label: arista
production: babyface, the neptunes, r. kelly, rodney 'darkchild' jenkins, david foster, anthonio 'la' reid, daryl simmons, others.
year of release: 2003
website: ultimatetonibraxton.com
1. Give U My Heart feat. Babyface
2. Love Shoulda Brought You Home
3. Another Sad Love Song
4. Breathe Again
5. Seven Whole Days (Live)
6. You Mean The World To Me
7. How Many Ways
8. You're Makin' Me High
9. Let It Flow
10. Un-Break My Heart
11. I Love Me Some Him
12. I Don't Want To
13. He Wasn't Man Enough
14. Just Be A Man About It
15. Hit The Freeway feat. Loon
16. Watchu Need
17. The Little Things
18. Un-Break My Heart (Soul-Hex Anthem Radio Edit)
As we said before: it's Christmas. And musically that means one thing: 'best of…' albums. And it's kinda like: 'who hasn't yet must, and how has, must again.' Toni Braxton now offers us the "Ultimate", offering eighteen tracks, including the two previously unreleased and forgettable "Watchu Need" and the better "The Little Things", as well as "Un-Break My Heart (Soul-Hex Anthem Radio Edit)", which turns the song into a surprisingly working Latin House tune, and finally a live version of "Seven Whole Days". What's the obligatory extra on this collection.
We then get the obligatory hits: "Breathe Again", "You're Makin' Me High" and "Un-Break My Heart", which must be the only real super-super hit Toni had. The other song titles don't ring a bell with the casual follower of Toni's career. What however is exactly what 'best of…' albums are so good for: getting to know an artist you don't know yet.
Because I like 'best of…' albums. I'm interested in buying a 'best of…' album, when I want to get to know an artist, when I wonder if I like that person's music. It's a great option for introduction, allowing me to catch a distilled view into his body of work. And if I dig it, I can go and buy all the other albums too. If not, well. But I still got a lot of the important songs this artist has done. And as a collector, as someone that's genuinely interested in music, you just need to have some of the songs of some of the artists. And it's quite likely that you'll find them on a 'best of…' album.
But that's all theory, so let's get down to the actual and listen to what Toni does. She does something New Jack Swing with Babyface on "Give U My Heart". "Another Sad Love Song" sounds familiar. She does the slow midtempo "You Mean The World To Me", where her sobbing style of singing takes over for the first time. And she rarely gets rid of it again after that, even though she should. By "How Many Ways" the keyboard sounds start to get tired, but "You're Makin' Me High" captures us again, as it's still a funky little groove, which is slowed down on "I Love Me Some Him". "I Don't Want To" is another song we know once we hear it, and this R. Kelly composition puts Toni into the position of doing a ballad again. The R. was also responsible for one of the two unreleased songs "The Little Things", and with more real instrumentation, this song would actually be good.
When you listen to "Love Shoulda Brought You Home" you get another idea. What ever happened to famous and popular artists singing Standards? This song, while not really jazzy, but still loungey, shows that Toni could offer some really interesting interpretations of the classics. Especially as here she breaks out of her usual vocal range (which sounds really bad on "He Wasn't Man Enough", where the background singers have to do the chorus for her, how bad is that?), showing proof of what an amazing singer she is. More of that is on "Seven Whole Days (Live)", despite it being a really, really bad live recording, too chaotic, very badly mixed and sounding very fake, as the audience sounds more sampled than real.
So basically we can hate and love this compilation of Toni's work for all the obvious and given reasons. We hate it a little more, because Toni does everything what's wrong with modern R'n'B: there's little to no organic Soul in these songs. I mean, the Neptunes produced "Hit The Freeway" (featuring Loon) is not only a bad song, it's a bad Neptunes song. And that's really, really bad. This is pure Neptunes throw away material, considering what else they've done in 2002. So in retrospect, while "You Makin' Me High" just shows how great Toni could be, she's in desperate need of more songs of that quality.
review: tadah
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