I wasn't expecting much, but boy I certainly was not disappointed.
Posthumous song collections dropped into the marketplace after a superstar passes away always create a nagging suspicion about performance quality.
Is it sustained?
Is the material as good as the other old chestnuts by the artist in their prime?
A pop music albatross weighs down Whitney Houston's musical glow for this project. That might leave gospel purists to seek out a higher calling from a more glorious angel to sing this music.
If you are not necessarily a gospel music fan, the attraction of Whitney's name might draw you to these songs.
Just released for 2023, here is "I Go To The Rock: The Gospel Music of Whitney Houston." It is delightful, but not perfect.
Many gospel styles echo from the fourteen tracks. I rate 11 of the 14 tracks at "B" or above, an eighty percent positive rating.
By far the best track is the first, the contemporary "I Go To The Rock." The Georgia Mass Choir soars through a magnificent crescendo with Whitney before the pair takes off in an up-tempo call and response exchange. "I Go To The Rock." Definitely an 'A.'
Note that I have a CD. You may want to download the MP3 tracks and listen in any order.
- "I Go to the Rock" (with The Georgia Mass Choir)
- "Jesus Loves Me"
- "He Can Use Me" (Previously Unreleased)
- "Joy to the World" (with The Georgia Mass Choir)
- "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (Live VH1 Honors) (Previously Unreleased)
- "Testimony" (Previously Unreleased)
- "I Look To You"
- "His Eye is on the Sparrow"
- "Hold On, Help is On The Way" (with the Georgia Mass Choir)
- "This Day" (Live VH1 Honors) (Previously Unreleased)
- "I Found a Wonderful Way" (Previously Unreleased)
- "Joy" (with The Georgia Mass Choir)
- "I Love the Lord" (with The Georgia Mass Choir)
- "He / I Believe" (Live at Yokohama Arena, Japan) (Previously Unreleased)
Six of the tracks are previously unreleased. You might be motivated to grab the songs just to hear for yourself how they sound.
"He Can Use Me," one of the previously unreleased songs, is a torch light 'holy ghost' ballad exploding with emotion.
At three minutes, thirty seconds into the song, 'Whitney goes off' for the last minute belting out a lot of vamping. Her testimony detracts from the composure of the song.
Houston offers "Joy To The World," with the Georgia Mass Choir, previously released on Whitney's "One Wish, The Holiday Album."
I've always felt that her version is good, but overproduced and not at the 'A+' level of either the gritty Aretha Franklin version, or Mariah Carey's bouncy fun romp through the classic.
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" with CeCe Winans gets an 'A-.' The previously unreleased song was recorded live on the VH1 Honors show in 1995.
Looking for the best R&B / soul version of the iconic Paul Simon penned hit? Look for the version by Aretha Franklin.
An 'A' track is "His Eye is on The Sparrow." This traditional-public domain song captures the delicate nuances of Whitney's voice. She's accompanied by just a piano and organ. A choir does punctuate her vocal acuity within the last minute of the song.
On the older CD format, I would have stacked the songs in a different order. One track that was correctly placed last is "He / I Believe," recorded live at Yokohama Arena in Japan.
This sounds too "Bodyguard." The arrangement includes a glowing saxophone staccato statement. She starts the song by proclaiming, "This starts our gospel segment. Do you like gospel music?"
She receives just a soft murmur from the crowd. Perhaps it was her English, a possible barrier to some of the Japanese speakers in the audience.
You will find some surprises among these songs. "I Love The Lord," with the Georgia Mass Choir is a 'B+.' Whitney tackles the slower ballad with gusto. This song gets a '+' for the long 'in the clear' string arrangement closing the track.
Overall, I would recommend "I Go To The Rock: The Gospel Music of Whitney Houston."
Yes, she can sing gospel music. Her pop style does infiltrate many of the songs, but she has the pipes, finesse and vocal range to be taken seriously singing this music.
Whitney Houston is not Shirley Caesar, or Mahalia Jackson, so a pure hardcore gospel style is not what I expected when I learned about the "I Go To The Rock" project.
I never thought of "I Look To You" as a gospel song. To me, it was Whitney Houston pop. Clearly there is some genre bending going on across these songs.
Many of her fans will appreciate hearing the artist packaged within the context of gospel. I did, perhaps you will too.