Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Donny Hathaway - Extension of a Man (1973)


When I was in high school jazz band, the director (shout out to Mr. P!) gave us a chart that I fell in love with the first time we played it.  It was titled Valdez In The Country and the promo line at the top of the sheet music stated something like "as heard on Chariots of Fire, the new Qwest album from Ernie Watts."  At the time, I had never heard of saxophonist Ernie Watts, but I found a copy of the 1982 album and listened to this track over and over.


I'm not sure how I discovered that it was a cover of a Donny Hathaway tune, but as soon as I did, I sought out Hathaway's version as well, which led me to this album.  As much as I liked the Watts version of Valdez In The Country, it ain't got nuthin' on the wah-wah guitar and electric piano of the Hathaway original.

Sadly, before purchasing this CD, I knew very little of Hathaway beyond Valdez In The Country, The Ghetto, and his beautiful duets with Roberta Flack.  But this album lives up to its title; Hathaway is truly stretching out as a songwriter here. Influenced by everyone from George Gershwin to Marvin Gaye to Maurice Ravel to Stevie Wonder, we're treated to inner city soul, jazz-fusion jams, gospel, beautiful orchestrated instrumentals, and R&B tunes. The lyrics have a definite autobiographical quality to them. It isn't a cohesive album, but it is soulful, painful at times, and certainly ambitious.  Don't put it on for background music; this thing requires your full attention and active listening.

Liner notes on the 1993 CD reissue are top notch.  Recommended.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #69
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #18 

Tracks:  If you've read this far, you know my favorite tune on this one is the instrumental Valdez In The Country. The sweeping, epic first ten minutes of side one, I Love The Lord He Heard My Cry (Parts I & II) segueing into Someday We'll All Be Free, with its perfectly subdued trumpet solo from Marvin Stamm, will stop you in your tracks, too.  And we haven't even gotten to the singles yet.  The singles from this album were I Love You More Than You Ever Know (#60 pop, #20 R&B), Come Little Children (#67 R&B), and Love Love Love (#44 pop, #16 R&B) - and they're all good, especially Love Love Love.  The only skippable track is the retro novelty tune, Magdalena, but I usually don't because while this album is certainly a pastiche, it must be heard start-to-finish for full impact.  The bonus track, Lord Help Me (written by Billy Preston), was originally the flipside to I Love You More Than You Ever Know and why it was relegated to a b-side is beyond me.


Personal Memory Associated with this CD:  See above.  To my knowledge, that Ernie Watts album has never been reissued on CD, but I still have a vinyl copy.  I transferred it to digital a while back, but it only gets played when I'm feeling nostalgic and replaying high school memories in my head.

4 comments:

  1. First, thanks for the reminder that I haven't listened to Hathaway in a bit. Will certainly rectify that today.

    Secondly, on your recommendation in January 2013, I sought out the Ernie Watts album on CD - it was reissued on the Wounded Bird label in 2005 and may be out of print.

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    1. I stand corrected. Wounded Bird is an ill-advised name, no?

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    2. I've always assumed "Wounded Bird" was a metaphor related to rescuing (or nursing back to health) long overlooked & neglected albums. But that's just my take... I'm here all day, folks!

      By the way, what's nostalgia worth to you, Kid? Cuz' that Ernie Watts album will be available on July 15th via Japanese import: http://www.ccmusic.com/music/cd/2774509/ernie-watts-chariots-of-fire – Limited Edition, so get it while it's hot!

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    3. Dammit Dirk! You sure know how to spend my money!

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