December 05, 1988 12:00 PM

Barbra Streisand

There’s plenty to complain about. Most of the songs on this album should have been eaten for Thanksgiving. The arrangements sound like Muzak with all the soulful parts taken out. The tempo and mood hardly vary from track to track. If Streisand had purposely chosen lackluster surroundings so that listeners wouldn’t be distracted by appealing melodies and engaging lyrics, she could hardly have done it more completely. But then there is that voice, snapping from an almost scary intensity and power one second to a wispy delicacy the next. When Streisand sinks her vocal cords into material, even such a monumentally banal tune as You and Me for Always (Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager)—”And know if our hearts are true/ There’s nothing we have to do/ You and me for always”—is worth hearing. There’s also some curiosity value in Till I Loved You, a duet by Streisand and her erstwhile boyfriend, Don Johnson. He’s not the perennial all-star Streisand is but Johnson is a major-league singer, and while he’s stretching his talents, she seems to be reining hers in, which lends some charm even to a song with such foolishly romantic lyrics—especially ludicrous coming from two such well-traveled characters—as “Nothing lived, nothing grew/ Till I loved you.” There are a couple of admirable tunes—All I Ask of You from The Phantom of the Opera and Mark Radice’s Some Good Things Never Last—-but most of the allure of the record is the sheer pleasure of hearing Streisand’s voice. There are moments when it almost doesn’t matter what she’s singing; you just wish it would never end. (Columbia)

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