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Ultimate Deborah Cox ()

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Released in 2003, Remixed was already a greatest-hits collection of sorts for Deborah Cox, even if it was more of a gift for fans of her dance diva persona. This makes the rapid 2004 appearance of Ultimate Deborah Cox a little weird. Still, the latter is a bit richer retrospectively, touching on all the facets of the Canadian vocalist, from her initial success in the contemporary R&B genre through the pop crossovers and her emergence as a dancefloor icon. It's remastered for sonic continuity, and is arranged more or less chronologically. The liners also provide extensive production and chart information. As it sticks almost exclusively to singles -- the ones helmed by powerhouse producers like Dallas Austin, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and Hex Hector -- Ultimate Deborah Cox is a strong set. This makes it a good pickup for the casual radio listener, who might be more interested in Cox's vocals than the club beats of Remixed. However, there's still the attempt to flash Ultimate up with remixes of its own, making it awkward and only half-rewarding. The same modern stylization of soul that permeated the Maxwell classic Urban Hang Suite guides "Sentimental" here, and "Who Do U Love" still holds up, even if its grooves have dulled a bit in the warm glow of lite FM. "It Could've Been You"'s spare hip-hop mix, too, is enjoyable, but the "Hani Remix" of "I Never Knew" is pretty darn close to the version on Remixed, and Morning After's "Play Your Part" needlessly becomes twittering club/dance generica. Likewise, "Things Just Ain't the Same" and Cox's club version of Phil Collins' "Something Happened On the Way to Heaven" seem to have been lifted whole from Remixed. Despite these missteps, the underrated title track from 2002's Morning After is left in duskily untouched, and Ultimate's "Up & Down (In & Out)" jettisons the Jadakiss contributions of After's original in favor of a breathy, more sharply cutting mix. The rub here is that Ultimate Deborah Cox tries to please everyone, as its name would suggest, and gets spread too thin in the process. It might content all the camps of Cox's audience for a little while, but it's problematic the morning after. ~ Johnny Loftus, Rovi Hide synopsis

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