Album: Barbra Streisand, Love Is the Answer (Columbia)

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The Independent Culture

Despite their widely trumpeted achievements, the likes of Madonna and Mariah Carey have some way to go before they acquire the kind of career momentum wielded by Barbra Streisand, whose debut appeared in 1963 and whose last studio album – 2005's Guilty Pleasures, written and produced by Barry Gibb – sold more than 300,000 units in the UK alone.

This time around, jazz pianist Diana Krall is at the helm for an album designed to emphasise the more intimate end of Streisand's talents. With Johnny Mandel and William Ross drafted in to score the arrangements, the result is a series of lushly orchestrated versions of songs such as "In The Wee Small Hours" and "If You Go Away" – impeccably delivered, but never approaching the kind of revelatory interpretations that might cause a sharp intake of breath among listeners. In some cases – "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" springs readily to mind – there's such an excess of cosy satisfaction that it's like being suffocated in fine cashmere, and I quickly found myself yearning for the soul belter whose effortless gusto animated "Stoney End". As if to compensate, the deluxe edition of the album features an extra CD of the same songs with Streisand accompanied just by Krall's piano quartet, which has the virtue of imposing a nightclub ambience, but still no greater interpretive audacity.

Download this: In The Wee Small Hours, If You Go Away