These Songs For You, Live!

Voices such as Donny Hathaway's come along maybe once a decade. Before his brief but influential career was cut short by suicide in 1979, Hathaway proved himself a maestro of protest soul who effused equal amounts of political anger and romantic tenderness. Culled from several early-Seventies concerts, These Songs for You, Live! displays the passion and charm that have inspired artists from Alicia Keys to the Neptunes, as well as his knack for finding a great band. The luxurious, previously unreleased rendition of "Someday We'll All Be Free" brims with electrifying piano runs; his take on "A Song for You" is shiver-inducing; and the casual seduction of "You've Got a Friend" turns into a joyous singalong. There are some missteps: The instrumental "Valdez in the Country" is inexplicably placed as the disc's second song, and Hathaway's version of Stevie Wonder's "Superwoman" sounds rootless. But what emerges most is Hathaway's irrepressible charisma and talent; in his hands, even "Yesterday" became a blues lament nonpareil.

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