A nearly 80-minute live album from 1977, Live at the London Palladium effectively compresses most of Marvin Gaye's numerous career highlights, making it a wonderful retrospective of the justly mythologized soul singer's accomplishments. Almost everything is here that could be: his '60s hits, his duets, the best moments from What's Going On, a trio of highlights each from Let's Get It On and I Want You, and even a bonus studio track, the magnificent 12-minute disco-funk epic "Got to Give It Up." Gaye performs with a sense of exuberance no doubt fueled by the large, appreciative audience. Furthermore, his rapport with the audience becomes well apparent and welcome during "Come Get to This" and "Let's Get It On"; during this pair of back-to-back odes to sex, you can feel the sultry passion in his voice as his singing drifts close to moaning and his ad libbing approaches tasteful, amorous aural lovemaking. Yet as intimate as Gaye is while singing, he's undeniably uncomfortable when talking: just before beginning his medley of '60s hits, he stumbles over his mumbled words, confessing, "I'll tell you, I don't do this so good so, you know, I might just stop and go right into the song. I'm really nuts," before halting mid-sentence rather than rambling any longer. Another revealing moment comes just before the duet medley, when Marvin speaks pensively of Tammi Terrell -- after the audience applauds her name, he wistfully whispers, "Oh, she'd like that...for her I thank you." These subtle between-song moments prove revealing in retrospect, illustrating just how shaken Gaye is at this troubled point in his career. Listen carefully and you can sense the struggling instability that would erupt cathartically a year later with Hear, My Dear. In addition to being historically noteworthy, Live at the London Palladium also stands as the best and most readily available portrait of Gaye's live performances -- a far different and more intimate experience than his studio releases and one that every fan should experience.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
feat: Florence Lyles