Although it is merely a pastiche of songs, including two outtakes from A Star Is Born, Streisand Superman is clearly the best album Streisand has made in some time, possibly the best since Stoney End. While it lacks any kind of focus and occasionally disintegrates into a shopping-mall arrangement such as "I Found You Love," Superman is ample evidence that Streisand actually can get away with singing whatever she chooses. (A Star Is Born was sufficient proof that she could succeed with absolute trash.)
The most remarkable track is "Don't Believe What You Read," which is nothing less than a flat-out rock song, written by Ron Nagle and Scott Mathews with Streisand, and given a superb arrangement by Jack Nitzsche. It's driven by a fuzz-tone guitar, huge drums and Streisand's vocal, which is derived, I think, from Stevie Nicks. This is the most modern track she's ever done and, aside from Pete Townshend's "They Are All in Love," the only successful attack on the press any songwriter has been able to come up with. (It helps that Streisand, like Townshend, is attacking gossips rather than critics.) Nagle, a vastly underrated songwriter, has also turned in a terrific look at working-class marriage as a trap in "Cabin Fever," which gets a similarly modern treatment and ranks with the best things here.
Most of the rest is given over to the typical ballads, which, as usual, rise and fall on the strengths of their arrangements. Streisand still resorts to mannerisms (her phrasing is suffering from a case of arrested development, except on the two songs above) but the material is chosen skillfully enough to transcend that. Still, on the basis of "Don't Believe," "Cabin Fever" and the bluesy treatment of Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind," it would be interesting to hear her work with a rock-oriented producerPeter Asher, perhaps. (RS 245)
(Posted: Aug 11, 1977)
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