All About Barbra22Assembled was an impressive list of producers,including Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach andCarole Bayer Sager, and Phil Ramone to helpnavigate the project. Barbra had previouslyworked with Phil Ramone most recently on thestudio versions of two songs from the score ofYentl, and had previously worked with BurtBacharach, appearing as a guest on his 1971television special, cleverly called The Burt BacharachSpecial.Jeremy Lubbock, who had conductedBarbra's The Broadway Albumto the top of thecharts signed on as one of the many arrangers forthe project, as did Randy Waldman, who playedsynthesizers in Barbra's band for her One Voiceconcert of 1986, as well. With such a crew in place,Till I Loved Youpromised to be an outstandingcollection of material, and on most counts, it was. Beginning with a song as close to a prologue asone gets, the album began with The Places YouFind Love.Composed by Glen Ballard and ClifMagness, who had co-written the smash JackWagner single All I Needwith David Pack, hereBarbra lays out a song similar in lyric andemotion to Love Comes From the Most UnexpectedPlacesfrom Streisand Superman, but gasses up thetempo a bit, throws in the brilliant production ofQuincy Jones, and surrounds herself with agospel-like background choir including the likesof Dionne Warwick, Jennifer Holliday, JamesIngram, and Luther Vandross. Not too shabby aline up! Reminding listeners that love can strikemost often where you least expect it, and notwhen you always expect it to arrive, Barbra startedout the album on a joyous note, and set the stagefor a mix of ballads and mid-tempo numbers thatwould go on to tell the story of a relationship'sevolution.There's no denying that Marilyn and AlanBergman know Streisand's voice very well, andhaving collaborated so successfully on the score ofYentl with Michel Legrand, the trio of composersoffered up the next song on the album, On MyWay To You.Here the relationship of the albumblossoms into what I believe is the musicalhighlight of the album. Streisand shifts into highgear for her unparalleled phrasing, declining tointerrupt the phrase ".forgotten in the morning. Irelive the roles I've played." with a breath, turningit into a long strain of thought and feeling. Thissong is particularly representative of Barbra's waywith a melody which could very well have beenwritten for strings: soaring intervals, resonant lownotes, soaring again, and the end result wassimply gorgeous.Barbra's then current sweetheart, Don Johnson,stepped up to the mic with her for the next track,the lovely Till I Loved You.Written by Tony award-winning composer Maury Yeston (Nine) for themusical Goya, this duet found Barbra knockingout another wonderful blending of voices. There'sa playful essence to this duet, and it was obviousthat Barbra was in love - or at least heavily in like- with her singing partner. Their giggling togethernear the song's close, as Barbra attempts to moveas far into her lower register as possible, is justdownright endearing. The first of three Bacharach/Bayer Sagercompositions on the album, Love Lightis asoliloquy of sorts where we find our "maincharacter" wishing on the moon, so to speak. It'salways a pleasure to find Barbra immersed in a softjazz atmosphere, and the wonderful Bacharacharrangement surrounded Barbra with warmth thatI wish she would delve into more frequently. AsBarbra is prone to acting-out her songs, it is easy toimagine a setting such as that used for No MatterWhat Happensin the film Yentlfor this song: a duetbetween the character and hope.As she had done that with Memoryfrom CatsandSomewherefrom West Side Story, next we foundStreisand in comfortable territory: Broadway.With All I Ask Of You, a return to Andrew LloydWebber's work, Barbra again took a song from anestablished Broadway show, and made it one ofher own. With this song following on the heels ofLove Light, a pop/jazz number, it is easy here tocontrast the comfort factor of Barbra's voicesettling into what she knows best: a Broadwayballad, and its home-sweet-home naturalness isobvious from the moment she introduces us to AllI Ask Of Youwith her signature hum. Lovely.In past interviews Barbra has spoken of some ofher more pop informed recordings as songs thatother singers could possibly, on occasion, deliveras well if not better than she has. Appropriate asong as this one was in keeping the cycle moving,it was an example of the singer being morecapable than the song. The secondBacharach/Bayer Sager track, You and Me ForAlways,lyrically settled the main character into therelationship, and speaks of love's comforts versusthe sometimes isolated feelings that accompanybeing on one's own. While the verses are anengaging recognition of the happiness that lovebrings, the chorus seems somewhat weak. Itappears that though idea-wise there was plenty toconvey, musically there wasn't enough there forBarbra to work with. Despite its battlingweaknesses and strengths, the song does succeedin wrapping up the beginning andmiddle of love, setting the stage forthe second half of the album wherethe relationship begins to slip away.With Why Let It Go?, another lyricalcontribution from the Bergmans, wefound that love is indeed not "allromance". The failings of love arealways consummately sung by Barbra,and this song numbers among one ofher finest pop informed moments.Contemporary pop though the songmay be, it comes off more as acontemporary show tune, and gaveBarbra plenty of room to flex hermuscle as the actress who sings. Likeshe had done in numbers fromprevious albums (I've Never Been AWoman Before, Best I Could) she nailsits core emotion of a heart beginningto break, and a relationship that ismore than likely not going to last.The music for Two Peoplefound itsorigin as the score for the film Nutsinwhich Barbra had starred the previousyear, and was composed by Streisandherself. With lyrics added by theBergmans, this track packs quite apunch and, rivaled only by On MyWay To You, was Barbra's shiningmoment on the album. Barbra directsher voice in and out of phrases,wrapping herself in some of them,and presents an unflinching devotionto delivering the best possibleexpression of musical painting. Itrepresents the same elements I spokeof regarding a string-like melody, especiallyconsidering that it began as an instrumental. Onecan only imagine what might result if, togetherwith the Bergmans, Barbra composed an entirealbum's worth of material. As the love which started out so beautifully inthe beginning continued to go downhill, so didsome of the song choices for the remainder of thealbum. From Scott Cutler (Piano In the Dark) andAntonina Armato (I Still Believe) we next got WhatWere We Thinking Of, a somewhat-duet with DonJohnson who returned to lend his vocal support.She revisited the general feel of Love Light,popping off another soft jazz number and for themost part succeeds. But paired with its followingtrack, the syrupy Some Good Things Never Last,theyrepresented further examples of material notbeing worthy of the singer. Showing the love thathad begun so beautifully in the first six tracks ofthe album now withered and ultimately ended,these tracks did, however, keep the cycle movingalong. After having endured the sadness of the previousfour songs, it was a kind choice to bring the albumto a close on an optimistic note. One More TimeAround, another Bacharach/Bayer Sager tune,reminded the listener that though a previousrelationship may leave you scarred andemotionally bruised, there is always hope for "onemore try", and that there is always another lovejust waiting to happen.This album remains one of this reviewer'sfavorite Streisand outings. It is difficult to listen toany single track from this album and not bereminded of either the joy of love in the songsbefore it, or of the impending heartbreak in thosewhich follow. Following up the massive success ofThe Broadway Albumfrom just three years before, itwould have been taking the easy way to deliveranother batch of Broadway tunes directly on itsheels. Wisely, Barbra chose instead to deliver acollection of contemporary songs to hold us overtill she next visited Broadway in '93. And let's faceit: when it comes to the theme of this album, whobetter than Streisand to tell us of the places youfind love.SONG CYCLE BUILT FOR TWOA REVIEW OF 'TILL I LOVED YOU'Originally released: October 1988BY BOB WERNERThere are few emotionsmore worth extollingthan the virtues of love.In the arts, its praises havegraced the cinema screensince the evolution ofcelluloid. Poets for centurieshave been writing of its lure,but love has never been more beautifully renderedthan when it is set to music. Ballads for decadeshave moved listeners as they told of the variousstages of love: discovering a new love, basking in itsglow, sharing its heartbreaks, and as consolationfor the listener when love takes leave. Thoughmany a singer through the years has recorded suchtunes, few artists have taken the chore of weavingthose emotions into song more carefully, andmasterfully, than Barbra Streisand. Having alreadyscored hit singles with songs regarding the need forlove (People), love about to flourish (Evergreen),and love coming to an end (The Way We Were), in1988 Barbra recorded an album of love songscovering all of its territory. Till I Loved Youwas notmerely to be an album of love songs: it was to be ashowcase for an entire song cycle about anintimate relationship -beginning with itsdiscovery, taking the listener through its stages, andending with its demise.
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