In addition to Green, Hathaway recruited other esteemed kindred spirits to either co-write or contribute tailor-made tunes. The list includes Lewis Williams, Lee Hutson, Jr., Errol Cooney, James Day, James Fauntleroy, Rahsaan Patterson, Terrence Lilly, Jonathan Richmond, Mike City, Dave Young, Bryan Sledge, Eddie Serrano, Rich King,Andre Harris and Vidal Davis. Recruiting such top-tier songwriters – some of who have penned hits for Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Bilal, Babyface, Musiq Soulchild, and host of others, demonstrates Hathaway’s long-held status in contemporary R&B. This album contains several up-tempo gems that are sure to heat up urban radio stations and nightclubs. For example, check out “If You Want To,” the album’s thumping, synth-driven first single, penned with Patterson, Richmond, and Lilly and the effervescent “My Everything,” which she co-wrote with Jonathan Richmond. The slinky groove of Hutson, Jr.’s “Small of My Back” is also undeniable.
Where It All Begins comes on the heels of Hathaway’s most successful album to date, 2008’s Self Portrait, her first record for legendary soul label Stax Records. The album reached the top ten on the Top R&B Albums chart and included the Grammy® nominated (Best Female R&B Vocal) song “That Was Then.” Indeed, Hathaway intoxicates as a storyteller. Even though her voice brims with magnetism, she never overpowers it to point of drowning out the lyrics. As with previous albums, Where It All Begins comes loaded with enduring songs that sound personal yet easily relatable, touching upon affairs of the heart as well as the everyday joys of life.
The disc comes on strong from the get-go. Andre Harris and Vidal Davis’ gutsy “Strong Woman,” is a sassy cautionary tale, urging lotharios to step up to the plate and stop taking their devoted female lovers for granted. Naturally, the singer hasn’t abandoned her R&B roots. Where It All Begins includes luxurious slow jams such as “This Could Be Love” (co-written with Green and Lewis), on which she sings of joys and fears of truly falling in love with that someone special, and City’s bittersweet “Always Love You,” which hints of the sadness leaving an unfulfilling romantic relationship.
Hard-core fans will certainly be delighted with the newly arranged and recorded “I’m Coming Back,” a Quiet-Storm jewel, written by Gary Taylor, which appeared on her 1990 eponymous debut. It’s a song that’s remained a highlight of her live shows for two decades. “No matter, where I go – churches, festivals, Japan, South Africa – people love that song,” Hathaway says, “This version has a different arrangement, because it’s morphed over the years. I decided to rerecord it. We added vocalist Rachelle Ferrell at the end, which is really sublime.” When it comes to honoring her predecessors, perhaps there’s no other greater example on Where It All Begins than with her spellbinding take on “You Were Meant For Me,” a chestnut that her late father – the incomparable Donny Hathaway recorded.
In view of Donny Hathaway’s landmark albums and indisputable influence on generations of singers worldwide, she speaks of him as a guiding light, especially when it comes to interpreting other people’s music. “I really listened to my dad’s own songs,” Hathaway says fondly, “ ‘Jealous Guy’ by John Lennon – I always thought my father owned that,” she laughs, “I just grew up with the approach of opening yourself up to create something beautiful, that’s a love letter to what came before.” On Where It All Begins, Lalah Hathaway unquestionably succeeds at opening herself up in new and profound ways, striving for artistic higher ground and to ‘create something beautiful.’ “I feel like I’m at the top of my game, like I’m at the beginning again,” she says, excitedly. “There aren’t many artists, particularly female singers, who after 20 years, are kind of still on the come up. I feel like I’m on the come up.”