"Whitney Houston Live: Her Greatest Performances" (RCA/Legacy) is the legendary performer at her best, singing live.
The collection, orchestrated by her mentor and champion Clive Davis, is what the late Houston's legacy would look like if it could be scrubbed clean, if we could forget about her tabloid-worthy choices, her drug use, her weakening of both her voice and her brilliant vocal choices.
Houston was an extraordinary singer, an artist who rarely delivered a song the same way twice. Early on, her improvised inflections, her runs, her stops and starts -- they all seemed brilliantly planned and elegantly executed.
And that's the era that this live collection focuses on, offering only two performances from the 21st century. "Whitney Houston Live" traces her path from the shy, but stunning, teenager who debuted on "The Merv Griffin Show" in 1983 to a force at the peak of her powers with the incredible medley of "I Loves You Porgy / And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going / I Have Nothing" from the 1994 American Music Awards.
The joy that infuses this version of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" is almost as thrilling as her ability to transform the pop perkiness into something soulful. The stateliness of "I Will Always Love You" is even more impressive in the way she dedicates it to South Africa.
"Whitney Houston Live" documents how great the singer was before her death in 2012 and builds a strong case that her talent should outlast her tabloid exploits.
THE GRADE A