Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In praise of Barbra Streisand's "Stoney End"

I'm recording a programme with Johnnie Walker this week and one of the records we're talking about is Barbra Streisand's "Stoney End". Yesterday morning when the sun was out I took a stroll with that one track playing again and again through my headphones. Boy, it's a jewel.

Sometimes proper singers can seem too good for pop music. I'm still haunted by memories of Ella Fitzgerald's baroque versions of Beatles songs. You can see why they do it. They think the songs are a bit beneath them. To my ears Laura Nyro's songs never seem to fly in her own versions.

But Streisand's "Stoney End" is a joy. In 1971 they made a lot of fuss about the fact that the album was produced by Richard Perry and included songs by all the hip young writers. That all helps but it's her genius as a singer that brings home the bacon. She goes into the chorus of "Stoney End" four times. Each time it's more  exhilarating than the time before.


  1. Ella Fitzgerald? I've just heard some of her Beatles numbers, and they're not very baroque. But Cathy Berberian made a whole album of Beatles songs in arrangements by Berio and Andriessen. They're delightful.

  2. You had me at Laura Nyro.

  3. I stumbled across Stoney End over the weekend, via the always excellent Voices of East Anglia..

    Dig about for a few unexpected gems over there. The Elkie Brooks disco track is worth an earful as are The Carpenters jazz-noodlings and Gene Pitney goes Northen Soul

  4. Apparently, recording Beatles songs made Tony Bennett made him feel "physically sick" in the studio. Some are quite bizarre and thus in my world, worth listening to.

    "Here! [bam!] There! [bam!] Everywhere!"

    The album you're looking for (or avoiding) is "Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today!"

  5. I'd pay good money to hear Macca tackle All Things Must Pass. All six sides.

  6. That breathy thing she does towards the end whens she sings "Cradle me ma-maaaaah!" It's a moment of pop perfection. I bought the album years ago just for this song, everything elso on it is unnecessary but this is 3 minutes of genius. But even Streisland nuts just go for the show tunes. Never known anyone else who had heard of this or shared my opinion - 'til now!

    Chris Wilson

  7. "To my ears Laura Nyro's songs never seem to fly in her own versions."

    Sadly this is probably true. I love her but she can be too overwrought vocally which acts as a drag on even her poppiest tunes

  8. Many thanks to Mondo for the Voices of East Anglia link, which led me to this absolute gem from the pen of Derek Taylor: