Babs Is Back

Barbra Streisand offers a compilation of first-rate outtakes, while Martha Wainwright's new album lacks passion

Barbra Streisand
Release Me
Columbia
$9.99
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Yes, she covers the Stephanie Mills signature from The Wiz, which was originally set aside from inclusion on Streisand’s 1985 The Broadway Album in favor of more traditional Broadway material. Twenty-seven years later, the track makes you hunger for Streisand to tackle even newer Broadway tunes. Imagine her take on ”I Know Where I’ve Been” from Hairspray. Or ”I Miss The Mountains” from Next to Normal.

Even the biggest cynic has to acknowledge the material here is no standard set of leftovers, subpar outtakes that were never meant to see the light. All throughout, Streisand and the musicians sound as sharp as any first-rate release. Streisand’s interpretative skills are in full flower on tracks like ”I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” – her fragile delivery of the familiar Randy Newman tune will lead to tears – and ”Lost In Wonderland.” This lesser-known bossa nova tune by Antonio Carlos Jobim is as musically complicated as they come, and Marshall Barer’s lyrics ride the many surprising shifts and twists in the melody in a manner that would trip up even the strongest of singers.

But Streisand? She spits out the rapid-fire lyrics with ease – and reportedly all in just one take.

DOWNLOAD THESE: ”Lost In Wonderland,” ”I Think It’s Going To Rain Today,” ”Home”

Martha Wainwright
Come Home to Mama
Cooperative Music
$9.99
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MARTHA WAINWRIGHT’S THIRD ALBUM, Come Home to Mama, reflects on the warbling, 36-year-old singer-songwriter’s heavy-hearted current state in life. In the past few years she’s lost her mother, folk legend Kate McGarrigle, while also becoming a mother in her own right. The title derives from the gorgeous, classically inspired first single ”Proserpina,” which is the last song McGarrigle ever wrote. And if the song didn’t bring you to tears on its own, it certainly will after you know that.

The album launches as if Wainwright were rattling her cage, crying out in frustration on the stewing rocker ”I Am Sorry.” There’s plenty more rage to be found on Come Home to Mama, but the set is mostly marked by restraint and confusion, particularly when it comes to the music, produced by Yuka C. Honda (Cibo Mato). Several of the songs here are a bit ungainly, sounding like several songs crammed into one. ”Radio Star” is an outright mess, while ”Four Black Sheep” starts out in a slightly psychedelic pasture, but then ventures off looking for greener grass, never to be found.

All in all, Come Home to Mama pales in comparison to Wainwright’s intense, angst-ridden self-titled debut from 2005 and its 2008 follow-up, the brooding, wonderfully titled I Know You’re Married, But I Have Feelings Too – both of which were produced by Wainwright’s husband Brad Albetta. Come Home to Mama lacks the kind of blistering passion you expect from this Wainwright – Martha’s more of a rocker than either her dad, Loudon III, or her brother, Rufus.

As sad – even unbelievable – as it is to say, given that Wainwright first came to attention with the exquisite and stirring anthem ”Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole,” among other lively gems, Come Home to Mama is pretty lackluster. It’s even boring. This mama has, sadly, largely lost her edge.

DOWNLOAD THESE: ”Proserpina,” ”I Am Sorry”

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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