Lalah Hathaway | Where It All Begins

Lalah Hathway - Where It All Begins II

Lalah Hathaway | Where It All Begins
By Peggy Oliver

Lalah Hathaway is one of the most entrusted vocalists the music industry has ever known. While many will always recognize Hathaway as the daughter of one of soul music’s classic stylists, Donny Hathaway, she has etched her own voice by successfully capturing her father’s essence with her warm alto. Her dynamics of layering jazz sensibility with pop, R&B, soul and gospel is quite impeccable; giving urban music a sometimes needed fresh injection that started with her self-titled release in 1990. Her creamy vocal tones have graced many of contemporary jazz finest players – from Grover Washington to Joe Sample. Sample & Hathaway’s 1999 project, The Song Lives On, artfully bridged a traditional acoustic trio with adult contemporary R&B/Soul and introduced Hathaway to a mainstream jazz fan base. The list of other collaborations includes gospel impresario Donald Lawrence and eclectic musician Me’shell NdegeOcello. Hathaway also has a knack for covering treasures like Luther’s, “Forever, For Always, For Love” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s, “Love’s Holiday.” The touching tribute to Mr. Vandross also hit number one on the adult R&B radio charts in 2004.

Though her gift in uplifting audiences with a soothing vibe and her approach in conveying the essentials of fundamental soul music have been rarely been questioned, there were some struggles sharing her father’s bloodline. She initially shied away from persons asking her Donny’s contributions and has evaded covering her father’s material through the years under
strong criticism of her peers. However, as she shaped her own career, Hathaway fully embraced her goal of creating a legacy similar to her father, but with her own niche. Now on her sophomore release for Stax Records — a label she clearly embraces for spreading timeless R&B music to their audiences — Where It All Begins gives Hathaway an opportunity in honoring her father with one of his biggest hits and navigating her honey-dripped alto through rhythmic R&B beats and other musical settings

Where It All Begins begins with a bang as Hathaway brings the funky on the hip-hop laced “Strong Woman” which teaches a hardcore lesson to women about checking themselves before wrecking themselves. The smooth neo-soul grooved title track is about remaining true to oneself: “Say what you mean/Do what you say.” “Small of My Back” illustrates the excitement of just being in love, and that excitement is matched with a jazzy disco flavor. The haunting ballad, “Lie To Me” draws plenty of vivid pictures; thanks to Hathaway’s true vulnerability and passionate connection to the storyline: “I can’t be mad at you cause nothing lasts forever.” “This Could Be Love” is an all too juicy scenario as Hathaway sorts out her emotions about the what ifs and otherwise of finding that special someone. Whoever was working duet casting for Where It All Begins found the perfect match as Rachelle Ferrell joins Hathaway on “I’m Coming Back,” resurrecting a song from her 1990 debut. This sophisticated piece of jazz chill serves up brushed snares, cradling guitar and airy keys. “Dreamtime” lists all of Hathaway’s favorites in a form of a simple lullaby; from “watching cartoons all day” to “flying high in the circus tent.” Finally, the piece de resistance is Donny’s “You Were Meant for Me,” spinning her gentle soulful web on her father’s timeless classic from 1978 but respecting the integrity of this top twenty R&B hit.

Though Where It All Begins caters to several age groups and genres, Hathaway’s crystalline voice does not miss a beat. However, there are two letdowns in “If You Want To” and “Always Love You” because of the abundance of hooks and lack of melodic ideas that weighs down the caliber of Hathaway’s talents. But overall, Where It All Begins proves Hathaway can still handle nearly everything that is musically set before her and proves why she is one of music’s elite collaborators in urban music.

Four and a half stars out of five.

Peggy Oliver
The Urban Music Scene