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on 17 November 2013
Donny Hathaway is in the strange position of being both overrated and underrated at the same time. Overrated because whilst being a brilliant musician and arranger his song-writing could tend towards the trite and sentimental when it came to slower tempo tracks and his performance of these could be somewhat 'hammy' with overuse of Gospel-style melisma --- in fact this is where his influence is unfortunate since those song-writing & performing traits were picked up and exaggerated in the R&B of the late '70's, '80's and beyond; long after the sad passing of this soul great. Underrated because his legacy is so slim (only three studio albums and one live one in his lifetime) and so tends to be under heard and at his best, often when singing more upbeat funkier tunes such as his awesome "Everything Is Everything" and "The Ghetto" where his vocal instrumental and arranging skills come into their own, he is almost unsurpassable.

This inexpensive 4CD set is a sort of companion to the (excellent) Rhino France 4CD box, "Someday We'll All Be Free" from 2010. In fact it is packaged exactly the same in a fold-out cardboard case of the same dimensions (so they sit side-by-side quite nicely) with an excellent booklet containing pictures, track details and an informative essay by Charles Waring detailing the tragic struggles of this soul great with self-doubt and ultimately schizophrenia which lead to his demise in '79 by suicide.

The 4CDs are beautifully remastered and it is great to see Rhino Records (for now) back in the "proper" reissue game producing a 'labour-of-love' type set on which they originally based their reputation after solely producing "5-fer" cheapo repackaging jobs under he 'Original Album Series' banner for the last few years with no remastering and no liner notes. Hopefully this will be the start of a trend to compete with Sony Legacy who have continued to keep the faith in producing excellent reissues set via their Complete Album Collections such as the recent Bill Withers, Taj Mahal & Herbie Hancock sets.

CD1 comprises a sort of 'greatest tracks' with plenty of single mixes/edits (such as "The Ghetto; Pts 1&2"), his Christmas track, "This Christmas" which actually works as a song rather than a seasonal cash-in (à la Lily Allen with that execrable Keane cover for John Lewis). There are also a few rare early tracks for Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label including "I Thank You Baby" and "Just Another Reason" (both duets with June Conquest) and these are worth hearing despite having slightly rough sound quality (sound like vinyl rips to me). Some of the single mixes work better than the album mixes for the slower, more dirge-like tracks such as "Giving Up" which whilst a Hathaway standard does benefit from being trimmed down in my opinion - this is probably just me since I prefer Hathaway's more upbeat music than his more ruminative stuff even though in retrospect the latter probably indicated where his life was at the time.

CD2 comprises what must be the final vault excavation for Donny Hathaway with 13 tracks unearthed and inevitably it is pretty patchy. The good news is that there is no overlap with the 5 tracks unearthed for the "Someday We'll All Be Free" set. Firstly there is a cover of The Association's "Never My Love" which suffers in my opinion from Hathaway's tendency to 'over-emote' on slower tracks. Then comes "A Lot Of Soul" which is an interesting track, with a pronounced country music influence including honky tonk piano and even some pedal steel - possibly a result of his arranging work on Willie Nelson's seminal "Shotgun Willie" LP? Next is "Let's Groove" which sounds like an after hours bluesy jam - pleasant enough but definitely outtake material. There are then a couple of funky, lightly Latinised instrumentals with lashings of electric piano (which I like) --- lightweight sure and certainly unfinished but also enjoyable. Then comes "Memory Of Our Love" which is a mid-paced stepper again with plenty of Fender Rhodes sounding uncannily like early '70's Steve Wonder --- a nice find. Next "Sunshine Over Showers", a sentimental ballad which again sounds remarkably Stevie Wonder-ish and whilst well performed isn't really to my taste. Next is "After The Dance Is Gone" from '78 and so is likely to be one of Hathaway's final recordings ---- it is pleasantly uptempo with a dancing flute line but has pretty trite lyrics and a cheesy female voice over in the middle-eight and ultimately sounds a bit sparse as if incomplete (which sadly it probably was). Next is an interesting 1968 recording, "Don't Turn Away", a brassy upbeat almost Northern Soul item sounding like it could have come from Chess Studios - I like this one a lot. Then comes another late '60's item, more Motown in sound - upbeat and soulful with powerful singing and an excellent arrangement with plenty of brass riffs and stinging rhythm guitar --- a keeper. Then is a negligible unfinished instrumental, "The Sands Of Time & Changes", with little to recommend it bar some nice organ. Finally is the "Zyxygy Concerto" which is Hathaway's attempt at a classical piece which whilst admirable in ambition and intent is less than compelling in execution with no memorable themes and no real harmonic or rhythmic interest to keep one's attention over its 20-minute playing time.

CD3 comprises live offcuts from the Bitter End, where much of Hathaway's seminal "Live" album was recorded. In fact I prefer much of this stuff than the equivalent tracks on "Live" if only because there is less crowd participation (which the liners think is a bad thing where I actually disagree since I want to hear what the band is doing uninterrupted). There are superb extended versions of "Everything Is Everything" & "The Ghetto"; Hathaway in excelsis in my opinion.

CD4 comprises all of the duets Hathaway performed with Roberta Flack right up to his death (he was recording with Roberta on the day he decided to take his life; movingly recalled in the liner notes by Roberta herself). Plenty of good stuff here including the stone classic, "Where Is The Love" plus a brilliant cover of Carole King's "You've Got A Friend". The three late '70's tracks, including the hit; "The Closer I Get To You", are less to my taste suffering from the slickness (and synths!) of the disco-era but are well performed.

In conclusion a largely excellent set and a steal at the price despite CD2 being inevitably somewhat patchy (despite containing some very worthwhile stuff). Therefore for any admirers of the Golden Age of early '70's soul music before the onset of disco and the rot set in this set is a must.
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One of the usual adjectives frequently appended to the fine singer / songwriter Donny Hathway is 'tragic'. Or 'doomed'. Owing to his suicide, and his seeming suffering from depression. Whilst that may be true, listening to his music, there's very little sign of the depression that led to his early death. There's more joy, love of life and happiness in his music than most manage. True, there is some introspection (his definitive reading of the Leon Russell opus, A Song For You, for example), and in places - particularly the more socially-aware material - righteous indignation, but really, it is the man's love of singing, and his rich soulfulness that shines through. This does dovetail neatly with other box set releases, particularly the French box set 'Someday We'll All Be Free', with not too much duplication. Excellent sound, sleeve notes, design, and great value for money. A fine epitaph for a consistently undervalued talent, well worth your listening time.
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Back in 2010 - I reviewed the first ever multi-disc Box Set on the wonderful American Soul Artist DONNY HATHAWAY. It was issued by Rhino France and called "Someday We'll All Be Free" (see detailed review) - and even though it had great newly remastered sound quality - its liner notes were in French - not a lot of good to anyone outside of Paris. Well at last - along comes an English-language Box Set in 2013 - a superb 4CD 'companion' piece to "Someday We'll All Be Free" that boasts two whole discs of exclusive previously unreleased material. Here are the 'everything is everything' details...

UK released November 2013 on Atco/Rhino 8122796543 - "Never My Love: The Anthology" is a 58-track 4CD DigiBook Box Set and breaks down as follows...

Disc 1 (79:10 minutes):
Tracks 1 and 2 are "I Thank You Baby" and "Just Another Reason" - a 1969 USA 7" single on Curtom CR-1935 credited to JUNE & DONNIE. It was reissued in 1972 as "I Thank You" on Curtom CR-1971 - re-credited to JUNE CONQUEST and DONNY HATHAWAY
Tracks 3 and 4 are "The Ghetto Part 1" & "The Ghetto Part 2" - a 1969 USA 7" single on Atco 45-6719 (the album version is one long track - the single edits are unique)
Track 5 is "Thank You Master (For My Soul)" - a 1970 A-side Promo-Only Edit on the USA 7" single Atco 45-6759. The album version is 5:47 minutes - the edit here is 3:26 minutes.
Tracks 6 to 9 are "Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)", "Tryin' Times", "To Be Young, Gifted & Black" and "I Believe To My Soul" - all 4 tracks taken from his debut LP "Everything is Everything" released October 1970 in the USA on Atco SD 33-332
Track 10 is "This Christmas" - the A-side to a non-album 7" single issued November 1970 in the USA on Atco 45-6799
Track 11 is "A Song For You" - the A-side of a 1971 USA 7" single on Atco 45-6828
Track 12 is "Magnificent Sanctuary Band" - the B-side of "Take A Love Song" - a 1971 USA 7" single on Atco 45-6817 (new to CD in Mono)
Track 13 is "Giving Up" - the non-album A-side of an USA 7" single issued 1972 on Atco 45-6884
Tracks 14 and 15 are "Come Back Charleston Boy" and "Little Ghetto Boy" (Studio Version) - both from his June 1972 Soundtrack album "Come Back Charleston Blue" on Atco SD-7010
Tracks 16, 20 and 21 are "Valdez In the Country", "Love, Love, Love" and "Someday We'll All Be Free" - all 3 tracks taken from his 5th album "Extension Of A Man" released July 1973 in the USA on Atco SD-7029
Tracks 17 and 18 are "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" and "Lord Help Me" - the A&B-sides on a 1972 USA 7" single on Atco 45-6903
Track 19 is "Come Little Children" - a non-album A-side to a 1973 USA 7" single on Atco 45-6951
Track 22 is "You Were Meant For Me" - a non-album A-side to a 1978 USA 7" single on Atco 7092
[Tracks 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 17 and 18 are MONO - all others STEREO]

Disc 2 - Unreleased Studio Recordings (70:00 minutes):
1. Never My Love (November 1973)
2. A Lot Of Soul (November 1973)
3. Let's Groove (January 1974)
4. Latin Time (1974)
5. Tally Rand (February 1975)
6. Memory Of Our Love (1974)
7. Sunshine Over Showers (December 1975)
8. After The Dance Is Done (September 1978)
9. Don't Turn Away (1968)
10. Always The Same (Recording Date Unknown)
11. Brown Eyed Lady (1974 Instrumental)
12. The Sands Of Time And Change (Recording Date Unknown)
13. Zyxygy Concerto (aka "Life, Parts 1-4") (October 1973)

Disc 3 - Live At The Bitter End, 1971 All Previously Unreleased (77:28 minutes):
1. What's Going On
2. Sack Full Of Dreams
3. Little Ghetto Boy
4. You've Got A Friend
5. Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)
6. He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
7. Jealous Guy
8. I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know
9. Hey Girl
10. The Ghetto
THE BAND: Donny Hathaway on Keyboards, Cornell Dupree and Mike Howard on Guitars, Willie Weeks on Bass, Fred White on Drums and Earl DeRouen on Conga

Disc 4, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway Duets (62:45 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 10 are the 1972 album "Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway" issued in the USA on Atlantic SD-7216
Track 11 is "The Closer I Get To You" from the Roberta Flack album "Blue Lights In The Basement" - issued 1977 in the USA on Atlantic 1914
Tracks 12 and 13 are from "Roberta Flack featuring Donny Hathaway - issued 1979 in the USA on Atlantic 16013

The 28-page booklet has fantastically detailed liner notes by noted Blues & Soul Writer CHARLES WARING with a proper break down on each disc (could have done with more photos though). Long-time Rhino Engineer BILL INGLOT did the Tape Research and CHARLES BENSON the remastering and the sound is superb. These are not audiophile recordings - so there's hiss on many songs - but the remasters let them breath and the clarity is wonderful.

Eagle-eyed fans will notice from the listing about that there's only 4 tracks from his 10-song debut LP "Everything Is Everything", none at all from his 2nd album "Donny Hathaway" and only 3 from 1973's fabulous "Extension Of A Man" album (his last proper studio outing). The stunning "Live" set from 1972 is absent entirely - replaced obviously by the Previously Unreleased Concert on Disc 3. There were also 5 previously unreleased studio cuts and two live songs on the "Someday We'll All Be Free" Box - none of which are on here either. As that French box set contains `all' those albums and a smattering of the "Come Back Charleston Blue" Soundtrack in remastered form - throwing out that 2010 4CD set isn't an option just yet.

What is cool about "Never My Love: The Anthology" is to finally get those non-album 7" single versions - most of which have never appeared on compilations prior to this. But the real prize has to be Disc 3 and 4 - 13 Previously Unissued Studio cuts and a full 10-track gig circa his classic "Live" album from 1972 (one of my favourite Soul albums ever). As fans will know from 1974 right through to 1978 (before he tragically took his own life in January 1979 by jumping out of a hotel window) - represent the wilderness years for Hathaway - plagued as he was with inner personal demons and a creative crunch. To find a stash of unreleased recordings mostly from that time frame is little short of astonishing. Also - the "Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway" duet album from 1972 hasn't been remastered since 1995 - so a 2013 upgrade was long overdue as well.

The unreleased studio tracks on Disc 2 are a very mixed bag alternating between the sublime and the dismissible. Fans may ask why Rhino decided to call this entire compilation after an unreleased song - because the Disc 2 opener "Never My Love" is beautiful - a gorgeous love song and a true find. Where has this been all these years? The countrified "A Lot Of Soul" is unfortunately awful Hicksville and the vaudeville "Let's Groove" not much better. "Latin Time" is an interesting six-minute funky instrumental that feels like a run-through towards something to be completed at a later stage and "Tally Rand" the same. After a slew of mediocre outtakes "Memory Of Our Love" comes as a refreshing `song'. But then we get to the other gem on here "Sunshine Over Showers" - another languid ballad sung as only he could. "After The Dance Is Through" is a horrid fast-paced Disco song. It's followed by a brass-blasting 1968 outtake called "Don't Turn Away" that's more gritty Stax than mellow Atlantic - it's excellent. "Always The Same" is another uptempo brass belter with a late Sixties Motown feel. You're then hit with two gorgeous slow instrumentals - "Brown Eyed Lady" and "The Sands Of Time And Change" - both clearly going to make great ballads had he gotten round to filling them with words. It ends with the entirely instrumental melancholy of "Zyxygy Concerto" or "Life Parts 1 to 4" - a 'Strings and Soul' monster sounding to me like the opening track "I Love The Lord, He Heard My Cry (Parts I & II)" on "Extension Of A Man" - but in full form. A long-lost Soundtrack of sorts - it lasts a huge 20 minutes plus and is monumentally good.

The live gig features a slowed down "What's Going On" and the lovely Grady Tate song "Sack Full Of Dreams" and his cover of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy". When he gets into "Voices Inside (Everything is Everything)" the show ignites - it's a stunning 16-minute band funky workout like the 12-minute version of "The Ghetto" - what a wow!

In the annals of Soul there are giants - Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding and for me there's always been the curtailed genius of Donny Hathaway. What a legacy he left and what a loss. Be with the angels you beautiful spirit...
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on 19 January 2014
I own all his albums but to have all together in this box set is a joy and auto rip from amazon great value set beauitful packaged sound is excellent . I just love his voice if you ever want to understand soul music just play this, his music is so moving love it...........
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on 5 December 2013
This guy was underrated,but sadly ended his own life before fulfilling his true potential, leaving very little recording legacy behind. With this set, and the Rhino box set,i do believe it just about completes his entire recorded works. Of coursr,quite a lot of the sets overlap,but it's great to have his work with Roberta Flack included,none of which was included on the other set
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on 6 December 2013
A little bit of a disappointment covering too much of the same ground as the superb French 4CD set from 2010. Covers much of the same ground with the CD of unreleased material totally unmemorable.
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on 1 January 2015
An absolute must for those who love the silky smooth voice of Donny Hathaway.....simply beautiful!!
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on 3 August 2014
An excellent reissue of wonderful music including some good bonus tracks
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on 29 March 2016
all you wanted to know about this talented performer in one package.
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on 12 April 2015
Good recording of a fine artist. On time and very good value.
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