The cover of Barbra Streisand's 63rd album shows the singer, highlights glossy and nails exquisite as ever, wrapping herself in a chenille throw as she sinks into an inviting-looking sofa. The only thing that's missing is the pearl white "oprah" microphone! It's a perfect indication of what many listeners will want to do as they listen to the elegant and soothing music inside - even if, as on this reviewer's couch, the throw happens to come from Primark rather than Pottery Barn.
With Diana Krall and her regular co-producer Tommy LiPuma behind the mixing desk, Love Is The Answer is an album of jazz standards recorded with Krall's quartet and a full orchestra. The song selections aren't what you'd call leftfield - old chestnuts like 'If You Go Away', 'In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning', and 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes' all get the Streisand treatment - and the overarching theme is signposted by the title, a line from 'Make Someone Happy'. Streisand, lest we forget, has been happily married to actor James Brolin since 1998.
Krall's production is tasteful throughout, shrowding but not crowding Streisand with elegant orchestral flourishes and jazzy piano solos, and there are few changes of tempo - just a couple of tracks, 'Gentle Rain' and 'Love Dance', break into a bossa nova trot. The effect is to create an air of serene intimacy, especially on the bonus disc, which removes the orchestral arrangements to leave Streisand accompanied solely by Krall's quartet. Despite all this, Love Is The Answer manages to be rather more than beautifully-crafted and expensively-sounding aural wallpaper.
This is mainly thanks to Streisand. Would you believe she is 67, and at that age her vocals are still remarkably clear. She captures the romantic longing of 'In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning', conveys all the despair and dejection and drama of 'If You Go Away', and smoulders subtly on the sensual 'Love Dance'. Of course, she can't resist ending 'Some Other Time' with an actressy sigh of 'Oh well', but really, would we expect anything else from 'ol Babs?
Now the very good news, there arn't too many pub and club tracks for drag queens to perform to on this CD, so you can enjoy this all on your own at home!