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Barbra Streisand - The Television Specials

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For those who think of the Funny Girl as infinitely more than a Fox News punchline, this five-disc collection, Barbra Streisdan – The Television Specials, is like buttah. The standouts are My Name Is Barbra (1965) and Color Me Barbra (1966), in which the kooky yet poised future diva storms the TV set, mesmerizing with her fearless presence and rich, lusty voice. In an era of chintzy variety shows, My Name broke the mold by showcasing the 23-year-old singer solo, with all her charming irreverence — to the tune of five Emmy Awards (Color Me was nominated for another five). The magical concert A Happening in Central Park (1968) also finds Barbra playful and soulful. The never-released Belle of 14th Street (1967), featuring a vaudeville theme and a handful of uninteresting guests, and Barbra Streisand…and Other Musical Instruments (1973), with its bizarre accompaniments (including washing machines and blenders), are the weakest of the lot (exception: her sublime ”Crying Time” duet with Ray Charles on the latter). But since they’ve been available only on bootleg until now, they’re a treat. The set includes a thorough booklet, but commentary from La Streisand is sorely missing; fans must settle for the short introductions taped in 1990 for the VHS versions, recycled here. Still: Those nails! That nose! Those pipes!