on 10 November 2000
Many of us will never have heard of Donny Hathaway. He was of a time when African American musicians were particularly inspired and wonderfully creative at the height of optimism for change in the early 70's (Stevie, Marvin, Isley Bros, Staple Singers, Al Green the whole bit). It is only because my mother loved Roberta Flack that I knew he existed. I also found out that he also played keyboards on a few Aretha tracks. So when I chanced upon this disc in a discount store I took a chance. Top choice. The man's voice is silk and his arrangement on the cover of "He ain't heavy.." makes the song his own. There is simply no other voice like Donny's. The pace of the disc is intense if not unique, there is a real mixture of gospel and contemporary influences, cosy up to the voice, composition and musical talents of Donny. For all the romantics in the world go straight to "Take a love song" (sing it in the air) and for the best Christmas song ever it has to be "This Christmas" then stay on for "Be there". I have all the other Donny's now and can't get through a day without listening to him.
For those who have a yearning for real feeling in their music, this fits the bill. Donny Hathaway was a star that burned brightly and too quickly was extinguished, but his legacy was a set of albums which stand comparison with the Soul superstars of the era. His first album was a classic, and comtained an instrumental giant "The Ghetto"
On this, his second album from 1971, Donny Hathaway showcases his great voice and the stand out tracks for me are the big ballads - He Ain't Heavy.., A Song For You and She Is My Lady.
There is no "The Ghetto" soundalike here, just great songs beautifully arranged and performed, and the gospel influence is very evident here, probably more than on any of his other albums. This is a real Soul album therefore.
With the addition of a couple of bonus tracks, including the great "This Christmas", this is an album for fans of Soul. It would also serve for those fans of more recent R & B, as Donny was an undoubted influence on so many contemporary artists like India Arie, Alicia Keys, John Legend and Leela James.
on 10 March 2002
Get under the influence of Donny Hathaway, soul music high priest. This is his best album, soul music at its most liberating. Not particularly accessible, but for a neo-soul lover like myself, essential listening. Once it grows on you, you'd be thankful for your patience. The music is so uplifting, like the best of 70s soul music.