Album Review: YENTL 40TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION A Bounty Of Unreleased Materials

Thank goodness Barbra Streisand saved her demos and was willing to share them.

By: Jan. 06, 2024
Album Review: YENTL 40TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION A Bounty Of Unreleased Materials
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It was on January 6, 1984, that the film Yentl was released in the United States (per IMDB) and so it seems appropriate to talk today, four decades later, to the date, about the recent release of the YENTL 40TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION  soundtrack.  The special edition was released on varying dates, digitally and as a hard copy, in the autumn of 2023 on the Legacy Recordings label, available on CD, vinyl, and cassette, and the album is worth owning, at least for Barbra Streisand fans, because the new materials provided are really special.  The first part of the release is simply the original soundtrack that we’ve all been listening to, all these years, and there is no bad time to play your Yentl soundtrack, but these new materials are where the reward comes in, so that is what we should focus on.

If there is anything to be learned from Barbra Streisand’s book on design and her new memoir, it is that she has had the foresight to save everything in her life from outfits to letters, to pieces of edited movies she has made to all her demos, and thank heaven, too, because the demos from Yentl are spectacular.  With the greatest star dictating her notes and directives into a tape recorder, and then singing the songs written for the film (with Michel Legrand at the piano), there is a purity that is rarely fully experienced in Streisand’s professional recordings.  Those albums made for Columbia Records are all wonderful and glorious, and the mainstay of everyone’s devotion to her musical artistry, but these aren’t studio recordings with musicians and technicians and everything that goes into making an album to be released for sale.  This is just a woman, a writer, an actress, an artist, a dreamer trying to make art, to make a dream come true, and, so, these home recordings simply give the listener Barbra Streisand at a home piano, singing.  It is so raw, so honest, so real, and so hungry, as to become a moment in nature, a moment in real life, a moment in true beauty.  There is nothing fancy about the recordings, just the desire of the artist and that honest-to-goodness god-given voice.  It is like listening to a heavenly choir, all created in the person of one single voice, one single human being.

Album Review: YENTL 40TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION A Bounty Of Unreleased Materials

If a person is a Barbra Streisand fan, chances are they have seen the movie Yentl at least once (or, in the case of this devotee, about fifty or eighty times), so hearing Ms. Streisand’s early versions of “Where Is It Written” and “Papa Can You Hear Me,” after all the years of hearing the end product is like an indulgence in a musical origin story in which point A and point Z are more like A and B - the later versions do not indicate a great deal of change having taken place.  And yet those early recordings are remarkable in their simplicity, and informative in that the listener can hear that Barbra Streisand’s understanding of the character and the songs was in place long before the cameras rolled: in many ways, the recordings are identical.  It should be noted that some of the vocal performances on the demos are (at times, for this writer) even prettier than the finished soundtrack.  Some of certain notes were changed along the way, and yet these preambles feature some lovely notes being sung that deserved hearing - and, now, here they are.

When it gets to “The Way He Makes Me Feel,” the dictated narrations indicate that there was an earlier version of the song named “Whoever Counted On This” but the demo itself is, entirely, the song we all know and love, and the vocal performance is very like the recording on the soundtrack, only, at times more emotional, more contained, like a flowing brooke (thanks to Legrand’s playing) carrying the voice from one emotion to the next.  It is, plainly put, perfection in every form.  I have a particular favorite among the demos and it is the cut song “Several Sins A Day,” designed to illustrate Yentl’s guilt over the life of lies she has to live.  It is an exquisite composition, clever of lyrics and full of melodic pastiche - the themes of traditional Jewish music flow, throughout.  The inclusion of two different versions of the song is, alone, worth investigating the album.  

A treasure trove of treats, the album offers demos of “No Wonder” (with lyricist Marilyn Bergman enacting the Hadass dialogue), of “Tomorrow Night” (VERY different from the end recording), of “Will Someone Ever Look At Me That Way” (with Michel Legrand humming the vocalise sung by Amy Irving in the film), and “A Piece of Sky,” which Streisand’s narration points out as a “work in progress” - yet it is incredibly close to what ended up in the movie.  Having these early iterations to listen to is a gift that will send listeners down the rabbit hole into yet another screening of the modern-day classic (I was down the Yentl rabbit hole for a week), and, now, thanks to this album, we have a properly released recording of the end credits instrumental medley from the film, hallelujah.  And even though the demo of “The Moon And I” is included on the pink “Just For The Record” box set, it has been remastered here for maximum listening pleasure.  This is a wonderful composition that sits beautifully in Barbra Streisand’s voice, with a gorgeous performance that always sounded nice on the box set but that, here, rises to new heights.  The remastering, quite literally, makes all the difference in the world.  

The two-disc set also includes some studio recordings and radio edits, and a “Where Is It Written” that includes a Rabbinical choir, and while they are nice to hear, I wouldn’t lay money on any of them going onto your Barbra Streisand playlist - but the demos will.  The release of these demos is a present from Barbra Streisand (and her vault) that all of us fans, both of Barbra and of Yentl, have longed for, without knowing it.  These are those “things we didn’t know we needed” that people talk about on the internet.

Thankfully, we have them, now - forty years later, but it was worth the wait.


 

YENTL 40TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION is a 2023 release on the Legacy Recordings label.  It is available wherever CDs, cassettes, and vinyl are sold and on every streaming platform.

The Legacy Recordings website is HERE.



 




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