Toni Braxton

Essential Mixes

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With Frankie Knuckles' vocal house remix of "Unbreak My Heart" almost as well known as the epic power ballad original, husky-voiced R&B diva Toni Braxton seems a more suitable candidate than most to receive the Essential Mixes treatment. There's nothing as majestic as the aforementioned (featured here in a less familiar eight-minute version with flashes of industrial techno on either side) on the 12 reworkings of 11 songs plucked from her back catalog, but there's plenty here that provides a new slant to the source material, without completely butchering it. The HQ2 Radio Edit of acoustic love song "Spanish Guitar" ramps up the flamenco guitar and adds some pounding drums to produce a Mardi Gras-style carnival number in keeping with its Latin vibe; "You're Makin' Me High" is transformed from a sensual slow jam into an uplifting slice of Italo house and booty-shaking reggae by the David Morales Classic Mix and Dancehall Mix, respectively; and Knuckles repeats his winning formula, with admittedly less anthemic results, on his epic ten-minute retooling of "I Don't Want To." The other seven remixes are less drastic, with the five tracks included from her 1993 self-titled debut pretty indistinguishable from the new versions, save for a slightly stronger new jack swing production, and a slightly more urban flavor on R. Kelly's remix of "How Many Ways," while arguably her two finest singles, "He Wasn't Man Enough for Me" and the Neptunes-produced "Hit the Freeway," are left firmly intact, with just an extended intro/outro justifying their inclusion here. Like most of the Essential Mixes collections, there's very little that comes close to the originals, but there's also very little here that will have fans up in arms, ensuring that this respectful batch of remixes is perhaps the best of the series so far.

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