A great friend of mine once told me the only thing we have to do in our work is just “keep it real.” I think this is the common denominator of any artist who makes a world wide impact. Marlon Brando and John Cassavetes immediately come to mind. For me, another one of these artists is Barbra Streisand. RELEASE ME, Streisand’s latest record is comprised of songs found entirely raw, just the actual take without overdubs or sweetening. I’ve always found Streisand’s more obscure recordings and movies resonated with me more than her widely accepted material. She has this other side that’s totally experimental and way out there. Glenn Gould’s review of her Classical Album (1976) and Pauline Kael’s review of Yentl (1983) state the case beautifully. Around the time of this recording, Streisand made a movie called Up The Sandbox and it’s one of the very best of that seminal decade.
I was not disappointed to hear the songs that made it to the first volume of RELEASE ME. I Think It’s Going To Rain Today is a precious jewel of a recording from Barbra Streisand’s 1970 Stoney End sessions. For a week or two I visualized the song’s proper setting in the most simple and truthful way possible. Streisand is an artist who talks about “Truth” a lot. As an actor and story teller, dramatic truth is everything.
The concept for this video was to recreate an accurate document of what happened in the three and half minutes this song was recorded. I talked to Streisand’s longtime A&R man and album producer at Columbia, Jay Landers, who at first was a little doubtful I could pull it off in the short amount of time I was given. But he helped me act fast and during our initial phone call he put legendary producer Richard Perry on the call. I had written a list of thirty questions that would give me the visual cues necessary to create the scene in miniature. Richard Perry gave me some wonderful details like the fact he lit candles for Streisand and Randy Newman before they recorded this track. He also supplied me with the incredibly evocative Ed Thrasher in-studio photos. Those photos set the tone for the overall look of the video. All the little details are as close to the truth as we could determine, from the recording gear, the mic, the analog tape, the ledger inside the box, the tea, cough drops and a doctored newspaper from September 23, 1970. Jay told me how she sings off the lyric sheet and how she makes her notes on the words, the lyrics being the script.
The period detail was meticulously rendered by Natalie Erdelt and the inventive Visual FX by Norris Houk. We also had the good fortune to film in a working museum, Woody Jackson’s Vox Recording Studios. They originally recorded the track at Columbia’s 30th Street, Studio C otherwise known as The Church in NYC. Vox studio called down an ace musician, Alex Casnoff, whose virtuosity proved incredibly important. Randy Newman didn’t exactly play the music as written but played to Streisand’s voice and Alex had to in effect transcribe the song as if he was actually playing to her voice. Everything fell in place in this harmonious way and when the label showed it to Streisand she approved it with no changes, a first in their shared history.
Working with this music had a creative and peaceful effect on all of us who shared the experience. Norris and I spent a few nights trading files as he rendered the effects. He doesn’t usually listen to Streisand’s music but he couldn’t help comment how nice it was to listen to this song for a few days. The artistry and warmth of this recording will be felt for always. Special thanks to Grant Leuchtner, Todd Steinhauer, and Michael Harris for contributing to the overall verisimilitude of our task.