25 OCT 11 DAVID SHANNON
From the opening track, "Strong Woman," and throughout Lalah Hathaway's 2011 Stax release, Where It All Begins (her second for the legendary label since her 2007 label debut Self Portrait), one hears the distinct vocal DNA of her legendary father, the late soul singer Donny Hathaway.
When I first heard the track, I immediately dug up my copy of her father's excellent Donny Hathaway-Live album, recorded in 1972, and marveled at how closely the two voices overlap. Although Donny Hathaway passed away in 1979 when Lalah was only 10, it's clear that she inherited his vocal style, and in many ways -- as this new release aptly demonstrates -- expanded upon it.
"If You Want To" maintains the vintage Hathaway vocal imprint while also coming across as a modern-day, slow banging club burner, a three-and-a-half minute pop arrangement replete with infectious hooks and tasteful clap tracks. The following track, "Always Love You," smolders even more, a late-night jam for the straggling slow dancers. In fact, almost the entire middle section of the album features the same down tempo intensity, as if Hathaway wanted listeners to keep swaying from one song to the next.
Of course, Where It All Begins also brings the beat. "The Small Of My Back" traces what could be a lost track from a '70s-era Stevie Wonder album, circa Innervisions or Songs In The Key Of Life, with similar keys and vocal tones. Meanwhile, "Wrong Way" allows Hathaway to flex a bit of vocal muscle and explore a more mainstream pop sound, to great effect.
Hathaway also covers one of her father's tunes on the album, the William James Peterkin-penned "You Were Meant For Me," marking the first such occasion for any of her releases thus far. Needless to say, she nails it.