The plethora of material that comes in the aptly named The Essential Barbara Cook Collection
, a five CD and one DVD set from DRG Records, includes nearly 70 tracks on the CDs alone, with tunes that span roughly eight decades. While many of the songs -- and Cook’s renditions of them -- will be familiar to listeners, what makes this set special is the way in which it brings together several of her more recent recordings -- the DVD of Mostly Sondheim
and the CD At the Met
-- with some of her work from the early 1990s, like Live from London
and All I Ask of You
On these later discs there are some great “finds,” such as Cook’s rich and perfectly considered rendition of “Can You Read My Mind?” (from the original Superman
movie) and her take on the contemporary tune “Errol Flynn” (co-written by Amanda McBroom) that makes it sound as if it might have been penned during the first years of the 20th century.
Beyond filling in gaps for collectors who may not have one or more of the older discs, the compilation includes a sampler disc with four tracks from Cook’s forthcoming recording, Give Me the Simple Life
. In addition to the title track which the singer renders with carefree sagacity, the disc contains her heavenly and slightly bluesy rendering of “It Was Written on the Stars,” a deliciously ethereal interpretation of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and a triumphantly jubilant and loving “I’d Rather Be Blue.” Listening to these tracks alongside the older ones, listeners will come to truly appreciate the double meaning of “essential” in the set’s title: does it refer to the discs or the singer herself, or both?