Photographers: Steve Schapiro; Greg Gorman; Firooz Zahedi; Randee St. Nicholas.
Having recently become the only artist to score a U.K. number one album in each of the last five decades, the subject of Duck Sauce's Boney M-sampling club anthem, and a much talked about inspiration for one of the main characters in Glee, this 2010 Sony compilation of the legendary Barbra Streisand couldn't have been timed any better. Barbra: The Ultimate Collection may be less comprehensive than 2002's two-disc The Essential, but its track list still reads like a dictionary of definitions of easy listening pop standards, with a representative selection covering 45 years, from 1964's debut hit "People" to her cover of Frank Sinatra's "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" from 2009's Diana Krall-produced Love Is the Answer. All of her five Billboard chart-toppers are here, from her very first number one, "The Way We Were," to Academy Award-winning Best Original Song, "Love Theme from `A Star Is Born' (Evergreen)," to her duets with Donna Summer (a rare venture into disco territory on "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)") and Neil Diamond ("You Don't Bring Me Flowers"), to her signature tune, "Woman in Love." But there are equally classic tracks elsewhere, with numbers from her most famous films such as Yentl's "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" and Funny Girl's "Don't Rain on My Parade," collaborations with Celine Dion ("Tell Him") and Barry Gibb ("Guilty"), and her powerful renditions of musical standards from Sunset Boulevard ("As If We Never Said Goodbye"), A Little Night Music ("Send in the Clowns"), and West Side Story ("Somewhere"). There are a few notable omissions, such as her last U.S. Top Ten single (the Bryan Adams duet "I Finally Found Someone"), and a couple of heavy hitters from her prolific '70s heyday ("My Heart Belongs to Me," "Stoney End"), but on the whole, Barbra: The Ultimate Collection is a valiant attempt to paint as big a picture of her illustrious career as is possible on just a single disc. ~ Jon O'Brien