“Pulse” opens with what I would consider classic Toni Braxton: the track “Yesterday”, which highlights Toni’s smooth, buttery vocals conveying feelings about a former lover. The alternate version of “Yesterday” with Trey Songz was more widely known than the version with Toni by herself, but Toni’s so powerful as a solo artist, that she handles the track perfectly alone.

“Make My Heart” opens powerfully based on the track’s instrumentation, but there is something about the track that doesn’t quite connect with me. I think it’s because I am still stuck on the fantastic go-go juggernaut that was “Take This Ring”, but I digress…..

“Hands Tied” is your quiet storm track. This is my personal favorite on the entire cd. If this track doesn’t seal the deal, then you need to find a new significant other. Toni even demonstrates techniques in the video for you to follow.

“Lookin’ At Me” is a bouncy, uptempo track. Interestingly, the clap beat that underscores the track sounds similar to tracks that her duet partner Trey Songz would release at a later date. I would have liked to have seen a video treatment for “Lookin’ At Me”.

“Wardrobe” could have been a solid hit if the track had been given a video treatment. I can see Toni singing along to the track as she hops into a convertible and drives away from her man into the open highway….something along the lines of some of the scenes from “Don’t Disturb This Groove”.

“Why Don’t You Love Me?” would fit right in with one of Toni’s earlier albums. The track is reminiscent of the gorgeous, stripped down “I Don’t Want To”.

“Hero” is an interesting track. It sounds like a mash up of Justin Timberlake’s “My Love” with a slower tempo track. This is where I raise my hand to comment as a major Toni fan. On “Hero” it sounds like the producer tried to go in and modernize Toni’s sound. That’s the issue. Toni Braxton has a signature sound, and her fans love her for it. Her true sound comes through whether a track is fast, slow or mid-tempo. It is a mistake to try to fit her sound into the mold of what is on the radio. Toni is the type of well respected artist that sets the sound herself. Toni is the thermostat, not the thermometer.

“Pulse” is a good effort. Toni Braxton is and has always been neck and neck with another superstar for the slot as my all time favorite female vocalist. Toni is an amazing, one of a kind talent who still has dozens of hits and millions of sales in her cache. Her vocals are flawless as always. The issue that prevents “Pulse” from being a great effort seems to rest in the production. Here are my recommendations for future Toni Braxton releases:

1. Let Toni Braxton be Toni Braxton- She’s not anyone else. She didn’t become a superstar being anyone else. Babyface saw something special in her, and that something special is what will continue to bring her success..

2. Let Toni showcase her piano expertise- Half of her fans still don’t even know that she plays piano. Toni is more than just a gorgeous sex symbol. Shoot a couple of videos with her in a flowing gown draped over the piano/playing the piano at the same time. For that tidbit of information, you can send my royalty check to p o box…..

3. Don’t give Toni Braxton tracks tailored for other artists. She has more than paid her dues. If you don’t respect Toni Braxton enough to bring her a Toni Braxton track, then you haven’t earned the right to work with Toni Braxton.

4. Pay this woman her money….”Behind the Music”….$20,000 after all of that work? I add #4 because it ties into #5.

5. Settle the money issues so that Babyface and Toni can give us an ENTIRE cd together, instead of just one or two drive by tracks now and again. If #5 would happen, can you just imagine the amazing work that would result? Especially in the current landscape of “music”.

Interestingly enough, some of the most buzzed about tracks affiliated with “Pulse” were those that are available on ITunes, but ultimately did not make the physical standard release cd, such as the track “Caught (Don’t Take Your Hat Off)” featuring Monique and “The Wave”. Is this a case of the label making a bad call on the final tracks? Was the label scared to veer too far away from the “classic Toni sound” to place the tracks on the physical standard release? Was the label just trying to milk more money out of consumers by placing the tracks on ITunes?

You be the judge………….

“Pulse” is available in its original, standard version at Amazon.com and in its deluxe version with multiple bonus tracks at ITunes.