But  Streisand ideas for a  new album are usually planned well, meticulous  thought out - and done professionally. She developed independent, creative concepts - as in "Encore" a partially altering the original texts, the inflow of dialogues in the songs and the conversion of solo songs to duets. But my album review focuses primarily on the pure  musical side of her new album - less with the content, because for this I would first examine all the lyrics and dialogs. But English is not my native language, and the music is always with me before the lyrics and so BEFORE the content. The music is for me in itself the content.

First: Streisand's third Broadway album is simply turned out great! Although no better than her award-winning first in 1985, "Encore" can not compete with the multi-layered song selection, fresh, inspiring arrangements and the whole dynamic of Streisand's first Broadway album - in my opinion.

Her third album Broadway has thus become completely different, and that's a good thing. Why should she repeat it? With "Encore" we dive into a consistently opulent bath of preferably revelling,  sumptuous and romantic melodies. They all will all be sung wholeheartedly with great emotion and vocal power. Skepticism about her singing partners can I take safely, when you hear that actually all can  "sing", and convince some with really good voices. In any case, Patrick Wilson, Hugh Jackman, Jamie Fox, Chris Pine and of course the unforgotten Anthony Newley.

Newley has certainly a large, distinctive, but also something hard sounding voice. You have  to like it. His pronunciation  requires some getting used to. I know, of course the YouTube video of this song. I find his performance great, towards the end it is always touching and the song itself is of course terrific - but you might as well find this a representation ultra exalted. There is something so “exaggerated” that one thinks of a parody or almost to a caricature. His body language, these eccentric movements and even his wider, vocal expression - even it seems far-fetched, I think his expression has even inspired David Bowie. However, Streisand presented with Newleys own, fabulous composition "Who can I turn to" posthumously one of the most dramatic duets on "Encore".  Here and in the duet with Jamie Fox ("Climb every mountain")   is during the end of the songs working remarkable dramatic and vibrant towards.

When   both voices  are uniting with  this incredible  glowing  passion - the  thrill  that run down the spine of the listener are guaranteed ! 

 More or less, however, is this way of "high power singing"  at  all ballad duets of "Encore" are principle. Here the beauty of the melodies are so intense, almost ecstatically celebrated, that me from time to time obtrudes the term: it sounds like "operetta bliss" from the good old days!

Only through the inserted dialogues the songs come back to the ground of the facts, by showing obvious  content and characters.The dialogue is definitely a matter of taste - I actually like it less when speaking in songs. But of course the dialogs are suitable for the genre "Broadway" and Streisand has not chosen without reason. exclusively "Movie Partners" for these new duets-album.

One must believe,  an actor with his acquired skills can represent a pure  theater song highly differentiated - better as a pop singer like Lionel Richie or Babyface.I can accept this concept of dialogues: if we hear "Encore" with closed eyes, word and music automatically creates images. One can imagine what is happening on the stage well. With the dialogs it's good like it is, but even more dialogues would be badly for the whole music,  because in the end I do not sit in the theater when I hear this CD. Thus, even the most critical arguments deal to the album mainly with the dialogues.

Now let's go directly to Streisand and her singing. You can hear: She sings with more power than at all her previous studio albums, Streisand Partners", What Matters Most, or  Love Is The Answer). On "Encore" Streisand has again the beloved  forceful, persistent notes of a trumpet. Nevertheless, I am reminded of the sound of Streisand, when she was younger . The last note of her solo  at  " Fitfy Percent" has almost the power of notes from "On A Clear day"  decades back....- of course at a lower oktave. But also in her middle register, I feel her singing better  and stronger than on her last albums.

At few strong power notes can be heard a certain effort and sometimes come at the transitions to another pitch a very short hoarse note - but which spoil the pleasure me in no way.Of course her voice has changed considerably in recent years. Today Barbra Streisands voice  has in general a different, darker and smoother sound than decades before.

For myself I have to say, I would not find it appropriate or nice - but even strange - when Barbra would still sound like a bright ringing bell as 40 years ago! That she still succeed perfectly all nuances is probably a godsend at a 74 year old singer.  But we are thinking always at her age. Her voice is either way beautiful. A lot of todays popsingers can only dream of this high quality of singing.

As nice are the new 10 duets -Barbra Streisand's singing and voice is still most impressive with solo songs - in which she  more likely  may develop her vocal  virtuosity. The clear evidence are the four solo tracks on the DeLux version of "Encore" - already worth buying the whole album, because they are of an incomparable, timeless beauty. Here Streisand still shows herself as a undoubted champion of beautiful sounding intonation and phrasing. Streisand sings this new  four solo songs breathtaking!

The songs are chosen treasures.With an outstanding version of "Losing My Mind" Barbra  pays homage to one of her favorite composer, Stephen Sondheim. On "Encore" she sings no less than five of his compositions. Particularly "I did not know what time it was" by Richard Rodgers, is among the best that Streisand has ever recorded.

I am aware that this is a bold and probably also somewhat euphoric determination. In her  interpretation hovering light jazz feeling, Chris Botti is a  perfect accompaniment by his trumpet solo. Because of this record, I thought of that  sentence by  Richard Rodgers,   written on the album cover of "Simply Streisand" (1967) Part of the quote: „ She makes our musical world a much happier place, than it was before“. I can not imagine that Richard Rodgers would write something different today - and for me has this statement is still valid.

Also “Not A day Goes By” is sung brilliantly, and shows again Streisand wide range all scores - from the delicate phrasing till the dramatic sound. These four solo tracks are all GEMS- and well mixed on the Delux version and interrupting entertaining the sequence of  duets. Although the duets are all songs, which each for itself tells a different story - but musically they are just structured similarly in concept of duet singing, even in the driven, vocal effects.

The two comedic successful duets with Alec Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy also offer welcome relief - even if I am the least convinced of these “fun-duets”. They do not have the same good level like the ballads. Truly - with regard to the two former Streisand Broadway Album (1985 + 1993) is "Encore" indeed a novelty with very different aspects. Even compared with the previous duet album "Streisand Partners" shows "Encore" with the creative urge of his protagonists and the whole orchestral staging a completely different musical side. On "Partners" were heard in the broadest sense pop-duets.

"Encore" now  is pure, perhaps a bit "old-fashioned" Broadway with its focus on those songs that generate goose bumps because of consciously selected melodic highs and radiant vocal duet-excursions

But no matter whether one likes musicals and such duets or not: Barbra Streisand again has presented with "Encore" a great album! With these wonderful new interpretations she proves the Broadway and their composers her love and honor.

And at the end of the last time I want remark about her age:  The way Streisand can sing with age 74 is simply a miracle ! 


(c) Werner Matrisch,  Köln, September 2016

The Deluxe Edition  with 4 solo tracks