Lalah Hathaway, one of contemporary R&B's most prized artists and in-demand vocalists will release her sixth solo album and second for Stax Records, Where It All Begins on October 18th, 2011. The versatile, critically acclaimed musician, songwriter, vocalist and producer found creative regeneration and newfound energy making this record, an artistic re-birth she's eager to share with anyone willing to listen. "Everybody is an artist in some way," Hathaway enthuses, "I wanted to explore what that really means. For me it meant walking into being the artist I've always wanted to be. It was an opportunity for me to embrace my independence as an artist through my music and connection to my fans."
Hathaway brings that message home splendidly on the gorgeous title track, penned by her and Ernest Green. "If you say what you mean/And mean what you say," she croons at the beginning of "Where It All Begins", showcasing her sensual alto over a languid, hypnotic groove. The emotionally mature ballad finds her deftly articulating the meaning of being true to oneself, despite flashy trends and easy cash-ins. Her searching yet serene voice evoke a perceptive confidence that comes with being open to new experiences as well as comfortable in one's skin.
In addition to Green, Hathaway recruited other esteemed kindred spirits to either co-write or contribute tailor-made tunes. The list includes Lewis Williams, Lee Hutson, Jr., Errol Cooney, James Day, James Fauntleroy, Rahsaan Patterson, Terrence Lilly, Jonathan Richmond, Mike City, Dave Young, Bryan Sledge, Eddie Serrano, Rich King, Andre Harris and Vidal Davis. Recruiting such top-tier songwriters - some of whom have penned hits for Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Bilal, Babyface,Musiq Soulchild, and host of others, demonstrates Hathaway's long-held status in contemporary R&B. "I went on Twitter and Facebook and said, ‘I'm looking to collaborate with writers and get songs from people,'" explaining how she chose her collaborators. "I really wanted to open myself up to the people. I don't have a bias of who gets to work with me. I really love a great song and a great lyric."
Where It All Begins comes on the heels of Hathaway's most successful album to date, 2008's Self Portrait, her first record forlegendary soul label Stax Records. The album reached the top ten on the TopR&B Albums chart and included the Grammy® nominated (Best Female R&B Vocal) song "That Was Then." When it comes to evaluating what makes a timeless song worthy of Hathaway's extraordinary vocals and interpretive gifts, she relies on the basics: melody, harmony and rhythm. "There are a lot of songs that just have one or two of those elements and still last forever," Hathaway says, "But it's also about the story that you're telling and the tone of the voice. Tone is king."
Indeed, Hathaway intoxicates as a storyteller. Even though her voice brims with magnetism, she never overpowers it to point of drowning out the lyrics. As with previous albums, Where It All Begins comesloaded with enduring songs that sound personal yet easily relatable, touching upon affairs of the heart as well as the everyday joys of life.
The disc comes on strong from the get-go. Andre Harris and Vidal Davis' gutsy "Strong Woman," is a sassy cautionary tale, urging lotharios to step up to the plate and stop taking their devoted female lovers for granted. "When I heard it, I heard it for everyone," Hathaway says, "I heard it for my mother; I heard it for my piano teacher; I heard it for my aunt Anne; I heard it for my best girlfriends. It's just one of those great, bouncy songs with a lot of attitude, which is a place that people don't always see me in."
Hathaway makes other startling moves on the lush "Lie to Me," a song written by Harris, Davis, Serrano and King, reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt's torch ballad, "I Can't Make You Love Me." "It's a true power ballad, outside the range most people expect from me," Hathaway says, "It has me singing outside of my range, so people can really hear the urgency."
Fauntleroy and Hutson's stripped-down "Wrong Way," with its strong emphasis on voice, piano, drums, guitar and bass, finds Hathaway excelling at singing unabashed adult pop with bracing conviction. Then there's the gentle lullaby, "Dreamland," co-written with Day and Cooney, on which Hathaway displays her motherly instincts as she tucks a young one to bed accompanied by evocative guitars and a caressing melody. "Part of the reason for choosing some of these songs was to challenge the perception of me as an artist," Hathaway explains.
Naturally, the singer hasn't completely abandoned her R&B roots. Where It All Begins includes luxurious slow jams such as "This Could Be Love" (co-written with Green and Lewis), on which she sings of joys and fears of truly falling in love with that someone special, and City's bittersweet "Always Love You," which hints of the sadness leaving an unfulfilling romantic relationship.
This album contains several up-tempo gems that are sure to heat up urban radio stations and nightclubs. For example, check out "If You Want To," the album's thumping, synth-driven first single, penned with Patterson, Richmond, and Lilly and the effervescent "My Everything," which she co-wrote with Jonathan Richmond. The slinky groove of Hutson, Jr.'s "Small of My Back" is also undeniable.
Hard-core fans will certainly be delighted with the newly arranged and recorded "I'm Coming Back," a Quiet-Storm jewel, written by Gary Taylor, which appeared on her 1990 eponymous debut. It's a song that's remained a highlight of her live shows for two decades. "No matter, where I go - churches, festivals, Japan, South Africa - people love that song," Hathaway says, "This version has a different arrangement, because it's morphed over the years. I decided to rerecord it. We added vocalist Rachelle Ferrell at the end, which is really sublime."
Interesting enough, Hathaway's sensational rendition of "I'm Coming Back" is so definitive that many people don't realize that it was a cover when she first recorded it for her debut LP. Powerhouse R&B singer, Vesta Williams, originally recorded the song. "Part of my career has been built on honoring those who came before me, retelling those stories, and really trying to create new standards out of those songs," Hathaway says.
When it comes to honoring her predecessors, perhaps there's no other greater example on Where It All Begins than with her spellbinding take on "You Were Meant For Me," a chestnut that her late father - the incomparable Donny Hathaway recorded.
Hathaway was only ten when her legendary father died in January 1979. Yet through his landmark albums and indisputable influence on generations of singers worldwide, she speaks of him as a guiding light, especially when it comes to interpreting other people's music. "I really listened to my dad's own songs," Hathaway says fondly, " ‘Jealous Guy' by John Lennon - I always thought my father owned that," she laughs, "I just grew up with the approach of opening yourself up to create something beautiful, that's a love letter to what came before."
On Where It All Begins, Lalah Hathaway unquestionably succeeds at opening herself up in new and profound ways, striving for artistic higher ground and ‘creating something beautiful.' "I feel like I'm at the top of my game, like I'm at the beginning again," she says, excitedly. "There aren't many artists, particularly female singers, who after 20 years, are kind of still on the come up. I feel like I'm on the come up."
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