A mere two weeks after the release of “Guilty Pleasures,” the new album by Barbra Streisand, on which Barry Gibb also sings, it has rocketed into the Billboard Top 10 to become the 28th album to reach such heights in this star’s long and illustrious career. The reunion between Streisand and Gibb marks the 25th anniversary since their “Guilty” became a five-time platinum hit.
The album is unmistakable Streisand, peppered at times with Latin undertones and the disco sound that made Gibb famous. The opening track, “Come Tomorrow” pairs Streisand and Gibb in a slow, brassy tune with a doo-wop edge. “I accept this life we live/ I’ll be your lover and I’ll be your friend/ I’m gonna follow you right to the end,” Streisand sings, with Gibb hitting the high notes that makes his voice an inarguable touchstone of the ’70s.
Streisand, despite a career that has endured more than four decades, is hardly a woman caught in the past. Her notorious need for privacy in her life does not cross over to her politics. Streisand is vocal about her opposition to the war in Iraq, posting her views on her Web site, where she wrote, on September 7, “The media clearly has had enough. They have finally refused to protect President Bush and support the Administration’s spin on yet another massive failure of leadership.”
She parlays the hopelessness of war into “Stranger in a Strange Land,” a love song to a soldier written by Barry, Ashley, and Stephen Gibb, with the lyrics, “And somewhere in the lonely night/ Your flame is burning bright/ I know it’s how I’m gonna stay/ To a stranger in a strange land, far away.” The slow rock, guitar power chords at the end of this song seem made to pull on heartstrings.
Streisand and Gibb go on to harness the popularity of Latin rock that permeates much of today’s pop music with the singles “Hideaway,” “All the Children,” and “Golden Dawn.” The horn break in “Hideaway” is superb, and when Streisand hits her trademark low notes, it is spine tingling. “Maybe we shuffle off to Rio, a little Rio de Janeiro/ And then I get a little chance to say, I’m falling into you,” she croons, singing of the power of desire in a style hardcore Streisand fans will devour.
In the upbeat “All the Children,” Streisand melds this Latin sound with a Bollywood edge, allowing the trills of her voice to follow the rise and fall of these Eastern musical influences. And, as she sings in “Golden Dawn” of making love in the rain until “the night will become our golden dawn” the slow, Latin effects mesh well with the organic addition of hand drums.
Gibb’s talents are also showcased nicely. “Above the Law” is a surefire hit, and as the duo sings, “the pleasure is the punishment for the crime,” Gibb’s voice hits higher notes than even Streisand’s. In “(Our Love) Don’t Throw it All Away,” the chimes and Gibb’s voice makes the tune sound like pure Bee Gees.
And there is a nice disco edge to the album’s hottest track, “Night of My Life.” Gibb found his niche in disco, so it is not surprising that he excels with this song he co-wrote with son Ashley Gibb. “I go to the wall for the night of my life, I play every game that you play,” sings Streisand in a track so hot that it has been picked up for dance remix versions by DJs including Junior Vasquez and John Luongo. It will undoubtedly surface in gay dance clubs across the nation as the winter approaches.
Several of the tracks on “Guilty Pleasures” come across as a bit dated, but it seems excusable to some degree; the album is, after all, a tribute of sorts to the original arrangements that Streisand and Gibb created 25 years ago.
For those Streisand fans that insist on nothing less than the best, “Guilty Pleasures” also comes as special DualDisc edition. The audio disc is paired with a DVD that showcases the songs, features an exclusive interview with Streisand and Gibb, and includes music videos for “Above The Law,” “Hideaway,” “Stranger In A Strange Land,” and “Letting Go.”