Picks and Pans Review: Lalah Hathaway
Most 21-year-old singers don't graduate from Boston's Berklee School of Music in June, sign a record deal and step right into the studio to make their debut. Fewer still find themselves in that studio with such top producers as Angela Winbush, Andre Fischer and Chuckii Booker or such ace musicians as Jeff Lorber. Jeff Porcaro and some of the Yellowjackets. But then most singers don't have this young lady's bloodlines.
Her father was Donny Hathaway, the '70s R&B star who committed suicide 11 years ago, and her mother, Eulalah, is a respected operatic soprano. So Lalah was accorded most-favored-artist status by her label right off the bat. She makes the most of it on this tastefully soulful collection, the highlights of which are the graceful dip-and-sway of "Somethin' " by Brenda Russell and David Foster, the wicked bite of Winbush's "Baby Don't Cry" and the raptorial funk of "U-Godit Gowin On" by Craig T. Cooper and DeBorah J.R. Cooper.
Hathaway doesn't possess the virtuoso instrument of a Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston, but her voice is limpid, smooth and bracing, with just a hint of sultriness. You have only to listen to "Obvious" or "I'm Coming Back" to realize that she has a very sure, remarkably mature flair for phrasing.
Of course, anyone would sound pretty good surrounded by the kind of talent Hathaway has been blessed to work with on this record. But they wouldn't sound this good. (Virgin)