All I can say is wow! This album is a must, not only for Streisand fans, but for anyone. A word of warning, though. This is not an album to be streamed piecemeal, picking out one or two tracks here and there. To get the full experience you need to buy the physical CD or LP, read the liner notes and listen, really listen, from beginning to end to get the full flavour of what it must have been like to experience the young Streisand live at the tiny Bon Soir. To those who actually saw her, I assume you know how lucky you were. You were there experiencing the beginning of one of the greatest careers in all popular music. Though Streisand always thought of herself as an actress who sings, it was the voice and her unique singing style that first introduced most of us to her talent.
Later of course she became more polished, maybe less spontaneous, but here she sounds wonderfully relaxed, joking with the audience and the band and everyone is clearly having a fabulous time. Then there is the voice itself, a miraculously pure sound, which somehow can encapsulate a range of moods and emotions, switching one moment from the goofiness of Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf to the quiet inner happiness of I’ll Tell The Man In The Street the next.
As always with Streisand, there’s an eclectic mix of songs, many of them from obscure stage musicals, but with a few standards thrown in. Most of them are well known from her first few studio albums, but here they are given added immediacy by being performed before a live audience. I couldn’t possibly pick out any standout tracks because each and every one of them is an absolute gem, but please do listen to the whole album in one sitting. You can almost see the smoke-filled room, hear the chink of glasses and feel the atmosphere of the Bon Soir.
The disc was recorded over three nights, whilst Streisand was still doing her star show-stopping turn as Miss Marmelstein in I Can Get It For You Wholesale on Broadway. With the energy of the young, she would finish the show and then dash down to the Bon Soir to do her turn there. She had just signed with Columbia and the plan was to make these live performances her first album for the label. However, the final tapes proved unsatisfactory and the electricity generated in the club had somehow failed to come across on the tapes. Though the project was shelved in favour of a studio album (the now famous, multi award winning Barbra Streisand Album), the tapes were preserved and have now been re-mastered with state-of-the-art technology, clarifying the true artistry of Barbra and her band. Bootlegs have been around for decades, but none of them had access to the master tapes and are sonically massively inferior.
Don’t hesitate. Get yourself a seat at a table for one of the most thrilling debuts in the history of show business. I can assure you; you will not be disappointed.