August 17th, 2010
Now, it is time for part two of the Archive series, a homage to essential albums that you may have dearly missed in your life.
This week is the “Live” LP, released in 1972 by seminal American soul artist Donny Hathaway on Atlantic Recordings. Download at end of post.
Donny Hathaway started out as a songwriter, pianist, arranger and producer for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, the Staple Singers and Jerry Butler, among others. He released a slew of albums during the 70s, however “Live” LP, shines out as the gem in Hathaway’s discography.
“Live” is made up of recordings from two different concerts performed in 1972. Side one, on the West coast of America in the Troubadour, Hollywood and side two, on the East coast in the Bitter End, Greenwich Village NYC.
America-wide, people’s heart-felt reaction to Hathaway’s music is heard clearly on this album, as the kinetic static of the audience swarms around the warm soul at its core. In an intimate 4-piece live setting (bass, keys/organs/vocals, guitar, drums), Donny imparts both echoes of gospel and jazz and a social conscience, presenting an extremely relevant LP/concert for black people living in 1970s America.
The remarkable thing about “Live” is that it has an overriding (or under riding) textural energy which allows the album to extend a unique connection to human souls across the globe.
This energy is made up of Hathaway’s consistent audience involvement and the crowds instinctive responses to his crooning requests, which are well captured on the recordings. Also, integral to this “feel”, is the band’s effortless musicianship and jazz improvisation. Many of the tracks begin with a 3 minute soul workout, morphing into extended musical discussions, each player allowing each other time to express the spontaneity which makes this album so special.
Donny Hathaway is the king of the band (and crowd); his vocal and keyboard chops colouring the album’s original and covered tunes, with a very personal touch. His voice, indicative of Stevie Wonder’s vocal control and tone, expresses an earnst which turns Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” (released within a year of this album), into a personal, less orchestrated affair, maintaining an innate understanding of the social angst at the heart of the original.
The raw spontaneity, jazz chops and a specific yet all encompassing relevancy that keeps renewing itself each generation, makes “Live” a seminal, often overlooked release. The concerts that make up the album were very special times and places in history, and have been captured perfectly and pressed on wax.
Donny Hathaway obviously had some demons in his life, which eventually got the better of him, when he was found dead on the sidewalk below the window of his 15th-floor room in New York’s Essex House hotel in 1979. The musical legacy he left behind indicated however, that Donny was full of a love that he could project with elegance and power.
This album is good for the soul. Peep it.
Donny Hathaway – Live (1972 Atlantic) (Download)
1. What’s Goin’ On
2. The Ghetto
3. Hey Girl
4. You’ve Got A Friend
5. Little Ghetto Boy
6. We’re Still Friends
7. Jealous Guy
8. Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)