Streisand, LaBelle grace Crawford album


Michael Crawford said he feels as if he's just had a baby.

Not one that needs to be fed and changed, however. Or that lives and breathes. No -- this one is called "A Touch of Music in the Night," and it's his latest album on Atlantic Records, featuring songs he calls "adult pop numbers" and two duets -- one with Barbra Streisand ("The Music of the Night" from "Phantom of the Opera") and a completely new song with Patti LaBelle ("With Your Hand Upon My Heart").

"We started this album nine months ago," Mr. Crawford said the other morning. "About as long as a baby. Now that it's over and out, I'm having my first period of time without pain."

And apparently enjoying it. The British-born actor, the first Phantom in the musical "The Phantom of the Opera," recently finished his concert tour singing Andrew Lloyd Webber's music, then finished the new album -- even made a video for it of the song with Ms. LaBelle.

"I doubt we'll make the MTV playlist," he said with a wicked smile, "We both keep our clothes on."

He laughed. "But maybe they'll run it on VH-1."

It was a long and arduous process, picking numbers for the album. He said he must have listened to some 200 songs before settling on the dozen. He thought he'd distance himself from show tunes this time around, to get out from under what he called "Lloyd Webber's umbrella" and go into a more contemporary sound.

At the same time, he wanted songs that would touch people. "I went through most of the Streisand albums and that song of hers from 'Yentl' -- 'Papa, Can You Hear Me?' affected me very much, maybe because I lost my own dad before I was born.

"We made the arrangement using a flute and a dulcimer and when we played it for Alan Bergman, its composer, he started to cry. It scared me. I asked him, 'Was it that bad?' He said no, he was just touched, and I was relieved.

"The one with Patti LaBelle was a song I had written. I'm a fan of hers -- she's an actress, too, so we sang together and she came up with such a rich sound, she almost ate me alive. But it, too, turned out well, I think."

The duet with Ms. Streisand -- "The Music of the Night" -- is also going on her latest album: "It took four years to get Barbra to agree to the duet.

"It took four weeks for LaBelle. Both waits were worth it."

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