Recorded in October, 1972, at the peak of his fame, Bill Withers’ Live At Carnegie Hall affirms everything that is special about its author: his warmth, his forthrightness, his force. The album is the culmination of a West Virginia factory worker’s rise to the country’s most hallowed stage, with Withers determined to share every ounce of his elation and gratitude with his audience. The live setting gives him an opportunity to mine his songs for all they were worth. The snaky groove of “Use Me Up” is turned into a climatic eight-minute anthem, while the introspective despair of “Hope She’ll Be Happier” becomes a subtly orchestrated prayer for strings and piano. His rapport with his band and audience is astonishing; the crowd sits in rapt silence for story songs like “Let Me In Your Life,” while “Lean On Me” is nothing short of a full-bore congregational jubilee with Withers as minister. Every sound is illustrated with more fullness and detail than a studio could ever hope to offer. With Curtis Mayfield’s Curtis Live! and Donny Hathaway’s Live, Carnegie Hall is part of a family of revelatory early-Seventies soul concert celebrations.