While Jesse Winchester has earned an estimable reputation as a songwriter, when he was at the peak of his popularity in the 1970s he had a low profile as a live act, due to the fact he'd moved to Canada rather than be drafted into the United States military during the Vietnam War, effectively preventing him from playing in America. The shame of this was Winchester had a supple tenor voice and a dry but soulful delivery that was the perfect vehicle for his keenly observed observational songs, and as this disc shows, he could use them with skill in front of an audience. Live preserves a recording of Winchester in wry and enthusiastic form on-stage; the package includes no information as to when or where this was recorded, but Winchester's endorsement of Jimmy Carter in a rewritten version of "Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt" suggests this was recorded around 1977, and the band (also uncredited) sounds polished but with just enough funk around the edges to make the most of Winchester's R&B accents. (It's also interesting to listen to Winchester in his prime and wonder how much Lyle Lovett learned from his vocal style.) The recording quality is not especially good (judging from the audio, it may have been sourced from a radio broadcast), and Winchester claims on his website that this was released without his authorization, so those with only a casual interest in his work need not bother with this, but especially enthusiastic fans might want to give it a listen, as it features this underrated talent in fine form.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming