Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Whitney Houston: I Look To You



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UK release date 19.10.2009

Iâve been playing this, Whitneyâs first album in seven years, rather a lot. I wanted so much to report that this is a mind blowing, thousand-carat return from one of soul musicâs divas. But I canât Iâm afraid...

Now, having said that, the cd isnât a dud by any means, but Whitney isnât the singer she once was. Sheâs lost the purity and range that she was blessed with, but maybe they went with age rather that her misusing her talent. However, the jewels are here, shining and priceless â and (surprise, surprise) theyâre all ballads or slow-movers.

Promoted by some as Whitneyâs âcomebackâ cd, I argue this because realistically sheâs never been away from the public eye. Weâve followed her uncontrollable descent into the black pit thatâs drug addiction, and watched her volatile marriage to Bobby Brown disintegrate in pictures before our very eyes. And thereâs always been her music. On talent shows, however second-rate, and during karaoke evenings, every aspiring singer hooks onto a Whitney song! Nine times out of ten the result has been pretty dire, but itâs kept her name alive. Itâs said Whitneyâs amazing mum, Cissy, one-time member of The Sweet Inspirations (responsible for several amazing recordings, and who also backed Elvis Presley on a Las Vegas stage) and soloist in her own right (Michael Zagerâs 1979 produced 'Think It Over' immediately springs to mind although thatâs not her best by far), who pulled her daughter up my her stilettos and guided her along the righteous recovery path. So, thanks Cissy! Now, to the music.

Co-penned by Alicia Keys, Whitneyâs current single 'Million Dollar Bill' introduces her 2009 musical journey. Itâs hip, funky and disco-fied as it struts along. Nothing special here, perhaps too seventies, too samey, and Iâm worrying. The next "Nothinâ But Loveâ is an upbeat tale of survival, some say autobiographical; itâs a soulful slant in song, particularly at the trackâs start. Sadly, it meanders rather than grasps the listener. The Johnta Austin composition 'Call You Tonight' is warming; an easy listening track. But itâs the cdâs title Iâm waiting for, and hellâs bells, Whitneyâs voice may have lost its youthfulness and its pliability, but its raspy and breathy tone takes nothing away from her ability to tear at the heartstrings. 'I Look To You' is totally inspirational; dramatic and haunting, and restored my confidence in her as a singer I watched grow up in song. Her pitch and command through the weaving notes here are easily achieved as she drives home her point. And this is also exactly how I feel about the cdâs highlight - 'I Didnât Know My Own Strength', with its familiar sounding statement, from a gal whoâs lived the life and lost it. Methinks this is more autobiographical, and is everything a Whitney ballad should be â and more! These two emotionally charged songs kinda overpowered 'Like I Never Left' and 'A Song For You'. The first is a mid-tempo Akon assisted track, while the second, a Leon Russell song is, surprisingly upbeat, following a slow start. This version has hit written all over it. I need now to bypass 'Worth It' and skip over 'For The Lovers' because they leave me unmoved, to find 'I Got You', the second Akon track with Whitneyâs assertive vocals blending well against a defining beat thatâs almost relentless. And, finally, 'Salute' with a surprising positive musical attitude and an almost passionate statement that listeners will associate with her âcomebackâ.

Looking back to the past is not what this cdâs about. Rather, itâs moving forward with strength. OK, so a few tracks are misguided, far too clumsy and unattractive, but whatâs good is quite brilliant â and so Whitney. To ensure her music is well on the pulse, she recruited todayâs finest like R Kelly, Tricky Stewart, Stargate, among others, and we have to decide whether we want to join Whitney in the 21st century. Or are we content to stay with the Whitney of old which is so familiar to us all. The juryâs still out.

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