Friday, February 13, 2015

Whitney Houston - Whitney Houston

Tomorrow (February 14th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of the self-titled debut album from the New Jersey born Whitney Houston. The album would eventually achieve multi-Platinum sales status, charting at number 13 in France, number 11 in Italy, number 9 in Austria, number 5 in the Netherlands, number 2 in Finland, Germany, Switzerland and the UK, and number 1 in Australia, Canada, Norway, and Sweden and on both the US Billboard Album and R&B charts. It spent a total of one hundred and sixty three weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, fourteen of which were at the top spot.

The album received four Grammy nominations in 1986, including Album of the Year (it lost to Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required) and one in 1987. It was ranked at number 254 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Side one begins with “You Give Good Love”. As the second single, it hit number 93 in the UK, number 58 in Australia, number 44 in New Zealand, number 7 in Canada, number 4 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart. It was nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Vocal Performance Female, but lost to Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love” in both categories. It did win Favorite Soul/R&B Single for that year’s American Music Awards. It opens with a cascading chord and Houston crooning along before she opens up with a heartfelt acknowledgement of her lover’s skills. I remember this one being a big slow dance choice during my sophomore and junior years of college.

“Thinking About You”, the first single from the album, hit number 24 on the US Billboard Dance chart and number 10 on the US Billboard R&B chart. It has a pumping, infectious beat to it that instantly gets my feet bouncing.

“Someone For Me” keeps the dance party going with a catchy number about a lonely girl longing for love. I like the bass hooks on this one, especially on the chorus.

“Saving All My Love For You” was originally a minor hit for Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. in 1978. Houston’s version won her the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. In 1985, it went to number 18 in Germany, number 16 in the Netherlands, number 12 in Austria, number 10 in Norway, number 7 in France, number 5 in New Zealand, and number 1 in Ireland and the UK, and on the US Billboard Hot 100, Adult Contemporary and R&B charts. Houston delivers a sweet and seductive vocal on this ballad about being the other woman in an affair with a married man. Tom Scott’s saxophone punctuates the pensive passion in her voice.

Jermaine Jackson, who produced three of the album’s cuts, joins Houston to duet on the sweeping “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do”. This piano-based ballad also features a bit of reverberating country guitar to it as well, which makes sense since it was originally done in 1984 as a duet between Canadian country singer Anne Murray and Dave Loggins for her album Heart Over Mind.

Side two kicks off with the dance hit “How Will I Know” which was co-written and produced by Narada (Michael Waldon). Thanks to a high-energy video, it garnered Houston nominations for the MTV Best Female Video and Best New Artist in a Video categories (she won Best Female Video). As a single, it went to number 28 in Austria and Belgium, number 26 in Germany, number 19 in New Zealand, number 12 in the Netherlands, number 11 in Switzerland, number 5 in Finland and the UK, number 3 in Ireland and on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 2 in Australia, Norway and Sweden, and number 1 in Canada and on the US Billboard Hot 100, Adult Contemporary and R&B charts. This was one of my favorite dance jams in late 1985; when it came on I just had to hit the floor and find someone with whom to dance. Even today, it still gets me moving.

The heartbreaking ballad “All At Once”, the third single but in limited markets of Europe and Japan, went to number 5 in the Netherlands, number 4 in Italy and number 2 in Belgium. Houston’s voice builds powerfully on this song about a woman who realizes that she has lost the man she loved.

Jackson returns to duet on “Take Good Care of My Heart”, a track which also appeared on his 1984 self-titled album (click here for that review).

“Greatest Love of All”, the final single, went to number 30 in Germany, number 25 in Austria, number 24 in the Netherlands, number 20 in Switzerland, number 16 in Finland, number 14 in Sweden, number 13 in Italy, number 12 in New Zealand, number 8 in the UK, number 4 in Ireland, number 3 on the US Billboard R&B chart, and number 1 in Australia and Canada and on the US Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. The song was originally recorded in 1977 by George Benson. The song’s co-writer Linda Creed wrote the lyrics as she was struggling with breast cancer. Houston again delivers a powerful performance here, making this one of her trademark songs.

The final track is “Hold Me”, a duet ballad with Teddy Pendergrass which first appeared on his 1984 album Love Language. As a single it went to number 46 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 44 in the UK, number 25 in Ireland, number 24 in the Netherlands, number 6 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and number 5 on the US Billboard R&B chart.

I owned a copy of Whitney Houston on cassette, bought during the summer of 1985 while I was working a co-op job in New Jersey as part of my college education. I definitely bought it for the hit singles, but enjoyed it through out. Sadly, that one is long gone so I only have a few of these tracks still in my music library (mostly from a greatest hits CD collection picked up in the late 90’s). Revisiting it again today, thirty years later, it still stands as a solid debut and one of 1985’s biggest R&B releases. It is also a reminder that, if you push away all the drama that came later in her life, her roots were in making amazing music.

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