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A New And Unexpected Gem From IMPEX Records - Barbra Streisand, Live At The Bon Soir

07-13-2023 | By Robert S. Youman | Issue 128

Barbra Streisand, Live At The Bon Soir. Impex Records

Growing up and even as an adult, I always seemed to be surrounded by passionate Barbra Streisand fans. She was my father's favorite female vocalist and both my wife and my mother-in-law simply adored her. My mom and dad attended several concerts in Las Vegas, Chicago and elsewhere. They never came home without glowingly exclaiming their love and affection for this iconic artist. Our customary Sunday morning newspaper and brunch get-togethers as a family always included a record or two of Barbra along with Frank, Ella and even a touch of George Solti and the CSO. Fond memories!

Now we have a wonderful little gem from Impex Records, who have now stepped forward and released Barbra's 1962 performance at The Bon Soir Nightclub in Greenwich Village, sixty years after it was recorded. She was twenty years old at the time and had just signed a contract one month earlier with Columbia. The plan was to record this performance and make it her debut album. Afterwards, both Barbara and the Columbia executives at the time, were not satisfied with the sound quality and overall production results, so the recording was put on hold. Several songs from the performance were then recorded again in studio and for her first release entitled The Barbra Streisand Album. It is important to note that this album then earned her three Grammy's including Album of the Year—all of which were inspired by this initial live performance.

As usual, we have another superb effort from Impex Records, who have created two versions of this remarkable release: a two-LP vinyl edition and a 24-bit/96kHz SACD. The SACD includes an elaborate hardcover package with a 32-page booklet full of historical notes, photographs, and a message from Barbra Streisand herself. The 2-LP HQ-180 vinyl set gets a tip-on gatefold jacket and a similarly-featured 12-page booklet. First class as always!

The engineering team involved in bringing these performances back to life is impressive. Mixed by Jochem van der Saag utilizing the original analog master tapes (from Barbra's very own vault), and mastered in 24-bit/96kHz by Paul Blakemore, we also have the lacquer cut by Bernie Grundman. All are Grammy award winners of one form or another. The sound quality might be considered by some as unexpected based on the backstory mentioned above and the fact that we don't have an all analog chain in the mastering process. However, this proves once again that despite all the analog vs digital debate, the most important thing is still the results. Here we have a very warm, detailed and expansive presentation. Musicians are nicely placed and reasonably defined within the soundstage. Barbra's voice is clear and concise with plenty of emotion and rhythmic expression shining through. I give the results a big thumbs up!

If we take a closer look and listen to the music itself, one thing that you will notice right away in Barbra's performance is the youth and vibrant tone of her personality. I have been pre-programmed to recognize her later recordings and a deeper more mature voice and delivery. However, I was blown away by all the amazing energy radiating from the stage and her ability to reach out and interact with the audience at such a young age. And that audience! She had them on the edge of their seats and yearning for more! You can tell immediately that something special was going on here and that Barbara's future was going to be very bright and exciting.

My favorite tracks from this release are some of the old school standards—many of which were based on both the blues and from a variety of theater productions. This includes "Lover Come Back To Me," "Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now", and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered." Again, her interpretations leave nothing behind with a maturity and understanding that might just surprise you. Her backup band includes an excellent quartet of veteran musicians: Tiger Haynes on guitar, Averill Pollard on bass, John Cresci on drums, and Peter Daniels on piano. There is some definite synergy and affection going on here between Barbara and the band as this raises the performance to even another level. They play off each other beautifully as if every move was both uniquely innovative and yet properly synchronized—almost as if they had been touring together for several years.

All in all, this is a must have for all the Barbra Streisand fans out there, but also for those interested in their first introduction to her legacy and her extraordinary entertainment skills. A new and inspiring title for multiple generations! Highly recommended!