Live At Carnegie Hall

(1973), 9/10
Live At Carnegie Hall is a celebrated double live album, and for good reason. It’s a strong document of Withers’ early solo career, showcasing his unique mixture of confidence and humility. It covers enough of Withers’ early highlights that it’s a good one shopping solution for him – although I’d recommend it as a complement to his studio albums, as five of the fifteen songs are Bill Withers’ compositions that aren’t on any of his studio albums.

Some of these songs are transformed in a live setting – for example ‘Better Off Dead’ is much punchier in this live rendition, while ‘Harlem/Cold Baloney’ is transformed into a fourteen minute soul epic. And it captures the essence of Withers, and some of his stage chat is as memorable as his songs – in ‘Grandma’s Hands’ he recalls how lively his grandmother’s church was: “At the funeral they used to have tie the caskets down!”

Live At Carnegie Hall is as valuable as Bill Withers’ studio albums, and it’s one of the few live albums that’s essential, not just to Bill Withers’ fans but as a document of 1970’s soul.

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