September 16, 2014

Barbra Streisand finds men make good 'Partners'

By Elysa Gardner

Barbra Streisand is a reluctant hit machine. "I wish, in a sense, that I didn't have to sing my popular songs," she says. Then again, she still remembers the time, many years ago, when she flew to Marseilles to hear Jacques Brel sing Ne Me Quitte Pas — and he didn't. "I was so disappointed."

Thus when Streisand, 72, has staged concerts, she has been sure to deliver the favorites. That's also her approach on Partners, a new duets collection (out Tuesday) that teams the diva with assorted male stars on classics from her catalog and theirs.

She sings People with Stevie Wonder and New York State of Mind with Billy Joel, The Way We Were with Lionel Richie and Love Me Tender with (a virtual) Elvis Presley. There also are younger voices, among them John Mayer and John Legend, and songbook standards associated with various great singers.

What you won't hear is a female partner. "I like men," says Streisand, low-key chic in a simple, elegant black top and "my old leather pants."

"Men are easier to deal with than women — most of the time," she says. "There's nothing better than a good woman friend." (That includes the canine variety, by the way: Streisand's 11-year-old Coton de Tulear "is always with me," even in bed. Sammie has her own cup of water on hand to sip during the night, in fact.)

With Partners, "We asked a few women to be on it, but they were unavailable, busy. One didn't like the lyric to a song." With Beyoncé, it was simply a matter of timing, Streisand notes, amicably: "Maybe we'll do something some day."

But she adds, smiling, "The men were available."

One was an especially happy addition: Jason Gould, 47, Streisand's son by ex-husband Elliott Gould. (She has been married to James Brolin since 1998.) The younger Gould had sung in concert with his mom, but only after making a trial recording with her first. "I don't think he ever thought he would sing — but, my God, what a beautiful sound he has. And he loves music. But he also loves pottery. We actually just started painting together. He's very creative."

Streisand plans to keep her own multiple talents visible. She's still keen to play the ultimate stage mother, Momma Rose, in a new film version of Gypsy, and would like to direct another film, "a period love story — they're not very much in vogue right now. But I think people will always be in the mood to root for two people."

She remains politically engaged as well; as a longtime Democrat, she's disturbed by predictions of Republican victories in the upcoming midterm elections. "I'm hoping for a miracle," she says. "Women alone could elect a Democratic Congress — they have to come out to vote, though."

Us Weekly entertainment director Ian Drew figures that fans will be content to hear her music for now. Though Partners arrives in a competitive week, with new releases from Chris Brown, Tim McGraw and Train, Streisand "caters to an older audience, and they're the ones still buying albums," Drew says. "And she does have one of the most blessed instruments in history."

Don't look for Streisand to tour to promote the album, necessarily. Her Partners partners are, she points out, "on tour or vacation. I did my stuff. If word of mouth is good, it'll click."


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