Guards Down (Music Thoughts: Walls, Barbra Streisand)

126783-wallsJust in time for the midterm elections, Barbra Streisand has released her new album. And politics is on her mind, and she wants to protest. Is someone going to tell her not to? I dare you. Thank God it’s a good album, full of mostly original songs that speak different messages, all cohesive, all unifying. This is a protest to Trump, but she does so not with anger, but with love.

Her voice is still a force, though we all know that at 70 years old, it’s not what it used to be. But she can and does still manage to essay her songs the Barbra way. She still swoops up whenever she wants to (sometimes unnecessarily, but it won’t be Barbra if it didn’t) And you know what I like about this album? There’s a little bit more rhythmic production.(Desmond Child is one of the producers here)  There’s a bounce to ‘What The World Needs Now’ that’s R & B tinged (the last time she sounded like this was ‘Till I Loved You’, and she has Babyface and Michael McDonald in the track) and her carrier single ‘Don’t Lie To Me’ sounds modern enough to fit in Top 40 radio. Of course, I like the ballads, especially the LGBT themed ‘Love Is Never Wrong.’  Her medlette of ‘Imagine’ with ‘What A Wonderful World’ is fine enough, though I was a bit underwhelmed by its melodic transitions. And theater geeks like myself marvel at her inclusion of ‘Take Care Of This House’ from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Leonard Bernstein’s flop musical with Alan Jay Lerner (her operatic notes are tentative but still effective)

But probably my favorite track is her new version of ‘Happy Days Are Here Again.’ When I saw the song on the track listing, I immediately thought – uh oh, filler. I mean, how many times does she need to sing and record that song? But this version is drama with a capital D. She acts her way through it, under a funereal paced arrangement, and she is over the top, she goes all out, and it’s the most authentic I have heard her in years. When she lets out that big sigh at the end, I wanted to stand up and clap and say Yass Kween Barbra, you are still our diva.  It’s great to see that sometimes, we can still see Barbra tear down her walls.

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