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STREISAND'S 'TIMELESS' IS FILLED WITH TIME-WASTERS

Barbra Streisand is sometimes called by the nickname Babs. But after listening to her new, live double-CD, "Timeless - Live in Concert," she could be called Blabs.

This CD, released today, is more of a talk show than an album.

Streisand just can't quit yapping on this effort, which was recorded last New Year's Eve and New Year's night in Las Vegas. The collection contains snippets of nearly 40 songs covering the singer's remarkable career, and it would have fit on one disc if Streisand had only stopped gabbing.

Such verbal hemorrhaging may work in a live concert setting or film, but on an audio CD it is deadly and boring. Streisand's narcissistic rumblings provide a thoroughly irritating backdrop to what should have been a rare and treasured live recording.

She prattles and preaches about her father, her life, technology, the environment, the state of the world, her career, women, the new century, her recent marriage and blah, blah blah.

This woman is so enraptured with the sound of her talking voice that it often overshadows her music. And that bugs me, because I want to hear Streisand's magical vocals instead of her dangling conversations.

Even on her wonderfully inspired and spiritual version of "Auld Lang Syne," Streisand can't help but chat away and explain what the song really means.

Streisand stops the song in the middle for another monologue about time. She chats with a character on stage known as Brother Time. If we could see it, this corny bit might work, but it kills the mood on the record.

Streisand then goes on for a mini-sermon about the meaning of the millennium. She calls up hubby James Brolin from the audience and introduces him on stage. Again, if we could see all this, it might mean something, but it's dead air on the album.

Streisand, truly one of the great singers in history, turns in some exceptional performances.

Such classics as "The Way We Were," "Second Hand Rose," "Evergreen," "Send In the Clowns" and, of course, "People," are showstoppers. She strips down the arrangement to bass, keyboards for an exquisite "Cry Me A River." It's the only time on the CD that Streisand seems to realize that less is more.

But overall, this album is layered with far too much filler and too many gimmicks.

Did we really need to hear videotaped performances, shown during the concert, of Streisand duets with Celine Dion, Frank Sinatra, Barry Gibb and Neil Diamond? Worse yet is a dreadful bit during a video conversation with Shirley MacLaine.

Streisand fanatics, like the ones in this audience who cheer and scream at every word from the queen, will adore the twin CD.

But the rest of us will just shake our heads and wish someone would teach Babs a lesson in conversational overkill.

MUSIC REVIEW

'Timeless - Live in Concert'

Barbra Streisand

(Columbia)

RATING:**

(out of 4)

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