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The Bodyguard Soundtrack

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Houston heroic on 'Bodyguard' album hide

After a two-year album hiatus, Whitney Houston re-establishes herself as a premier pop vocalist on the multiartist Bodyguard soundtrack (**1/2) - returning to the adult-aimed material that fits her as well as new Calvins.

Unfortunately, her tunes - including a sure chart-topper, the tour-de- force I Will Always Love You - are only half the soundtrack. The rest is a ragged pastiche of artists from craggy-voiced Joe Cocker to Brit soulster Lisa Stansfield.

Some of their tunes are respectable. On Even if My Heart Would Break, Aaron Neville's angelic falsetto overcomes Kenny G's syrupy sax; The S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M.'s rap version of It's Gonna Be a Lovely Day is infectious. But the odd mix smacks of filler - keeping Bodyguard from being a stand-alone album like the heralded Boomerang soundtrack.

But it's no fault of Houston, who gives a 3 1/2-star performance. Where Dolly Parton's original I Will Always Love You was plaintive and tear- stained, Houston's is gospel-infused and dramatic. I Have Nothing and Run to You also are thrilling ballads, powered by an operatic coloratura alto.

Melodramatic? Maybe, but Houston has the vocal chops to pull off over-the- top performances and the musical smarts to avoid overemoting.

She adds surprises: Chaka Khan's I'm Every Woman becomes sweaty house music; after a rocking Queen of the Night, she turns 180 degrees to update Jesus Loves Me.

It's too bad she's limited to six tunes, but they're worth the price of admission.

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