Barbra Streisand's 1970s Albums
Even my friend Michael Ely, a dyed in the wool Streisand fanatic, hates her 1970s output on vinyl. But I enjoyed these four albums very much back in the day.
Butterfly (1974), Lazy Afternoon (1975), Streisand Superman (1977), and Songbird (1978) were uneven and occasionally confounding (like her cover of David Bowie's 'Life on Mars' from Butterfly) but the Diva's voice was never finer. And when the voice and material clicked, there was magic coming from the grooves.
These LPs followed The Way We Were, and it's hard to tell where one starts and the other begins in terms of recording quality and the wide ranging choice of pop tunes. (Streisand also released an LP of classical songs in 1976.)
Of these four albums Butterfly contains the most cover tunes, with Streisand's versions of classic tunes from across many genres - Grandma's Hands" (Bill Withers), "Simple Man" (Graham Nash), "Crying Time" (Buck Owens), and 'Let The Good Times Roll' (Shirley Goodman, Leonard Lee). Butterfly was Streisand's boyfriend Jon Peters first attempt at producing a record. He would also produce her film, A Star is Born.
'Life on Mars' from Butterfly:
Lazy Afternoon, a collaboration with singer/songwriter Rupert Holmes, really slowed things down (hence the title, I suppose) and excelled with tunes like 'By the Way', 'Widescreen', 'Letters that Cross in the Mail', Stevie Wonder's 'You and I' and the title track, all delicious arrangements and luscious layered instrumentation. My fave of these 1970's four.
Barbra Streisand sings 'Lazy Afternoon' (live at Arrowhead Pond, in the 1990s):
A standout cut from Lazy Afternoon, 'By the Way':
Streisand Superman was the highest charting of this quartet, hitting number 3 on the pop charts, thanks to the only single from these LPs that made the top ten, 'My Heart Belongs to Me'. Still, this release may be the weakest of the four with way too much uninspired material... but it contains my favorite song from these 70s albums, 'Superman', which coincided with the release of movie of the same name. Was it a failed attempt at a movie theme? It's a terrific pop tune that soars.
'Superman' from Streisand Superman:
The #1 single from the LP Superman, 'My Heart Belongs to Me'.
Songbird, which hit number 12 (similar to Lazy Afternoon and Butterfly) opened with Barbra covering 'Tomorrow' from the musical Annie. Another hit single (sort of) emerged from this album - her medley with Neil Diamond 'You Don't Send Me Flowers'. I say "sort of" because the LP cut had Streisand singing alone but it was the duet charted at number 1. Again, too much of the material overall is ordinary and uninspired The single, 'Songbird', made it to number 25 on the pop chart.
The title cut from Songbird:
After these albums Streisand succumbed to disco with the appalling LP Wet followed by Guilty and Emotion, all huge sellers. In fact, Guilty made it to number 1.
Also released during this period - the soundtracks to Funny Lady and A Star is Born, both with some truly amazing cuts. A Star is Born also hit the top spot on the pop charts and yielded a number 1 single, 'Evergreen'.
Barbra Streisand - 'Great Day' from Funny Lady:
The soundtrack from Funny Lady is my favorite Streisand album of all time... but then again, I liked that movie better than Funny Girl so go figure.\
"There is just not going to be another Barbra Streisand, now or ever. What she is, happens once..." - Alan Jay Lerner
The music you hear from the 1970s on the radio tends to be the same old tired hit songs they've been playing for decades.
Rarely will an oldies station stray outside of the top ten songs of the decade. That's because there were so darn many - it was the era of the 'one hit wonder.'
Obscure 70s looks at LPs and singles that may not have made the top of the charts but were amazing none the less.
Obscure 70s Looks At:
Obscure 70s Looks At: