Lyrically CD Review – New York Times

May 21, 2007
by Stephen Holden

There is no underestimating the value of a lowered voice. To hear Alan Bergman murmur lyrics that Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett and Neil Diamond have passionately declaimed is to rediscover movie songs divested of red-carpet glitter and dressed in street clothes. Ms. Streisand’s high-strung renditions of “The Way We Were,” “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?,” “You Donπt Bring Me Flowers” and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” may be the definitive, weepy, show-stopping interpretations. But as Mr. Bergman, who wrote those songs’ lyrics with his wife, Marilyn, shows in his quiet, ruminative readings, emotional balance and wisdom lurk below the Sturm und Drang.

Of the album’s 13 songs, most are romantic ballads (“scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind” to quote “The Way We Were”) delivered in a spirit of wistfulness and gratitude. Crooned slowly in a conversational talk-sing voice, with perfect enunciation, and surrounded by sighing gossamer strings, his singing is honest, dignified and entirely devoid of affect. Greeting-card locutions like “the summer smoothes the restless sky” (in “The Summer Knows”) and “north and south and east and west of your life” (in “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”) sound as natural as fleeting images in a sleepy reverie. Mr. Bergman’s natural style suggests a merger of two of his idols, Johnny Mercer and Fred Astaire. You can’t find better role models than that. [ READ ALBUM REVIEWS ]