Friday, June 29, 2007
Get on Down With Donny Hathaway ... Live!
Donny Hathaway - Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)
Sometimes there's nothing like a nice get-down jam session to get someone in a weekend frame of mind, and so today's feature, a live Donny Hathaway recording, can lead the way! I'll defer to the All Music Guide for Hathaway's biographical details so as to get right down to cases.
"Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)" was the title track of Hathaway's 1970 Atco debut LP, and its groove had already inspired a cover version by the Soulful Strings (whose guitarist, session guitar ace Phil Upchurch, had actually played on the Hathaway album) by the time Hathaway did a nice long workout of it for his 1972 Live LP. Hathaway had some serious heavy-hitters behind him for this LP, most notably Cornell Dupree (who was probably the most in-demand session guitarist in R&B at the time) and bass guitarist Willie Weeks (more on him later), and this performance of "Voices Inside" found Hathaway and company stretching out in order to give almost every member of such a talented crew opportunities to solo. Hathaway, in a show of his classical training, refers to each section as a "movement" and the audience's enthusiasm builds with each one.
But then Willie Weeks steals the show with his "movement." Bass solos are often underappreciated in most recorded R&B and are, accordingly, infrequent. Willie Weeks' solo here ranks right up there with Bob Babbitt's legendary solo on Dennis Coffey's "Scorpio" and Fred Thomas' solo on "More Peas" by the J.B.'s as one of my favorite bass solos. Weeks starts off by laying a basic groove foundation but then he moves into more and more daring territory, culminating in a cascade of flurrying notes at the end of the solo that has the crowd cheering before he eases back into the tune's groove with a playful take on "Shortning Bread." Weeks' solo "makes" the recording, in my opinion, and I think it makes for a nice "get down" to take into the weekend. Get on down, y'all!
POSTSCRIPT - Donnie Hathaway's musical education included studies at Howard University, where he was friends with Carla Thomas, who was at the time the Queen of Stax Records (and was touring and recording during breaks and weekends). As I mentioned in my recent Carla Thomas post, Concord is going to issue, for the first time, a live album Carla recorded in D.C. in 1966 but that Stax did not release. Hathaway was part of Carla's backing band for the album; this may be one of the earliest recorded Hathaway appearances!