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Barbara Streisand: Back To Brooklyn

Babs with her roots done - to good effect

(Columbia)

    Back To Brooklyn is a CD and DVD package recording Barbra Streisand's return to her roots - her concerts in October last year, which were her first in the neighbourhood where she was raised. It was a show she subsequently took around the world, but these were the performances that really mattered to her.

    The CD and DVD offer similar track-listings, two-dozen tunes from the pantheon of songwriting greats. The sleeve credits - Bergman, Berlin, Bernstein, Hamlisch, Sondheim, Styne - read like extracts from an illustrious Jewish phone-book. The CD is, of course, a showcase for Streisand's voice, which is still a thing of wonder. And even if her range is narrowing, there remains a richness of tone.

    The CD also affirms the essential conceit of the title - that this is Barbra back on home turf, a reminder of the gawky kid from Pulaski Street before she became an internationally famous actress and singer. There is a series of "vox pops" at the start called "I Remember Barbra" from what sound like hardcore Brooklynites, even if they may well be actors reading from autocues. "She's a very simple person and she made it - she's like one of us," declares a passer-by in a thick New York accent. "She never tried to have class - she never wanted to lose that Brooklyn background which is part of her charm," decides another, without prompting (honest). Mind you, while praising the voice, a third ventures: "She ought to get that nose job she's been putting off."

    Barbra, too, can't resist exposing her roots, prefacing As If We Never Said Goodbye with: "Who said you can't come home again - right?" It's that colloquial "right?" that places her securely back in the place of her birth. "I love people from Brooklyn because they're real," she adds, leaving no one in any doubt.

    The DVD features a similar line-up of songs and guest stars, only here you get to see Babs. And probably more of her than if you'd forked out the £150 or so it cost for a seat way up in the stalls at her London concerts this summer.

    It opens with photos of her through the years -- the ingenue, the bathing beauty, the funny girl, the cabaret queen and, finally, in her glamorous pomp as a surviving member of the tail-end of Hollywood's Golden Age.

    One cannot help but notice that the mega-rich superstar is wearing a suspiciously similar outfit to the one she wore in London (what, she couldn't afford another dress?). But who's complaining?

    For under £20 you can get up close and personal with a living legend. And the great thing about a DVD is that you can skip the guest interludes (trumpeter Chris Botti, operatic boy band Il Volo and the kvell-fest with her son Jason Gould). Instead, repeat-play the parts where La Streisand pretends not to be an unreachable diva who spends most of her time in a Malibu mansion.

    "Talk amongst yourselves, I'm getting verklempt [choked with emotion]," she says, dropping Yiddish like matzah crumbs. Just a nice, ordinary Jewish girl.

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