- A stunning early Arista pressing, this copy earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- This album has the kind of smooth, rich, tonally correct analog sound we thought they had forgotten how to record by 1985 – but here it is, thank goodness
- Consistently strong material: You Give Good Love, Saving All My Love for You, How Will I Know, All at Once, and Greatest Love of All (the last of seven (!) singles released from the album)
- “…introduced the world to ‘The Voice,’ an octave-spanning, gravity-defying melismatic marvel.”
Having done this for so long — 2020 marks our 33rd year in the record business — we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound — even as late as 1985! — is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).
The music is not so much about the details in the recording; rather it lives or dies by its ability to recreate a solid, palpable, Whitney Houston singing live in your listening room. The best copies had an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, and here it’s important to keep in mind that these tapes are now more than thirty years old, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard Whitney sound this good on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.
What The Best Sides of Whitney Houston Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1985
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We Want from Whitney
The copies that do well in our shootouts have qualities common to many of the other male and female Hot Stamper vocal pressings we offer. The best copies are big, rich, clear and transparent, with breathy, immediate vocals.
Hardness, thinness, shrillness and the like — the kind of sound you would expect from a 1985 recording* — will be very costly for any copy we play. I’m sure that sound can be found on the CD, and for a lot less money.
Energy and enthusiasm are key as well. You want to get the feeling that Whitney is really putting her all into these songs, and the best copies let you do that.
Space and depth are nice to have; otherwise you might as well be listening to the radio.
What We’re Listening For on Whitney Houston
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
You Give Good Love
Thinking About You
Someone for Me
Saving All My Love for You
Nobody Loves Me Like You Do (duet with Jermaine Jackson)
How Will I Know
All at Once
Take Good Care of My Heart (duet with Jermaine Jackson)
Greatest Love of All
Hold Me (duet with Teddy Pendergrass)
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
As big a hit as it was — and it was a multi-platinum blockbuster, spinning off several chart-toppers — it’s not easy to think of Whitney Houston’s 1985 debut as the dawning of a new era, but it was. Arriving in the thick of MTV, when the slick sounds of yacht-soul were fading, Whitney Houston is the foundation of diva-pop, straddling clean, cheery R&B and big ballads designed with the adult contemporary audience in mind.
More Reviews Compiled by Wikipedia
Whitney Houston was well received by music critics upon its release. Stephen Holden of The New York Times, praised the album and especially her singing style, stating “along with an appealing romantic innocence, she projects the commanding dignity and elegance of someone far more mature.”
Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail commented that although some “arrangements frequently border on formulaic but such ballads as “Saving All My Love for You”, “Greatest Love Of All” and “Hold Me” are some of the loveliest pop singing on vinyl since the glory days of Dionne Warwick.” Lacey added that “Houston has a silky, rich, vibrant voice that moves between steely edges, or curls sensuously around the notes.”
Los Angeles Times complimented Houston on her excellent vocal ability, writing “neither the frequently listless arrangements nor the sometimes mediocre material of this debut LP hides the fact that Houston is a singer with enormous power and potential” on their reviews for 1985’s releases.
Don Shewey of Rolling Stone described her as “one of the most exciting new voices in years” and stated that: “Because she has a technically polished voice like Patti Austin’s, […] her interpretive approach is what sets her apart” and “Whitney Houston is obviously headed for stardom, and if nothing else, her album is an exciting preview of coming attractions.”
Contemporary reviews have paid attention to the significance and the value of it in music history. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic defined Whitney Houston as “the foundation of diva-pop” and stated that certainly, the ballads such as “Greatest Love of All” and “Saving All My Love for You”, provided “the blueprint for decades of divas”.
However, he gave higher marks to the lighter tracks like “How Will I Know” and “Thinking About You”, commenting these tracks “are what really impresses some 20-plus years on” and “turns the album into a fully rounded record, the rare debut that manages to telegraph every aspect of an artist’s career in a mere ten songs.”
Brad Wete, on a feature article to celebrate for Vibe magazine’s 15th anniversary in September 2008, wrote “never before has an African-American woman earned such crossover appeal so early in her career. […] [Houston] had an explosive solo debut” and commented “Whitney’s prodigious pop set […] was a fresh serving of precocious talent compared to 1985’s mildly flavored R&B buffet.”
Allison Stewart from The Washington Post stated that the album “provided a blueprint for the pop/dance/R&B-melding careers of Mariah Carey and others, and introduced the world to “The Voice,” an octave-spanning, gravity-defying melismatic marvel.”