Lalah Hathaway’s long awaited live album has finally dropped, and as you might expect, it’s very tasty.
When it comes to the offspring of major musical artists, three patterns tend to emerge regarding what they will do with their lives. Weary of the celebrity spotlight and the difficulties their parents faced in the music business, some tend to shun a life in the public eye and instead search for a ‘normal’ life and ‘normal’ career. Some children follow quite literally in their parents footsteps: Frank Sinatra Jr, for instance, struggled with his own solo career and currently tours, very successfully it must be said, performing his father’s hits. Others, however, strike out in new directions, taking inspiration from their parents’ work whilst creating their own body of work. That’s the path that Lalah Hathway, daughter of soul icon Donny Hathaway, has chosen. And that path has proven to be very successful for her, and has become a soul great in her own right.
After her father’s tragic passing when she was just ten years old, Hathaway went on to study music at the famed Berklee College of Music and released her first album in 1990. Since then, Hathaway has released a further five well-received albums, her last four years ago on the revamped Stax record label. Now she’s back with her long anticipated Lalah Hathaway Live! album, mirroring her father’s landmark soul album Donny Hathaway Live! in 1972. As Hathaway wrote on her Pledge Music page funding the album, “while I’ve made six studio recordings that I’m very proud of, I’ve always dreamed of creating a live album like my dad’s – feeling and hearing the spirit of the audience, the musical conversation between the players…capturing it all.”
Lalah Hathaway Live! certainly achieves that. As long time admirers of Hathaway have probably anticipated, this is a stunning live album. In a way live albums are tricky business: mistakes cannot be rectified on stage like they can in the studio, a hostile or rowdy crowd can spoil a recording, and even if the live performance goes well in the house, that doesn’t necessarily translate to a great record. Thankfully, and as long time admirers of Hathaway have probably anticipated, this is a stunning live album. The sound is well recorded and well mixed, similar to her father’s impressive live records some four decades ago. Indeed, like her father, Hathaway commands the audience with her presence on stage, with the crowd responding in whoops and hollers to her fabulous performance. Part of the beauty of this live recording – recorded earlier this year in Los Angeles, attended by the likes of Patti LaBelle, Anita Baker and Kenny Lattimore – is the intimacy that Hathaway conveys, in part thanks to the selection of a club rather than theatre, or worse an arena, to record her album in.
She opens up her set with her take on her father’s ‘Little Ghetto Boy’, injecting her unique warmth into a classic. Hathaway also covers one of our favourite Donny Hathaway ballads ‘You Were Meant For Me’, a song he recorded just a year before his passing. His daughter handles the song beautifully, majestically even, pouring her soul into it. Hathaway is one of the best female vocalists of the last twenty years or so, and this proves it: her voice is sultrier than her father’s, but has a unique warmth that many vocalists lack.
Two of the highlights on this brilliant live album are ‘Angel’, and her eleven minute take on the Luther Vandross ballad ‘Forever, For Always, For Love’, which is exquisite. Later on in the set, legend-in-the-making Robert Glasper joins Hathaway on stage on the song ‘Lean On Me’ (not to be confused with the Bill Withers classic), which turns out to be a real tasty treat, particularly Glasper’s incredible keys solo.
Overall, Hathaway has produced one of the soul albums of the year with Lalah Hathaway Live! She has proven that live albums can work and be equally stunning as anything produced in a studio. But more than that she has created a work that’s equally as stunning as her father’s seminal live record, and one that although reflects on the past, looks soulfully towards the future.