Albums

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Crooners - Released April 1, 1955 | CAPITOL CATALOG MKT (C92)

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Crooners - Released January 1, 2014 | SPECIAL MARKETS (SPM)

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International Pop - Released January 29, 2002 | Columbia

Although Barbra Streisand has recorded for the same company, Columbia Records, throughout her career, her work has not been particularly well represented on compilations. Four single-disc best-ofs dot her discography, but the listener who wanted to do something as simple as purchase an album containing the original studio recordings of both her first Top Ten hit, "People," and her first number one, "The Way We Were," without plumping for the four-CD box set Just for the Record , was out of luck. Complicating the compiling of her career highlights is her position as essentially an album artist, despite having scattered 11 Top Ten pop hits across 32 years. The ideal collection would have to do justice to her popular early albums of the '60s, her mid-career singles hits of the '70s, and her renewed album success in the '80s and '90s. Here it is. At a CD-busting length of over two and a half hours, this 40-track double-disc set encapsulates Streisand's recording career in chronological order from her 1963 debut album to 1999. (Two previously unreleased tracks sound like outtakes from her later album projects. "Someday My Prince Will Come" probably got left off of A Love Like Ours, while the gospel-tinged "You'll Never Walk Alone" must have been intended for Higher Ground.) Intelligently picking signature performances from her best and most popular albums, it largely eschews a raft of singles that got into the bottom half of the Top 40, but leaves out only one Top Ten hit, "What Kind of Fool." The singer's versatility and her ability to impose her immediately identifiable vocal style on a variety of material are emphasized in recordings that range from Broadway show tunes to disco. A collection like this has been needed for a long time as a gateway to Streisand's bountiful, indeed overwhelming, catalog. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Crooners - Released October 1, 2013 | Legacy Recordings

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Crooners - Released April 15, 2013 | Reprise

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International Pop - Released September 23, 1980 | Columbia

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The biggest selling album of Barbra Streisand's career is also one of her least characteristic. The album was written and produced by Barry Gibb in association with his brothers and the producers of the Bee Gees, and in essence it sounds like a post-Saturday Night Fever Bee Gees album with vocals by Streisand. Gibb adapted his usual style somewhat, especially in slowing the tempos and leaving more room for the vocal, but his melodic style and the backup vocals, even when they are not sung by the Bee Gees, are typical of them. Still, the record was more hybrid than compromise, and the chart-topping single "Woman in Love" has a sinuous feel that is both right for Streisand and new for her. Other hits were the title song and "What Kind of Fool," both duets with Gibb. (The song "Guilty" won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal by Duo or Group.) ~ William Ruhlmann
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Crooners - Released September 16, 2011 | RPM Records - Columbia

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Tony Bennett’s first album of celebrity duets (2006's Duets: An American Classic) featured an impressive cast of superstars answering the call from the dean of pop vocalists, but the arrangements were overly safe -- virtually all of them ballads with soft strings or brassy finger-snappers. Duets II follows the first by five years and features, surprisingly, a cast just as star-laden, but also arrangements that are much more dynamic, and suitable for each song and its participants. (Marion Evans, a veteran whose career goes back nearly as far as Bennett's, handles the charts for a few of the best here.) Bennett, as ever in splendid voice and impeccable groove, laughs and trades lines with stars half his age (like John Mayer), or in the case of Lady Gaga, six decades younger, and clearly makes them so comfortable in this setting that it would be easy to believe that jazz vocals were their home. Standard fare yields standard results for the likes of Michael Bublé and Josh Groban, but all of these songs have something to contribute. Bennett is especially tender and expressive with k.d. lang on "Blue Velvet" (the two had already collaborated on a full album), and he clearly enjoys his pairing with Willie Nelson for "On the Sunny Side of the Street." (Nelson takes a guitar solo, and shows some of the vocal shadings that during the '60s made him as expressive a vocalist as Bennett.) The album wisely covers all bases, including stars of country music (Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill), R&B (Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse), and one-shots for rock & roll (Sheryl Crow), Latin music (Alejandro Sanz), and classical (Andrea Bocelli). Celebrity musical pairings rarely lead to innovation or excitement, but Duets II is an enjoyable celebration of what Tony Bennett has meant to pop music, and what he can bring out in any star vocalist he steps up to the microphone with. ~ John Bush
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International Pop - Released October 6, 2006 | RCA Records Label

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International Pop - Released May 25, 2018 | Nettwerk Records

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International Pop - Released January 2, 1990 | RCA Records Label

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Crooners - Released October 8, 2013 | Columbia - Legacy

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Crooners - Released February 4, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

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A profile of a rugged Dean Martin by the fireplace with a cigarette adorns the jacket of this very interesting concept album. As Stan Cornyn's liner notes explain, "his longtime accompanist" on piano, Ken Lane, with "three of Hollywood's most thoughtful rhythm men" -- those being drummer Irv Cottler, bassist Red Mitchell, and guitarist Barney Kessel -- do create a mood, Dean Martin performing as if he were a lounge singer at 1:15 a.m. as the Saturday night crowd is dwindling. His signature tune, "Everybody Loves Somebody," is here in a laid-back style, produced by Jimmy Bowen, who would go on to produce Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, and so many others, also the same man who was behind the 1964 number one smash. This album with the original Martin recording was released after the hit single version and on the same day as the Everybody Loves Somebody LP, but how many times does the audience get a different studio reading of a seminal hit record? Not only that, but the version that preceded the hit. The backing is so sparse it is almost a cappella, with Kessel's guitar noodlings and Ken Lane's piano. The bass is mostly invisible, coming in only when needed. It's a slow and sultry version that caps off side one. There is a rendition of Rodgers & Hart's "Blue Moon" that strips away the doo wop of the Marcels' number one 1961 remake, and a run-through of the Bloom/Mercer hit for Glen Miller, "Fools Rush In," which Rick Nelson had launched into the Top 15 in 1963. Martin is just crooning away, and if the album has one drawback, it is that the 12 songs are incessant in their providing the same atmosphere. The backing quartet does not deviate from their job, nor does producer Jimmy Bowen add any technique, other than putting Martin's voice way out in the mix. But Dream With Dean was no doubt excellent research and development as Bowen landed 11 Top 40 hits with the singer from 1964's "Everybody Loves Somebody," which evolved out of this original idea to 1967's "Little Old Wine Drinker, Me." It sounds as if they tracked the album in one afternoon, and it is not only a very pleasant listening experience, it shows what a tremendous vocalist Dean Martin truly was. ~ Joe Viglione
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International Pop - Released December 8, 2017 | Columbia

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16 concerts, 14 cities… In 2016 and 2017, the great Barbra Streisand (75 years old) worked tirelessly to offer her legendary voice to her many fans. Without being a testamentary work, this series of concerts still constitutes a nostalgic inventory of the rich career of the performer of Woman in love (a title that is strangely and unfortunately absent from this collection). Incidentally, the album cover shows its hand by putting seven vignettes side by side picturing Streisand in concert throughout her life. Thanks to a lush crossover cast, these concerts showcase the artist above all else, who is captivating in the musicals A Star is Born (with the smooth Evergreen) and Funny Girl (with the spruce and jazzy Don’t Rain on My Parade). Always in this cinematographic niche, the colour suddenly changes while she performs a stripped-down and deep version of Papa, Can You Hear Me, taken from her unique movie as a director (Yentl). Admittedly her presence and charisma are still there, but in this type of song, the “magic” that the title of the album tries to sell us is harder to believe in, as the crystal from her voice is now tarnished. In the end, it’s in the most energetic and optimistic songs that she comes out best, such as How Lucky Can You Get, drawn from Funny Lady, or the mischievous Jingle Bells. Because if her vocal cords are sometimes tired, Streisand’s invigorating personality remains intact, and it’s what we’ll remember the most from these musical memories, testimonies of an era which will keep its “magic” forever. It’s worth noting that there’s a delightful duo with Jamie Fox on the very lyric Climb Ev’ry Moutain, a little-known song from The Sound of Music. This Deluxe version contains 8 additional tracks to the standard version—including the audio version of the complete recording of the Miami concert, which was broadcasted on Netflix in November 2017. © NM/Qobuz
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Crooners - Released August 29, 1995 | Columbia

As the studio album followup to Tony Bennett's breakthrough record, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, I Wanna Be Around had a lot to live up to, but since San Francisco was a culmination of Bennett's development, and not a fluke, I Wanna Be Around turned out to be almost on a par with its predecessor. "The Good Life" and "I Wanna Be Around" became Top 20 hits, showing that Bennett had somehow found a line into good new pop material, and there were also some excellent arrangements, courtesy of Marty Manning, including a percussion-and-flute reading of "Let's Face the Music and Dance" that echoed the Beat of My Heart album and a nod to the South American trend with Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Quiet Nights (Corcovado)." A worthy successor. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Crooners - Released October 14, 1997 | Columbia - Legacy

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Recorded on June 9, 1962, one week before the release of the I Left My Heart in San Francisco album that would catapult Tony Bennett's career into the stratosphere, this concert album effectively sums up his accomplishments so far. Some of the hits -- "Stranger in Paradise," "Rags to Riches," "Because of You" -- are still on the set list (although drastically rearranged), but clearly he has found his true repertoire in reinventions of older material like "All the Things You Are" (the version here is exquisite) and good choices of new songs -- he champions the team of Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, and introduces "San Francisco," which some in the audience already know. (Released as a single in advance of the San Francisco album, it was in the charts already.) And on the album's original four LP sides, Bennett managed to find time for such experiments as an up-tempo "Ol' Man River" featuring percussionist Candido, a throwback to his innovative Beat of My Heart album. More than his greatest-hits collections of the '50s and early '60s, it gives a broad sense of Bennett's work, and it does so in the format with which he's most comfortable -- live in concert. ~ William Ruhlmann
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International Pop - Released September 27, 1996 | Atlantic Records

Madeleine Peyroux made a bit of a stir in 1996 due to her voice sounding remarkably close at times to Billie Holiday's. This wide-ranging set features Peyroux singing swing standards, originals and tunes that hint at country and folk music. Her supporting cast, which changes on each selection, includes a restrained James Carter on tenor and bass clarinet, Marc Ribot on dobro and guitar, trumpeter Marcus Printup, pianist Cyrus Chestnut and violinist Regina Carter, among others. A very interesting release which, despite the derivative nature of Peyroux's voice, is full of surprises. Highlights include "Walkin' After Midnight," "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," "La Vie en Rose" and "Muddy Water." ~ Scott Yanow
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International Pop - Released October 24, 1997 | Columbia

Falling Into You finally established Celine Dion as a superstar in America, so its sequel, Let's Talk About Love, was designed to consolidate her position as a newly minted star. The album was constructed as a blockbuster, featuring Dion's trademark melodramatic ballads, some carefully tailored dance-pop, a bevy of duets with the likes of Barbra Streisand and the Bee Gees, and production and songs from adult contemporary gurus David Foster, Jim Steinman, and Walter Afanasieff. Given that so many talented craftsmen worked on Let's Talk About Love, it makes sense that a number of the cuts succeed according to adult contemporary terms -- they are predictably sweeping showcases for Dion's soaring, technically skilled voice. As usual, the singles (including the Streisand duet "Tell Him" and the Titanic love theme "My Heart Will Go On") shine the most brilliantly, but even the filler is immaculately produced. If the end result doesn't quite gel as an album, that shouldn't be surprising -- this is music by committee, a product that was made to appeal to the widest possible audience. Such a calculated execution guarantees that anyone who liked one of the singles shouldn't be disappointed by Let's Talk About, but it doesn't necessarily mean they'll remember all of the record after it's finished playing. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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International Pop - Released November 25, 2016 | East West Records

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After trying her hand at writing her own vintage-inspired material with 2014's Into Colour, singer Rumer returns to her core inspiration of covering classic '60s and '70s pop with 2016's sophisticated This Girl's in Love (A Bacharach & David Songbook). Produced by her husband and longtime collaborator Rob Shirakbari at Capitol Studios, This Girl's in Love finds Rumer applying her supple vocals and soft-focus aesthetic to songs written by the legendary team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. While Rumer has most certainly sung many of these songs in live settings, it's surprising, given her association with the time period, that she's never actually recorded any of this material in the past. Here, we get renditions of such beloved songs as Dusty Springfield's "The Look of Love," the Carpenters' "(They Long to Be) Close to You," and Dionne Warwick's "Walk on By." We also get to hear a sweetly gruff-voiced Bacharach sing the intro to the album's title track, a rewording of the Herb Alpert hit "This Guy's in Love with You." Thankfully, Rumer and Shirakbari don't simply stick to the best-of hits and additionally pepper the album with some well-curated, lesser heard choices like the poetic "Balance of Nature," the heartbreaking "Are You There (With Another Girl)," and the harmonically nuanced "The Last One to Be Loved." As with past Rumer albums, these are gorgeously rendered productions featuring orchestral-tinged arrangements from Shirakbari that capture the golden era of soft pop without falling into garish pastiche. While the album is technically one of Rumer's most faithfully old-school, it still sounds fresh, and the analog production aesthetic only works to magnify the purity, lyricism, and expressiveness of her voice. If Rumer has consistently drawn favorable comparisons to the late Karen Carpenter in the past, This Girl's in Love (A Bacharach & David Songbook) will do nothing to diminish them. Ultimately, it serves to reinforce the idea that Rumer stands as one of the brightest torchbearers for the easy listening AM pop that Carpenter, and more specifically, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, helped make such an indelible part of 21st century pop history. ~ Matt Collar
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International Pop - Released November 19, 2002 | Columbia

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International Pop - Released August 24, 2006 | Columbia - Legacy

Arriving in 1996 after several years of alternating English-language adult contemporary pop albums with contemporary Latin pop albums, Tango was a back to basics move of sorts for Julio Iglesias. Back to basics might be stretching it a little, because Iglesias always was a contemporary pop singer, so this was more of a roots move, finding Iglesias tackling 12 of the most famous tangos, many of which date back to the '30s and '40s, if not earlier. If the production did not exactly sound timeless -- it was a contemporary big-budget recording, so it was very clean and polished -- it nevertheless wasn't nearly as slick as his English language records, and the execution of these tangos modernized these classic songs, bringing them to new audiences. Iglesias responded in kind, giving them some of his most passionate performances in years, and the result was one of the highlights of his '90s work. [In 2006, Tango was reissued by Columbia/Legacy in remastered sound with new liner notes.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine