First Hit #1: June 25, 1977
I have a certain distrust of live albums. By definition, they’re not recorded as cleanly as a studio release, because you can’t control live environments, but the reason is they always seem like a cash in. I might be burned by some bad releases, but they’re most often the greatest hits, performed badly, maybe with a bit of stage banter. A live show is different, since the performer is there and you’re part of the crowd and experience, but it’s rare that you can bottle that lightning.
Got to Give It Up isn’t a bad example of a live track, Gaye and his band sound as good as they would in any context. The shouts from the crowd give an odd effect, since it sounds like they’re either dancing and having a good time or aren’t actually listening to the performance and are talking amongst themselves. I’m not sure that it bottles the lightning, in spite of Gaye’s best efforts, but unlike a lot of live work it also doesn’t sound like anything was lost by releasing the song as a live track. Still, it doesn’t quite bring the live experience home, and as a result I kind of wish it was just a normal studio track. Call me boring if you must.