Streisand Remastered

Streisand Albums on CD

Remastered by Columbia Records

by Matt Howe

Streisand Greatest Hits CDCompact discs (CDs) and CD players first appeared on the consumer market around 1983. CDs were planned to be the successor of vinyl LPs, which scratched easily and melted if left too long in a hot car. At first, audiophiles complained about CD technology (the sound from the discs was not as warm as a vinyl LP played on a turntable). By 1988, CD sales had surpassed LP sales, making the digital format the most popular on the market.

Streisand was recorded in the studio on analog magnetic tape for years. A large part of her compact disc releases are AAD – an Analog tape recorder captured her performance; her album was mixed and edited in Analog format; and the CD was mastered Digitally. (Barbra Streisand did not begin recording digitally until around 2002).

When discussing Barbra Streisand's albums on compact disc, one must examine how analog sound was transferred to vinyl back in the day, and also the process of transferring the recordings to compact disc.

Phil Ramone — he engineered the sound for some of Barbra's live concerts and also produced records for her — did a great job explaining how he made all those great records over the years in his book Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music:

When we cut records thirty years ago, they sounded good in the control room, but it was hard to channel that sound onto an LP. Session tapes underwent a lot of tweaking during their transposition to vinyl, and the compromising to compensate for vinyl’s deficiencies began in the mixing phase and ended in mastering.

In mastering a tape for LP, you had to cut back the bass, crank up the mid-range and high end, and use compression to make it sound pleasing on an average record player. There was a complex physiology behind groove width and depth, and the width of the grooves changed as you got toward the end of the record. The last track on an album was the most problematic; if you didn’t master the tape and cut the disc properly it would sound distorted. You could have the most dynamic mix in the world, but it would sound awful if you couldn’t squeeze it into a record’s grooves.

[...] With the CD, groove physiology is no longer a factor. But since digital recording’s high resolution can magnify a mix’s flaws, mastering becomes even more critical in the digital domain.

First Streisand CDs

CD LongboxThe Broadway Album was Streisand's first CD. The album was released on LP and cassette tape November 1985. The compact disc version (with a bonus track added — “Adelaide's Lament”) — was in stores by February 1986.

One Voice (Barbra's live album) was the next compact disc released by Columbia Records in 1987 (it was also in the LP and cassette format).

As compact discs started selling, Columbia dipped into Streisand's catalog and started issuing older albums in the format.

They released The Barbra Streisand Album (catalog #8807) and The Second (#8854) and The Third albums (#8954) on CD for the first time in 1987. These discs, however, suffered from the mastering problem mentioned above — the original analog production masters were used. “They were are the worst sounding CDs I ever heard,” said Victor Bisio, a California-based recording engineer. “They were screechy and distorted. When she hit the high notes, it just shattered your speakers.”

[Note: I've heard the 1987 “Second Album,” and although I do not think it is the worst sounding CD I've ever heard, there is a considerable difference between it and the 1993 remaster by John Arrias. The 1993 CD sounds great, and the slight distortions on the high notes that you can hear on the 1987 disc are not present at all.]

It is difficult to compile an exact list of the Streisand albums which were released on CD pre-1993. However, here's several I've confirmed:

A Christmas Album, People, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, Classical Barbra, Stoney End, Guilty, Emotion, Memories, A Happening in Central Park, Live at the Forum, Superman, Yentl, Other Musical Instruments.

Photo, above left: Back when record stores first stocked CDs, they were packaged in a "longbox" — which was phased out later because of environmental concerns and because they took up more room in the stores. This is the original 1987 “Second Barbra Streisand Album” longbox.

October 1993 CD Remasters

11 Essential Streisand remasters

John Arrias — a recording engineer and record producer — is responsible for the remastering of most of Barbra Streisand's album catalog. Arrias had engineered and mastered for Streisand before (Emotion, Till I Loved You), but he was instrumental in preparing the audio for Streisand's big 4-CD box set, Just For The Record. Those tracks were sourced from “a hodge podge of analog equipment,” he told me. Arrias created the C.A.P. System to assemble the audio tracks for the box set. “It was all put in a rollaway rack and labelled C.A.P. for simplicity. It stands for Complete Audio Preservation. It included Equalizers, Limiters, Compressors and Audio Restoration Equipment.”

Arrias did his work at B&J Studio, which was constructed on the first floor of Lion Share Studios in Beverly Hills, California in 1986. Arrias says B&J stands for Barbra [Streisand] and John [Arrias].

“After we released Just for the Record [1991], I was approached by Columbia Records to prepare Barbra's first three albums for CD release,” Arrias recalled. “It went so well that they just kept sending me more recordings that had never been released on CD. The condition of some of the tapes were so bad that it soon became an archival project. I am proud to say that Barbra's entire catalog is now digitally preserved and in the vaults. It was a great honor and so much fun. All of the recordings were first directly transferred, with their original sound, onto digital tape, no equalizers or filters were used. I then went back and used my C.A.P. system to create the remastered CDs.”

Putting It Together ...

Arrias began restoration by receiving all of the original Streisand master recordings, which ranged from 2, 3, 4, 8, 16 and 24 tracks. The masters were digitally preserved.

Next, “When possible, I made new mixes from the original masters to a 1/2-inch analog tape using the C.A.P. system. I then took the final mixes to Bernie Grundman Mastering in Hollywood, where Bernie and I put the final touches on the mixes using his analog console. The new mixes were then transferred for CD release,” Arrias said.

Arrias was very impressed with Barbra's first three albums, recorded in 1963 and 1964 with three tracks. “When I finally located a 3-track head assembly, I began playing back the recordings. The split was Track 1 was Orchestra Left, Track 2 was Barbra's live vocal, Track 3 was Orchestra Right. That's it. So simple yet the balances were remarkable. These recordings were originally released in mono.”

Who Will Buy ? ...

Columbia Records began rolling out the remastered CDs in 1993. They sent a sales sheet to retailers describing eleven remastered Streisand CDs:

For the first time, Columbia is releasing 11 newly restored and remastered Barbra Streisand titles on CD. Many of the titles are also being released for the first time in years on cassette. All of the cassettes are being manufactured using the new masters.

The master tapes were prepared for release by John Arrias, who put together the masters for Barbra's retrospective “Just For The Record.” 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.

The packages were recreated using original art or printing film. Many of the packages have extensive liner notes that are reproduced in their entirety.

Included in the eleven titles is the soundtrack to “A Star ls Born,” a quintuple-platinum smash, “I Can Get It For You Wholesale,” Barbra's recording debut and her first three groundbreaking albums.

Gold sticker on The Third Album

Collectors will notice these titles came with a gold "Digitally Remastered and Restored from the Original Master Tapes" sticker on the front cover. Eight of the eleven had never appeared on CD before. All of them carried the “restored by” John Arrias and “remastered by” Bernie Grundman credits on the back covers.

Credits on back of Second Barbra Streisand Album

1994-1998 Remasters

Between 1994 and 1998, Columbia Records issued remastered versions of 24 Barbra Streisand CDs. [Including the 11 CDs from 1993, that added up to 35 Streisand albums in the compact disc format — and, of course, Streisand was still releasing new albums during these years, too].

The packaging had a white sticker affixed to the jewel box, which read: “Digitally Restored From The Original Master Tapes/Digitally Remastered.”

The remastered titles included: People and Funny Girl white sticker remasters

BOLD: 1995 reissues

John Arrias detailed the process to ICE magazine in 1995, boasting "The differences in the '60s stuff is amazing. The Christmas Album, Funny Girl, Je m'appelle...all of those sound spectacular now. You can hear instruments that you've never heard before.

“Live Concert At The Forum was completely remixed from scratch,” Arrias explained. “I went back to the original multi-track master and remixed every track. And some of the versions are extended now; on 'Sweet Inspiration,' for instance, they faded it out early [on the LP and original CD]; I kept it going an extra minute or so.” Arrias also segued that track into “Didn't We,” eliminating the forced gap between songs, which had previously existed to separate the two sides of the LP. “And Yentl was always a problem; it had a lot of hiss on it. We cleaned that up quite a bit.”

The Streisand remastering program did have some problems, however. Columbia issued new discs but did not alter the older CD packaging! Then, to confuse matters more, several fans discovered that Sony Music's manufacturing plants had inadvertently placed the older, non-remastered CDs in white-stickered jewel boxes. Its Quality Management Department aided those fans and exchanged the old CDs for remastered CDs.

As of January 1998, those packaging errors had become less prevalent. As of June 1998, all the above titles were in production and distribution.

It should be noted that two non-Columbia Streisand albums were released in the 1990s (and haven't been revisited since!):

2002 Remasters

Stephen Marcussen remastered five popular Streisand albums from the original master tapes in 2001 and they were released to stores in January 2002.

These 2002 remastered CDs replaced previous Columbia editions in stores. Each disc had specially designed brand-new packaging, restoring original LP artwork and notes. The new discs were assigned new catalog numbers and released with classic red Columbia CD labels. The "Compact Disc" logo was omitted from each insert cover's lower right corner.

2002 remastered CD covers

In March and April 2002 the titles below were issued outside the U.S. and Canada with one bonus remastered track on each CD. Below are the European catalog numbers and bonus tracks:

Post-2002 Remasters

Since the last five remastered discs, Columbia (and Capitol) has released only three more Streisand albums anew:

Mastered for iTunes

Stephen Marcussen prepared the recent Streisand albums for iTunes.

One mastering engineer described the iTunes mastering process as preparing a new high-resolution file that accounts for the changes made to it after it has been converted to a digital AAC file (Advanced Audio Coding— a format for compressing and encoding digital audio).

iTunes' specs say that “AAC encoders are now able to transparently encode high definition audio, creating files that retain the small footprint, portability, and ease of use iTunes is known for. And they sound amazing.”

Barbra Archives has listened to the 12 “Mastered for iTunes” albums and there are no discernible changes to any of these albums—other than them sounding very nice on your headphones!

Mastered for iTunes Albums

  1. Encore (2016)
  2. Partners (2014)
  3. Love is the Answer (2009)
  4. Higher Ground (1997)
  5. Back to Broadway (1993)
  6. The Broadway Album (1985)
  7. Guilty (1980)
  8. Barbra Streisand's Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1978)
  9. A Star is Born (1976)
  10. Classical Barbra (1976)
  11. The Way We Were (1974)
  12. People (1964)

* Click on any of the above albums to buy them at iTunes.

Summary

Barbra Archives receives a lot of questions about Streisand's remastered CDs—mostly from fans wondering how to tell whether their CD is remastered or not.

Generally, any Streisand CD you buy from a store (and even online at Amazon) is a remastered one. The old CDs with less-superior sound have been off retail shelves for decades.

If you are purchasing a used Streisand CD from eBay or from a CD reseller store, then look for remastered stickers on the jewel case.

In my opinion, there are only a handful of Streisand CDs that fall into the twilight zone between the analog and digital era (meaning that they were most likely sold on CD with the sound taken from their LP masters—which is not the best quality).

If Columbia wanted to revisit these, I'm sure a remastered version would sound much better to our modern ears:

  1. Barbra Streisand ... and Other Musical Instruments (1973) ... [with bonus tracks not included on the original LP/CD!]
  2. Emotion (1984)
  3. One Voice (1987) [The 2006 DVD sounds great, with remastered sound by John Arrias!]
  4. Till I Loved You (1988)
  5. A Collection: Greatest Hits and More (1989)

End.

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