A Star Is Born
Barbra Streisand / Kris Kristofferson
Released: December 1976
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 51
Certified 4x Platinum: 10/26/84
A Star Is Born was no stranger to the summit of the Billboard album chart. Prior to the rock era, in 1954, Judy Garland had a Number One album with the soundtrack to the first remake of the 1937 film classic. To remake the film yet again would be a risky move for most, but not for Barbra Streisand. By 1977, Streisand had starred on Broadway and in films, hosted her own TV specials, and scored two Number One albums.
Yet Streisand's version of A Star Is Born would not be a mere remake. It would feature new music, including two songs co-written by Streisand herself. Despite her enormous talent, songwriting was unusual for Streisand. Prior to A Star Is Born, she'd had only one other composing credit.
One song, "Lost Inside of You," was written by Streisand and Leon Russell. The pair were introduced through the actor Gary Busey, who was a mutual friend. Streisand wrote "Love Theme from 'A Star Is Born' (Evergreen)" on the acoustic guitar after learning how to play the instrument for a scene in the film. Although the scene was cut from the film, the song survived and went on to become one of Streisand's biggest hits.
The music wasn't the only thing different from the film's two earlier incarnations. "From the very beginning, Barbra and the film's producer Jon Peters wanted to record live," says Phil Ramone. "Every shot was edited to fit the vocal that was performed and it certainly added a dimension to the picture."
A Star Is Born also marked a technological first. "Barbra allowed me to explore the usage of a Dolby four-track," says Ramone. "The film company actually paid for the installation of the system in 25 or 30 theaters across America."
Although Kris Kristofferson, who played an alcoholic rocker in the film, was featured on five of the album's 12 songs, including three solo tracks, Streisand was clearly the star. In its 10th week on the Top LPs & Tapes chart, A Star Is Born shot to Number One. It was still holding there when "Love Theme from 'A Star Is Born' (Evergreen)" hit Number One on the Hot 100, giving Streisand simultaneous Number Ones.
- Craig Rosen, The Billboard Book of Number One Albums, 1996.
Hey, nobody listens to soundtrack albums, right? But this one is atypical -- classy-looking -- and a lot of people, Streisand fans especially, might think the music is equal to the package. Instead, it's dreadful. Streisand's voice is mixed way in front, making it sound as if the band and chorus were out in the trailer. The material is the worst sort of histrionic supper-club stuff, much of it made ridiculous by being cheered raucously by a crowd at a pseudorock festival. In addition to a pair of duets with Streisand, Kris Kristofferson sings only three songs, sounding hurried and awkward (which makes one fond of him).
The Streisand name is all over this album, always with top billing: as coproducer, cowriter of three songs and singer on eight. None of these jobs is done particularly well.
- Ken Tucker, Rolling Stone, 2/24/77.
Due largely to Kris Kristofferson, whose recording career will soon be as vestigial as George Segal's, the move isn't quite the ripoff you'd figure, but the album, which lists at a pricey $8.98, most certainly is. As with all soundtracks, you get the stars' voices but not their chests, and Rupert Holmes and Paul Williams have ended up with the kind of rock and roll cliches that real rockers assume. But what else could I expect? Neither Barbra nor Kris has made a listenable album, much less a stellar one, in the history of Consumer Guide. D+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
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