Tuesday, 20 January 2009

1980 Barbra Streisand: Woman In Love

Being a kind of latter day Judy Garland, Streisand had made her fame and fortune from Broadway musicals long before the Bee Gees, with their stock at an all time high, were approached with a view to collaborate. The resulting album was 'Guilty' and 'Woman In Love' was the lead single, her one and only UK number one to date. Rather than the full on disco strut of 'Tragedy' or 'Stayin Alive' though, the brothers Gibb stick firmly to the middle of the road with this one and play the whole thing out in a minor key with some earthereal guitar and backing strings and a lack of drums to let you know that the only dancing you're meant to be doing to this is the slow one at the end of the night. Which is a bit of a shame really because if you're not dancing then you may end up listening to the lyrics, and they don't bear close scrutiny.

"Life is a moment in space
, when the dream is gone it's a lonelier place. I kiss the morning goodbye, but down inside you know we never know why": I have no idea what that means and  I doubt Streisand does either, but she she's as good as her word and gives it her all, using her (admittedly magnificent) voice from the heart to spin this straw into an approximation of gold. And in the course of her spinning, Streisand is too much of a showgirl not to know that when all else fails, hitting and maintaining a high note (as she does on the 'I give you it all' line) for over ten seconds is the quality kitemark that's all the average listener needs to hear to know that she really means it and that there's some serious heartbreak going down along with the curtain (just ask Whitney or Maria; they should know, they've built whole careers on this simple con trick). You can almost picture the tearfully jilted, unrequited and lovelorn with running mascara and an overfilled wineglass, gripping it's stem so tightly it breaks as she does it. Amateur dramatics maybe, but effective nonetheless. 'Woman In Love' is a professional job from first to last. And yet for all it's professionalism, it lacks the emotional substance that it so obviously aspires to, making listening to it akin to eating a whole box of chocolates in one sitting; enjoyable enough at the time, but ultimately resulting in little more than a sickly feeling in the stomach and a self questioning 'now what was the point of that?' shortly afterwards. I can't say that it's my cup of tea, but in terms of each of the participants it does nobody's careers any harm at all.

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