BWW CD Review: Deborah Cox's I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU is Enthusiastic and Laudable
Deborah Cox made a professional foray into the world of Whitney Houston for Lifetime's 2015 biopic Whitney when she recorded a handful of songs for the film. Less than two years later, she stepped back into Houston's footsteps when she was cast as Rachel Marron in the US national tour of THE BODYGUARD - THE MUSICAL. The score of the musical is made up of fresh arrangements of Houston's greatest hits and music from the original film. While there's no word on a US cast recording of the show, Cox has recently released I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU, an eight track EP of her singing songs featured in the musical.
Filling Houston's shoes is no easy task, and on I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU Cox offers enthusiastic and laudable renditions of these classic pop tunes. Smartly, Cox doesn't simply recreate the music as it was sung by Houston. Instead, she makes the songs her own. She peppers in her own flare and vocal embellishments while presenting versions that are reminiscent of the originals but also manage to be new.
Across the album, Cox utilizes her smooth, gospel vocals to entice and entertain listeners. She sings each song with tangible emotion and charisma, doing her part to make sure each track either moves us or gets us moving. Her lively rendition of "I'm Every Woman" is lifted from the soundtrack for Whitney, and it sounds the most like the original tune. Her "I Have Nothing" is heartfelt and stirring. With a sensationally sultry edge, Cox makes "All the Man I Need" a sensual ode to a lover. Her energy on "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" is infectious, ensuring the track radiates with joy. For "Run to You," she sings with evocative sincerity that makes the jumps from her earthy lower register to her breathy upper register compelling and beautiful. Likewise, Cox charms on the self-love anthem "The Greatest Love of All" and on "Jesus Loves Me." She closes the EP with an earnest and brightly sung version of "I Will Always Love You." She utilizes the song to show off the full majesty of her instrument, and her iteration of the song is lush and accessible.
In the liner notes, Cox admits she released this EP because her fans have been asking to hear her sing Whitney Houston. With that goal in mind, she succeeds with aplomb across these eight tracks. Unfortunately, for fans and listeners who want to hear her sing THE BODYGUARD - THE MUSICAL, they'll have to catch the show on tour and hold out hope for a US cast recording that includes her. The arrangements on I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU differ from the way these songs are presented in the musical, so, for fans like me, the EP only scratches an itch. It simply doesn't satisfy the craving for Cox as Rachel Marron.