What About Today? (1969)

Catalog Number(s):

LP Cover

Above: The LP front and back cover. Album scans by Kevin Schlenker.

Below: The front and back cover of the CD

What About Today cover

Tracks

Billboard ad for album
  1. What About Today? [2:57]
    (D. Shire)
  2. Ask Yourself Why [3:03]
    (M. Bergman / A. Bergman / M. Legrand)
  3. Honey Pie [2:39]
    (J. Lennon / P. McCartney)
  4. Punky's Dilemma [3:29]
    (P. Simon)
  5. Until It's Time For You To Go [2:55]
    (B. Sainte-Marie)
  6. That's A Fine Kind O' Freedom [3:02]
    (M. Charnin / H. Arlen)
  7. Little Tin Soldier [3:53]
    (J. Webb)
  8. With A Little Help From My Friends [2:40]
    (J. Lennon / P. McCartney)
  9. Alfie [3:20]
    (H. David / B. Bacharach)
  10. The Morning After [2:40]
    (D. Shire / R. Maltby, Jr.)
  11. Goodnight [3:44]
    (J. Lennon / P. McCartney)

Individual track credits:

(mouse and click on each song to reveal the credits...)

1. What About Today?

Written by: David Shire

Produced by: Wally Gold

Arranged & Conducted by: Don Costa

Date Recorded: March 16, 1968 (Hollywood, Calif.)

2. Ask Yourself Why

Written by: Michel Legrand; Marilyn & Alan Bergman

Produced by: Wally Gold

Arranged & Conducted by: Peter Matz

Date Recorded: May 22, 1969 (Columbia Records Studio C, New York)

3. Honey Pie

Written by: John Lennon; Paul McCartney

Produced by: Wally Gold

Arranged & Conducted by: Peter Matz

Date Recorded: May 22, 1969 (Columbia Records Studio C, New York)

4. Punky's Dilemma

Written by: Paul Simon

Produced by: Wally Gold

Arranged & Conducted by: Peter Matz

Date Recorded: June 23, 1968 (Columbia Records Studio C, New York)

5. Until It's Time For You to Go

Written by: Buffy Sainte-Marie

Produced by: Wally Gold

Arranged & Conducted by: Michel Legrand

Date Recorded: February 8, 1969 (Hollywood, Calif.)

 

6. That's A Fine Kind O’ Freedom

Written by: Harold Arlen; Martin Charnin

Produced by: Wally Gold

Arranged & Conducted by: Peter Matz

Date Recorded: May 22, 1969 (Columbia Studio C, New York)

7. Little Tin Soldier

Written by: Jimmy Webb

Produced by: Wally Gold

Arranged & Conducted by: Peter Matz

Date Recorded: May 22, 1969 (Columbia Studio C, New York)

8. With A Little Help From My Friends

Written by: John Lennon; Paul McCartney

Produced by: Wally Gold

Arranged & Conducted by: Michel Legrand

Date Recorded: February 8, 1969 (Hollywood, Calif.)

9. Alfie

Written by: Hal David; Burt Bacharach

Produced by: Wally Gold

Arranged & Conducted by: Michel Legrand

Date Recorded: February 8, 1969 (Hollywood, Calif.)

10. The Morning After

Written by: David Shire; Richard Maltby, Jr.

Produced by: Wally Gold

Arranged & Conducted by: Don Costa

Date Recorded: March 16, 1968 (Hollywood, Calif.)

11. Goodnight

Written by: John Lennon; Paul McCartney

Produced by: Wally Gold

Arranged & Conducted by: Peter Matz

Date Recorded: May 14, 1969 (Columbia Records Studio C, New York)

About the Album

Ad for single from album

What About Today? was dedicated by Streisand to “the young people who push against indifference, shout down mediocrity, demand a better future, and who write and sing the songs of today.”

In an attempt to get the right mixture of contemporary and relevant songs, she recorded tracks for the album in March 1968, February 1969, and May 1969.

The title track and “The Morning After” were tunes by Richard Maltby and David Shire. Streisand had already recorded several of their songs, including “Autumn,” “No More Songs For Me,” and “Starting Here, Starting Now.”

“Ask Yourself Why” was written by Michele Legrand (with lyrics by the Bergmans) for a 1969 Italian-French film, La Piscine (The Swimming Pool), directed by Jacques Deray. It was the first complete song of the Bergmans that Streisand recorded (not counting a snippet from “That Face” in a 1966 medley).

Singer Patti Austin, friends with the Bergmans, too, had insight to this song: “It’s a very Jewish thing … I grew up in New York, and it’s part of Jewish culture and Middle Eastern culture and Southern culture to say ‘Up yours!’ in a very romantic and flowery way. Telling somebody off in such an elegant fashion is an art form, and it’s Alan’s and Marilyn’s forte. ‘Ask Yourself Why’ talks about things that are really evil: playgrounds becoming parking lots and people getting away with murder – yet it’s woven like a beautiful tapestry, like they do so much with Michel’s music because of his French thing, which is so very complicated and rich.”

Streisand covered three songs by the Beatles (Lennon/McCartney)—“Honey Pie,” “With A Little Help From My Friends,” and “Goodnight.”

“Punky's Dilemma” was written by Paul Simon for Mike Nichols’ film The Graduate but was unused. It ended up on the Simon & Garfunkel album Bookends.

“Punky's Dilemma” was written by Paul Simon for Mike Nichols’ film The Graduate but was unused. It ended up on the Simon & Garfunkel album Bookends. Columbia released it as the backside of the single Frank Mills / Punky's Dilemma (#4-44775) in February 1969. Barbra also used to include this song in her act at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.

“That's A Fine Kind O’ Freedom”—with lyrics by Martin Charnin—was written by Streisand's favorite composer, Harold Arlen. Barbra sang the song live in 1965 at a Broadway benefit (Broadway Answers Selma). The song also appeared—sung by Arlen himself—on the 1966 album Harold Sings Arlen (With Friend).

Below: Two photos of Barbra in the recording studio for this album ... at the microphone, left, and trying her hand at playing the harp, right.Streisand plays harp

Unreleased Tracks

Barbra Streisand sang three versions of “One Day” in the studio. Peter Matz and Michel Legrand each tried to arrange it. The last version in May 1969 was arranged by David Shire. The song never made it onto a Streisand album. However, it was used in 1990’s Earth Day Special. The television special credits Jack Gold as the produceer and John Arias as the mixer. Since Jack Gold was the producer for all the tracks on What About Today?, one wonders if the Earth Day vocal was the one Streisand recorded in 1969?

Jobim notebook

Two other songs from the 1969 sessions which did not make it onto What About Today? are “Lost in Wonderland” and “Tomorrow I Will Bring You a Rose.”

[Note: “Wonderland” was finally released in 2012 on Release Me.]

“Wonderland” was a version of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s (“Girl From Ipanema”) song “Antigua” with English lyrics. Left is a page of Jobim's notebook in which he scribbled some notes about songs for Barbra. Antigua is one of them ... so is “Chovendo na Roseira” ("Double Rainbow"). Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra's names also appear in his notebook with song suggestions next to their names (“Ana Luisa” and “Waters of March,” respectively). Above Streisand's name Jobim wrote "Claus" ... Claus Ogerman (Classical Barbra) worked often with Jobim during the late 1960s. It's possible he arranged this track.

Matz and Streisand

(Photo, above): Streisand and Peter Matz in the recording studio, circa 1969.

Billboard Charts

The Billboard 200 is a ranking of the 200 highest-selling music albums in the United States, published weekly by Billboard magazine.

Here's the numbers for this Streisand album:

Gold: 500,000 units shipped

Platinum: 1 million units shipped

Note: The record company must submit an album to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) where it undergoes a certification process to become eligible for an award. The process entails an independent sales audit, which calculates the quantity of singles or albums shipped for sale, net after returns. The audit surveys shipments to the entire music marketplace, including retail, record clubs, television sales, Internet orders and other ancillary markets. Based on the certification of these shipments, a title is awarded Gold, Platinum, Multi-Platinum or Diamond status. The data here comes directly from official sources, mainly the RIAA online database.

Remastered CD

What About Today? was restored and remastered (along with new artwork) in October 1993 and part of Columbia Records' 11 Essential Barbra Streisand Releases. The master tapes were prepared for release by John Arrias (who put together the masters for Just For The Record). According to Columbia's publicity:

“The objective with each album was to restore the tapes to the quality of the original master recording. To do this in some cases, 30 years of noise had to be eliminated. John used his proprietary C.A.P. Noise Reduction System to eliminate hiss, distortion and noise. In each case great care was taken to maintain the integrity of the original albums.”

Columbia also recreated the packages using the original art or printing film.

Album Cover Outtakes

Richard Avedon photographed the cover and back cover images of Streisand. One photo from the session first appeared in Vogue (March 1968 issue). Below are more outtakes.

Avedon outtakes

End.

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