Thursday, 12 February 2009

Lalah Hathaway - Self Portrait

This was yet another highly anticipated album for 2008, and also appears on the revamped Stax imprint. For me, this is the best release from the new Stax to date. “Self Portrait” is a consistent listen from a mature woman for the mature listener. The single release has certainly caused a real buzz in the UK, and a very wholesome, chunky song it is too. A modern number, yes, but with plenty of old-school sensibility to boot. The percussion, slap bass, horns and keys all add layers to it and allow it to stand out from the crowd. If this song has already pricked your ears up then you will simply love the album. The set flows along at a similar pace, probably needing to diversify a little for my particular fancy, but nonetheless is a solid listen. Take “Breath” for instance. The airy feel, gentle rhythm and acoustic feel is perfect for a warm day like today, and if this is your bag – as it is mine – then you will be impressed. I really am impressed with the 70s Isleys feeling of “On Your Own”. This will, I am sure, be a top tune of many readers in 2008. This is classy adult music, no more no less. Songwriting like this is not surprising when we look at the credits to see that Rex Rideout and Rahsaan Patterson are responsible! Pure class.
“For Always” follows a similar groove of the single release, but the dreamy “That Was Then” takes precedence in my mind. The sensual, deep nature of Lalah Hathaway as a singer really comes to the fore on a number like this, and I feel that the likes of Rideout and co-writer Sandra St. Victor are well placed to showcase this for the beautiful, sexy Lady. Marcus Miller is unmistakeable on bass on the Lalah Hathaway produced and written KILLER “Learning To Swim”. This, musically, is a delightful mix of quiet storm soul and jazz and has an appeal to those who may – as I do – love the works of Joni Mitchell. Lyrically and musically strong, I feel that this is a hands-down winner. The guitar work is extremely captivating too, and if widely and openly played would attract her greater fandom from outside the R&B scene. No bad thing. “1 Mile” is a bit too contemporary for me, but isn't crass. Instead I prefer the Rideout / Patterson / Victor number “Little Girl”which again works on everything best about this sexy young Woman. For a drop-dead slice of jazzy soul check out “What Goes Around” which is perfectly paced and so suitable for her unique style. Intelligent lyrics, too. For me there is no “If U Ever” of “Boston” on here BUT the album flows and is, as such, more consistent.

Barry Towler

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