Love Is the Answer

Get past the froufrou packaging, complete with chintz, lace, chenille and adorable, snoozing pups, and inside you’ll find the precise opposite: an album (or two, depending on which version you choose) of deceptive simplicity that is the quintessence of quiet elegance, exquisite taste and impeccable musical instincts. Not since the mid-’60s era of Simply Streisand and The Third Album, when the roots of her career-igniting cabaret and nightclub days still showed in her recordings, have Streisand’s inimitable storytelling skills been more astutely exercised.

Sure, the crystalline purity of that singularly magnificent voice has grown slightly cloudy (though the deterioration is remarkably minimal). But such slight imperfection only serves to heighten the silken wallop of her interpretative abilities. Where once she would soar, she now stoops to conquer, newly appreciating that less can be more, a lesson reinforced by one of its sharpest practitioners, Diana Krall, who served as co-producer (with Tommy LiPuma) and advisor. Adapting to Krall’s approach, Streisand recorded 13 standards with just piano, bass, guitar and drums. Naturally, when you’re Barbra Streisand you’re provided only the very best, including arranger Johnny Mandel, bassist John Clayton, guitarist Anthony Wilson, drummer Jeff Hamilton and a rotating who’s who of pianists, including Krall, Tamir Hendelman, Alan Broadbent and Bill Charlap. (Orchestral backing, conducted by Bill Ross, was added later.)

The single-disc version of Love Is the Answer features all 13 tracks with orchestra. The deluxe edition includes a second disc with the quartet-only versions of 12 of the selections. Though both are stunning, opt for the latter. Gems this glittering are best nestled in minimally ornate settings.