Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate unknown, is the 1990 third album I’m Your Baby Tonight by American singer and actress, the late Whitney Houston. Will this album be All that you Need, or should you put this Baby up for adoption? Read on…
This 11 track CD opens with the lead and titular track I’m Your Baby Tonight, which bursts in with an upbeat pop beat and bouncing beat. Whitney’s voice is rich and given plenty of space to explore her soaring range. She does this effortlessly, and this results in a wonderfully light and playful pop song. L.A. Reid and Babyface are on the dials, drums and keys, and it flows along perfectly. It’s a great beginning to the album, and it rightly gave her a #5 UK hit single.
That’s followed by My Name Is Not Susan, which drops in with a slightly more dramatic sound, reminding me of some of the New Jack Swing sound that you’d expect from her husband Bobby Brown or Michael Jackson. The tempo is slower here, giving Whitney time to show off her rich warmth, but the song is not as catchy as the previous song, and becomes a bit tedious towards the end. When this was released as the album’s fourth single, it stalled in the UK at #29.
All The Man That I Need is next, and we’re in a heartfelt ballad now. These are staple Houston, and she of course shines here, given time to show off her higher and vocal power amongst sweeping strings, backing vocal choruses, a saxophone solo from Kenny G, and Walter Afanasieff (Mariah Carey) on keyboards. Her biggest ballad was just around the corner, but this gave her a #13 UK hit when it was released as the album’s second single.
Next is Lover For Life, which is a soft synth pad (Walter again) mid-tempo track. This time Whiney’s breathy vocals affirm her love, set against more wonderfully warm backing vocals. It’s a nice enough track that shuffles along steadily, but it definitely sounds like a b-side or filler track, and a bit of a light snooze.
That’s followed by Anymore, which picks up the pace again, returning us to the upbeat New Jack Swing style again, thanks to Babyface and L.A. Reid. This gives Whitney the opportunities to do her wonderful growly vocals, and borrow a few vocal signatures you’d expect from Michael Jackson. The track is a catchy little foot-tapper, and could easily have done well as a single.
Miracle returns us to the ‘ooh yeah‘ territory of balladsville. Of course, Whitney puts in a fantastic vocal performance, but the plodding piano, and meandering melody just wafts along aimlessly – it’s also the longest track here. It sounds almost like L.A. Reid and Babyface had an old instrumental jam session in the cupboard and decided to throw some words over it whilst Whitney sat in reception. The song was the album’s third single, but went nowhere near the UK chart.
Thankfully, things pick up for I Belong To You, which is a cheerful and bright little mid-tempo song. Whitney gets to gently make her way through this failry simple song which stood as the album’s fifth single. It failed to capture a sense of belonging in the hearts of the UK, and it flopped at #54.
Who Do You Love is next, which has Luther Vandross on vocal arrangement duties, but sadly he isn’t on the mic (or at least, he’s not credited as that) but Whitney’s mother Cissy Houston is here on backing vocal duties. The track is quite a nice little pop song and the backing vocals really work well, with Whitney sneaking in some really high little ‘oh!’ moments. I wish Luther had joined in here though.
Next up, a plonky keyboard leads us in on a slightly sinister or mesmerising weird key song, and then you realise that Whitney is joined on We Didn’t Know by the track’s musician and songwriter, the Motown legend Stevie Wonder. This contrast works really well as two legendary and highly recognisable voices sit side by side. The track was the album’s sixth and final single, but not in the UK.
Penultimate track After We Make Love gives Whitney some wonderful vocals here, with the track sounding quite grand and epic as strings sweep alongside her vocal soaring, as piano and saxophone help to lift her up. It’s a wonderful sounding track, and reminds me a bit of earlier Whitney songs, before she ends the song with a tender soft ending. Brilliant.
The album closes with I’m Knockin’, which picks up a funky bass, brass stab, and piano, over a nice beat. This time Bebe Winans (Eternal) is sat on vocal arrangement duties, and even gets some backing vocals. Whitney has plenty of space to show off her vocal range as the layers of instruments step back just far enough to let her shine. It’s a nice up-beat ending to this early ’90s album.
Over all this album is packed with what you’d expect from Whitney based on her earlier career, but this time she’s brought in even more of late-80’s music royalty – Bebe Winans, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, and Narada Michael Walden amongst others to help her along. Her big pop sound is eased a bit here, allowing her to add more RnB and New Jack Swing (popular for Bobby Brown and Michael Jackson), via the watchful command of producers and musicians L.A. Reid and Babyface.
The result is an album that does have a bit of a mixture of sounds, and the highlights are I’m Your Baby Tonight, All The Man That I Need, Who Do You Love, After We Make Love, and I’m Knockin’. There’s plenty of them, but there are some duff tracks in here too that sound lost musically or lyrically weak. The worst of these, and the longest track on the album, is Miracle, which needs a miracle to make me want to hear that again. Quite why it became a single will amaze me. The involvement of Stevie Wonder was a great idea, but the song is awkward and its key a bit unsettling. The clear exclusion of Luther from the mic is a missed opportunity.
It’s a progression for Whitney, and there’s plenty of great moments that will remind you of the incredible success she had made for herself, and would do again. This is the bridge.
- POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1990 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #4, certified Platinum by the BPI.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from an RSPCA charity store.
Based on all of the Whitney Houston albums we have reviewed so far, we can calculate her average album score as 4.33 out of 5.