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Live at the London Palladium
Marvin Gaye

Tamla 352
Released: March 1977
Chart Peak: #3
Weeks Charted: 26

Marvin GayeAlong with Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye must be considered one of the most reticent pop performers. This is his second live album in three years, a period bridged by only one studio effort, the disappointing I Want You.

Gaye has been admittedly ill at ease as a live performer. Interviews have revealed his obsessiveness with onstage perfection, as well as his plain old stage fright. The 1974 live record, recorded at his first stage appearance in almost five years, found him awkwardly fronting a large orchestra. Three years later, Gaye still seems nervous in front of an audience. Often at a loss for things to say between songs, he mumbles sweet nothings into the microphone. But the band has been pared down to a more agile 11 pieces, and though Gaye keeps the energy level low throughout, there are some real bright spots: a strong reading of his show stopper, "Distant Lover," and a remarkably fluid medley, with splashy newcomer Florence Lyles, of his Tammi Terrell/Kim Weston duets.

Though this record is a holding action for Gaye, it contains one real bonus. Side four is a hypnotizing 11-minute party groove called "Got to Give It Up." Gaye sings in a strained falsetto while fronting a quartet (Marvin plays keyboards) chugging through the most energetic Gaye record since "Let's Get It On." Many may prefer the edited 45 to the album's extended version (it grows on you, like the whole of JBs' "Doing It to Death"), but "Got to Give It Up," the story of a wallflower who shucks his inhibitions, is hard to resist. It's like Marvin Gaye coming home.

- Joe McEwen, Rolling Stone, 6/2/77.

Bonus Reviews!

Marvin Gaye has recorded a score of great performances since the 1960's -- "Hitch Hike," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Ain't That Peculiar," "Inner City Blues," and "You're All I Need to Get By" are among them -- but his craftsmanship belongs more to the recording studio than the stage. Three sides of this double-disc album are of a live performance in which Gaye sings medleys of his long string of hits, but the pedestrian arrangements make them all sound like the same song; the dynamics, twists and turns, and gritty moods of the original studio performances are pressed flat as a Peking duck. The fourth side, thrown in for good (and commercial) measure, is the unedited eleven-minute-plus version of "Got to Give It Up," which has been a hit in the discos. There is nothing to commend here except the drummer, who should receive an award for devotion to duty. Gaye is better than this album shows, and he deserves better.

- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 8/77.

Gaye's slick, polished sensuality shines through on this on-location recording. The two disks are a compendium of past and present hits, polished and embellished by Gaye's own touring musicians with soft vocal assistance from Florence Lyles. The funky soulfulness of the arrangements sound as engaging on the Palladium's stage as they do anywhere Gaye brings his music. Gaye is in top form as he coos and cajoles his way through his tunes of love and anguish. Best cuts: This LP is a show which has the tracks flowing together but it includes some familiar old works like "Ain't That Peculiar," "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," "Inner City Blues."

- Billboard, 1977.

Especially considering how awkward Gaye can be on stage, this isn't bad for a live Motown album -- the arrangements are finky, but some of Marvin's more interesting vocal quirks seem to have survived editing. Which is not to suggest that the live stuff is worth owning. "Got To Give It Up," on the other hand, is his quadrennial studio masterpiece, and its 11:48 are cut up on the single. Still, I think the single is what I'd buy -- while petitioning for a disco disc. B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

This is Motown showbiz captured in concert -- long medleys featuring abbreviated glimpses of classic material and a lack of cohesiveness between the singer and the band. But Marvin was communicating that night, and the interaction between artist and audience creates genuine excitement every now and again, particularly on "Trouble Man." The sound is boxy and compressed. It's also overbright on some vocals, but never truly harsh. Still an improvement over the LP. C+

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.

As fine a live album as Marvin Gaye ever made. The final track, the extended version of "Gotta Give It Up," still gets wide airplay at parties and in clubs. It was among his greatest uptempo hits ever, and the full treatment includes some wonderful instrumental work at the end accompanying Gaye's floating vocals and fleeing sighs. * * *

- Ron Wynn, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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