It’s unusual to see an album based on who wrote the lyrics, rather than who composed the music. But Barbra Streisand has a debt to pay: Alan and Marilyn Bergman have furnished the words for some of her most enduring hits: A Child is Born, The Way We Were, all the lyrics for Yentl… Also, the trio have been friends for half a century, and were all born in the same hospital in Brooklyn. So this disc is almost a family affair.
But don’t expect any nostalgia: Barbra has chosen for this album ten Bergman tracks she’s never recorded before. Although not exactly household names, the Bergmans are songwriting royalty, having won every conceivable award for the craft. In 1983 they even had the rare distinction of having three of their songs among the five nominated in the Academy Awards’ Best Song category (How Do You Keep the Music Playing? from Best Friends, It Might Be You from Tootsie and If We Were in Love from Yes, Giorgio). The list of composers they have lured as collaborators on this album alone attests to the calibre of their lyrics: Michel Legrand (Windmills of your Mind), Sergio Mendes (So Many Stars); John Williams (The Same Hello, The Same Goodbye). It’s a fabulously rich catalogue for any singer to mine.
Streisand is 70 next year, but this is no swansong: her voice is daisy-fresh from top to bottom. It’s actually quite astonishing. The high notes on So Many Stars are delivered with brio and confidence, and she still has that knack for cutting to the heart of a lyric.