The 58-track Never My Love: The Anthology, very different from the 61-track French and Japanese release Someday We'll All Be Free (2010), appeals slightly more to fanatics than it does newcomers. Disc one covers Donny Hathaway's singles and albums highlights, from 1969 and 1972 A-sides recorded with June Conquest through 1978's "You Were Meant for ...
The 58-track Never My Love: The Anthology, very different from the 61-track French and Japanese release Someday We'll All Be Free (2010), appeals slightly more to fanatics than it does newcomers. Disc one covers Donny Hathaway's singles and albums highlights, from 1969 and 1972 A-sides recorded with June Conquest through 1978's "You Were Meant for Me." There's a lot of familiar ground, all of it representative, but many selections differ from the album counterparts, including the two-part 7" version of "The Ghetto," the promo edit of "Thank You Master (For My Soul)," and single edits of "Giving Up," "A Song for You," and "Come Little Children." The second disc consists of unreleased studio recordings, none of which overlaps with the material unearthed on Someday We'll All Be Free. Unfortunately, that means Hathaway's cover of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" isn't present, but there are two slices of hard and heavy soul that date from the late '60s, a mighty interpretation of "Never My Love" (a platinum hit for the Association), the gorgeously bittersweet "Memory of Our Love," and a fascinating 20-minute concerto. Other tracks, not quite aimless but sensibly left in the archive, help fans fill in the gaps of the mid- to late-'70s period when Hathaway's creativity was severely impaired. Disc three, all newly issued as well, is like an alternate, not quite as hot edition of Live. It draws from the eight sets Hathaway performed during three October 1971 nights at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village. None of it was included on any of the previous Hathaway live albums, yet they're no mere scraps, highlighted by similarly sprawling trips through "Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)" and "The Ghetto" that involve tremendous interplay between Hathaway and his formidable band. Finally, the last quarter of the anthology contains all of the 1972 classic Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, as well as three additional Roberta/Donny duets produced by giants James Mtume and Reggie Lucas: the number two Hot 100 hit "The Closer I Get to You," "You Are My Heaven," and the undervalued boogie gem "Back Together Again." Charles Waring's lengthy essay is an illuminating and deeply emotional read, with quotes from those who worked closest with Hathaway, including Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, and Flack. The CD edition is shaped like a DVD set, fold-out style, with sharp design. It's a long overdue treat for anyone interested in a genius whose talents as a singer, keyboard player, songwriter, arranger, and producer gave the world a bounty of life-affirming and inspiring music. Hopefully an enterprising label has the resources to endure the licensing nightmares required to release a compilation that showcases Hathaway's work for artists like the Unifics, the Impressions, Curtis Mayfield, Phil Upchurch, Roberta Flack, Jerry Butler, and Willie Nelson. Paired with this, we'd get the full scope of the man's work. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi