The Collection [2010]

by: Whitney Houston

Originally released in 2010 to coincide with her U.K. tour, but one of many albums to re-chart higher in the wake of her death, The Collection is a five-CD package which traces Whitney Houston's journey from clean-cut soul balladeer to world-conquering movie star to defiant R&B diva. Featuring the entirety of her first four studio albums, plus the huge-selling soundtrack to The Bodyguard (1996's The Preacher's Wife is ignored), this value-for-money release provides the chance to re-evaluate the surprisingly slim back catalog of a singer who was always seen as more of a singles artist than her superstar contemporaries. Which is rather unfair considering her sales in the '80s were almost as impressive as Madonna and Michael Jackson's, and while 1985's Whitney Houston and 1987's equally imaginatively titled Whitney contain their fair share of dated filler, "Saving All My Love for You," "Greatest Love of All," and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?" undoubtedly set the benchmark for the epic power ballad, while "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," the Jellybean-penned "Love Will Save the Day," and the uplifting "How Will I Know?" showed she was equally adept at more uptempo fare. Despite the presence of Babyface, Stevie Wonder, and Luther Vandross, 1990's third effort, I'm Your Baby Tonight, lacked the spark of her earlier work, save for the title track, but Houston regained it for 1992 juggernaut The Bodyguard. The contributions from the likes of Lisa Stansfield, Joe Cocker, and Curtis Stigers have now become almost superfluous, but Whitney is virtually formidable, whether crooning through her signature hit, "I Will Always Love You," triumphantly tackling Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman," or belting out the hugely emotive "I Have Nothing." However, it was six years later when she delivered arguably her most cohesive and by far most enduring record. Sailing close to irrelevance following a rather turbulent and intermittent mid-'90s, My Love Is Your Love ranks as one of the greatest comebacks from a modern-day artist, effortlessly blending her more mature and restrained soulful tones with a contemporary yet fitting staccato R&B production (courtesy of the likes of Darkchild & Wyclef Jean), none more so than on the feisty "It's Not Right But It's Okay" and the slinky slow jam "Heartbreak Hotel." The various Greatest Hits may satisfy those only familiar with her number ones, but this is the perfect release for anyone wishing to investigate further. ~ Jon O'Brien

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