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This Is Personal
on 18 October 2009
The the world can be a cold and unforgiving place sometimes.
Ms Houston has had her fair share of glory's glare but has
doubtless also stared into the darkness of the abyss.
That her instincts have not always been a reliable guide is
evident in a career which has, to my ears and eyes, never
seen her quite comfortable in her own skin.
Slave to the 80's dancing-disco-diva-machine; the
tight squeeze of Hollywood in the 90's; the lacklustre
last two albums 'My Love Is Your Love' and 'Just Whitney'.
One of the great voices of our time needed a whole
lot more nurture than both the industry and her
more fickle devotees were prepared to give her.
Finally that voice has found a home.
'I Look To You' is a revelation.
It is the recording she was born to make.
It is crucial, if you have not yet heard the album,
that you disregard observations that her voice is no
longer a worthy instrument. That she reaches for those
stratospherically high notes less often is eminently
sensible for a singer approaching her autumnal years
with dignity. The tone has deepened; the middle and
lower registers now carry the weight of both dynamic
power and expression. It is gloriously unforced.
She has chosen some great songs for her renaissance.
Two of the finest torch-songs of her late-flowering
are here. Mr Kelly's marvellous 'I Look To You' and
Diane Warren's 'I Didn't Know My Own Strength' are
both given blisteringly heart-felt emotional performances.
Hard but beautiful truths.
Up-tempo energy isn't lacking either : Mr Russell's
'A Song For You' is given a treatment every bit as
good as her account of Ms Lennox's 'Step By Step'.
It is a stomping and storming highlight.
So too the wonderfully funky gospel energy of 'For The Lovers'.
That Ms Houston is back is good reason to celebrate.
Nothing to apologise for and certainly nothing to forgive.
After all these years this is the real deal.