Tuesday, 13 July 2010

“Someday We’ll All Be Free” by DONNY HATHAWAY. A Review of the 2010 Rhino/Warner Brothers France 4CD Box Set.

"…Take It From Me…Someday We’ll All Be Free…"

Released in February 2010 in Europe only, "Someday We'll All Be Free" is the first ever box set given over to the wonderful American soul artist Donny Hathaway. It has good points and bad, so let's get to the details first...

Warner Brothers France/Rhino 8122798076 breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (76:37 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 9 are his debut LP "Everything Is Everything" released October 1970 in the USA on Atco SD 33-332 and 1971 in the UK on Atco 2465 019
Tracks 10 to 16 are the first 7 of 9 tracks from his 2nd album "Donny Hathaway" released April 1971 in the USA on Atco SD 33-360 and in the UK on Atlantic 2400 143

Disc 2 (66:26 minutes):
Tracks 1 and 2 are the last two songs on the "Donny Hathaway" album (as above)
Tracks 3 to 12 are his 5th album (4th studio) "Extension Of A Man" released July 1973 in the USA on Atco SD-7029 and 1973 in the UK on Atlantic K 40487
Tracks 13 to 17 are Previously Unreleased - "Jealous Guy (Studio Version)". "No Other One But You [1974 Demo]", "The Essence Of Destiny [1974 Demo]", "Going Down [1974 Demo] and "Make It On Your Own [1975 Demo]"

Disc 3 (78:15 minutes)
Track 1 is "This Christmas", a single-only release from November 1970 in the USA on Atco 45-6799 (see Track 4)
Track 2 is "Little Ghetto Boy", title track from the album "Come Back Charleston Blue" - a USA Soundtrack released July 1972 on Atco SD-7010
Track 3 is "A Dream", a previously unreleased bonus track on the "Everything Is Everything" CD reissue from 1995
Track 4 is "Be There", non-album B-side to "This Christmas" (see Track 1)
Track 5 is "Lord Help Me", a bonus track on the "Extension Of A Man" CD reissue from 1993
Track 6 is "You Were Meant For Me" is from "A Donny Hathaway Collection" from 1990 on Atlantic
Track 7 is "What A Woman Really Wants", a previously unreleased track on the 2006 CD compilation "Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Brothers" (recorded January 1973)
Tracks 8 to 15 are his 3rd album "Donny Hathaway Live" released March 1972 in the USA on Atco SD 33-386 and Atlantic K 40369 in the UK

Disc 4 (77:35 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 5 are 5 of the 6 tracks from the 1980 posthumously released live album "In Performance" on Atlantic
Tracks 6 to 11 are the 6 previously unreleased live tracks that were featured on the 14-track posthumous CD compilation "These Songs For You, Live!" issued by Atlantic/Rhino in 2004.
Tracks 12 and 13 are "Nu-Po" and "Love, Love, Love" - two previously unreleased live tracks recorded June 1973 in New York

As you can see from the details above, there are 7 previously unreleased tracks on this box set - 5 demos tagged onto the end of Disc 2 and 2 Live Tracks at the end of Disc 4. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the "Robert Flack & Donny Hathaway" album from 1972 is entirely absent and only one track appears from the 1972 "Come Back Charleston Blue" soundtrack, but that's available as a separate Rhino Remaster from 2007 should you want it (see my review).

Niggles - although new and shrink-wrapped, my copy arrived with one of its plastic clip teeth rattling around in the cheap cardboard digi box. But that's nothing to the hugely underwhelming booklet, which is entirely in French and is next to useless. Its paltry 16 pages do have album sleeves and 7" singles pictured, but little else (4 of those pages are taken up with barely legible track listings for God's sake!). There is at least a nice touch beneath the see-through CD trays where 4 different label variations are reproduced - including the rare US Quadraphonic Version of "Extension Of A Man". But overall - for such a stellar artist - this is yet another shoddy and cheap set of packaging from Rhino - added to a worryingly growing list of them. The demos are ok, but not great - the best probably being "Make It On Your Own" from 1975. And why oh why wasn't this given a British or American release?

But the really good news, however, is the SOUND. There is a logo on the rear of the box which says HIGH QUALITY MASTERING and its been done by someone called ISAAK JASMIN. Comparing the sound to the 1993 Rhino discs, these 2010 versions are clearer and certainly more `present' than before. At times this ups the hiss levels inherent on the master tapes, but not to a point where it becomes overbearing. Typical would be "Take A Love Song" which opens Disc 2 - the old version was lacklustre, even dull - now it's huge and alive as the girls and strings crescendo. The live "In The Ghetto" is astonishing - a gig I would gladly have given a part of my anatomy to attend.

I've always adored the "Extension Of A Man" LP from 1973 and the opening track "I Love The Lord, He Heard My Cry (Parts I & II)" with its strings, clarinets and oboes is now GLORIOUS. That then segues into the box set's title song - the truly beautiful "Someday We'll All Be Free" (lyrics above) - and I'm in floods of tears! The two instrumentals on the album are huge too - the funky wah-wah guitars and keyboards of "Valdez In The Country" and the monstrous bass line of Willie Weeks in "The Slums". Very cool stuff...

So to sum up - there is an improved sound quality for die-hard fans to enjoy, however, newcomers might be better off with the 5CD mini box "Original Album Series" which is cheaper and offers more.

The Beautiful Donny Hathaway folks. Recommended in any language. But docked a star for a less-than-stellar presentation of his heartfelt musical legacy...

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