Released during Marvin Gaye's two-and-a-half-year sabbatical following the chart-topping success of Let's Get It On, Live! features the erratic soul superstar moving briskly through some of his biggest hits. The album-opening "Trouble Man" wields considerable weight, instantly establishing an engaging tone. From there Gaye moves toward an 11-minute medley of his '60s classics that comes across as almost a montage of nostalgia, evoking wistful memories of a more innocent and untainted Marvin. Following this medley, the album hits its fiery peak with versions of "Let's Get It On" and "What's Going On," his two biggest hits of the moment. Live! isn't quite as essential as 1977's Live at the London Palladium, lacking the scope and instrumentation of that double LP. Regardless, it's still a great snapshot of Gaye at a key point in his career -- the mid-'70s sabbatical from which he would never return quite the same.
by Jason Birchmeier