The singer's new 'Love Is the Answer,' produced by Diana Krall, is lushly orchestrated.
August 31, 2009 by Susan King
Barbra Streisand may make beautiful music, but she rarely listens to it.
"I don't understand today's music," Streisand acknowledged, adding that she does enjoy some contemporary artists. "I saw John Mayer recently. My God, what a great guitarist and singer, but I don't turn on music. I listen so much when I am making a record. . . . I get so tired of music."
Especially when songs favor the beat over the lyrics.
"I can't relate," said the 67-year-old Streisand. "I guess the society is getting somehow angrier and angrier and less from the heart. It's sad. You know we are living in very hard times. We are living in fear and anger, and that is represented by the music."
Such negative emotions are nonexistent in her latest album, "Love Is the Answer," which will be released Sept. 29. The work, Streisand's first studio album since 2005's "Guilty Pleasures," is about melodies and lyrics, she said.
The bestselling female recording artist in history avoided the recording studio because of her touring schedule as well as the demands of building a new Cape Code-style house in Malibu.
"I didn't even know if I would have a voice left because I was full of sawdust and screaming over the hammers and the saws," she said.
"Love Is the Answer" also marks the first time that the Oscar-, Emmy-, Tony- and Grammy-winning Streisand has worked with awardwinning Canadian jazz artist Diana Krall and her combo.
Streisand was executive producer of the album; Krall was producer.
"We had a mutual respect for one another and admiration," said Streisand from New York during a recent phone interview.
"Her mom used to play my records," added Streisand, who met Krall at the Monterey Jazz Festival a few years ago. "So she kind of grew up with them. I usually produce a lot of my own things, so we did it as a collaboration."
Oscar-winning composer Johnny Mandel ("The Shadow of Your Smile"), who has worked with Krall and Streisand previously, provided the disc's lush orchestrations.
"We met several times to just go over songs," said Streisand of Krall. "She would send me songs. I would tell her what I would like to sing. What I haven't sung. What I meant to sing."
For example, the smoky bossa nova "Gentle Rain" from the 1959 classic film "Black Orpheus" was in Streisand's repertoire on her latest tour as "my opener because it was nice to open the voice with a gentle song. Diana had recorded it, so it was the perfect thing to put on this album."
[Correction: An article in Monday's Calendar about Barbra Streisand said that her new album, "Love Is the Answer," contains the song "Gentle Rain" from the 1959 film "Black Orpheus." "Gentle Rain" is not from the movie.]
Streisand had always wanted to record Jacques Brel and Rod McKuen's haunting "If You Go Away." Streisand was such a fan of the French singer Brel that she flew to Marseilles in the 1960s to hear him perform in concert, only to have him not sing his signature tune.
Krall suggested the lovely "Make Someone Happy" from the 1960s Broadway musical "Do Re Mi," composed by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jule Styne, who wrote the music for Streisand's Broadway hit "Funny Girl."
"I love the fact that my dear friend Jule Styne wrote it," she said. "I fell in love with that song. That was so fun. We did that several times to get it right."
Streisand even changed the lyrics for a fundraiser last year for then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama:
"Barack is the answer
"We know that he is the answer
"Since we've found him
"Let's all rally 'round him"
The regular CD features the Mandel-arranged orchestra versions of the songs; the two-disc deluxe CD set also features Streisand performing the selections with Krall's jazz group.
Krall always records basic tracks with her band and then the orchestra is added later.
"David Foster records that way, where you do the tracks first," said Streisand. "I don't particularly like it. I love the inspiration of the orchestra. But it brought me back to the way I started, so there is something very pure about it, not innocent but young and youthful -- nostalgic."
Streisand is giving an intimate concert of selections from "Love Is the Answer" at the famed New York jazz club the Village Vanguard on Sept. 26 for 100 lucky fans.
Her website at www.barbrastreisand.com is offering three contests to win tickets: Pixel Puzzle Game, Show Us Your Streisand Video Contest and Sammie's Cutest Pet Photo Contest. Sammie is Streisand's fluffy white pooch.
The concert was the brainchild of her manager, Martin Erlichman, who has handled Streisand since she was a teenager making a name for herself at such New York nightclubs as the Bon Soir and the Blue Angel, which no longer exist.
When she was 19, she auditioned at the Vanguard. "Miles Davis was the star of the show. The opening girl singer was Joanie Sommers. My friend Rick Edelstein was the waiter and he got Miles' musicians to back me at the audition."
"I didn't get the job," she added.