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Decades of gems from Streisand’s vaults

Barbra Streisand, "Release Me"

It's 2012, no one is expecting surprises from Barbra Streisand. And certainly not on an archival set like "Release Me."

So it's something of a shock that this collection of material from the vaults exists at all; not because it doesn't sound great — it does — but because Streisand is a notorious perfectionist.

But whatever miniscule flaws she thought she heard when she recorded these tracks — ranging in vintage from the late '60s to 2011 — which caused her to shelve them in the first place aren't evident. What is evident is the astonishing consistency of Streisand's tone, her sometimes goose-bump-inducing interpretative gifts, and her stunning power over 45 years.


Vocally there is so much good here. The way she attacks the single word "start" in "Try to Win a Friend," encapsulating a world in a syllable; how she swoops from songbird trill to Broadway belt on a smoky "Didn't We"; and the tender ache that suffuses "I Think It's Going to Rain Today."

One pleasant surprise is how warm some of the recordings sound, and how few hokey production flourishes date them — the woozy whimsy of "Lost in Wonderland" and goopy strings of "With One More Look at You" being the main exceptions.

On "Being Good Isn't Good Enough" Streisand sings "I'll be the best, or nothing at all." Here's a reminder of her at her best, even if she didn't believe it at the time. (Out Tuesday)

ESSENTIAL "I Think It's Going to Rain Today"