Barbra Streisand makes a point of noting that she completed this, her second Christmas album, before the tragic events of September 11, 2001, even going so far as to list the recording dates (July 19-September 7, 2001). And listening to the disc, you can see why. If great artists sometimes demonstrate an uncanny ability to take the temperature of the times with their work, this one can be said to have anticipated the dramatic change in mood that the terrorist attacks occasioned. Christmas music always mixes the celebratory with the nostalgic, some of its classic songs dating from the World War II era when families were separated and feared they might not be reunited. But Streisand's Christmas Memories accentuates that tone well into melancholy. The 59-year-old singer has assembled a group of songs that look back on Christmases past from a mature perspective that very much takes loss into consideration, beginning with one of those war songs, "I'll Be Home for Christmas." On two occasions, she has prompted lyricists to rewrite their songs, having Dean Pitchford alter the words to "Closer," a new song submitted to her, to reflect the death of her friend Stephan Weiss (husband of fashion designer Donna Karan) and even getting the amazingly pliable Stephen Sondheim to revise "I Remember" from his 1966 TV musical Evening Primrose. As remade, "I Remember" remains an extremely sad song, however. When she isn't mourning, Streisand is trying for grand statements such as the politically oriented "Grown-Up Christmas List" and the ecumenical "One God," songs in keeping with Christmas's sentimentality that seem perfectly chosen for the inevitably sober-tinged holiday season of 2001. In coming years, Christmas Memories may come to seem like a remarkably dour holiday collection, but for the year of its release, it could hardly be improved upon.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann