Ain't No Sunshine: The Best of Bill Withers
Ain't No Sunshine is a two-disc set for Bill Withers completists, and it's about time they had one. Other Withers compilations have revealed little about the '70s soul man with the thick, honeyed voice and the gift for picking emotional locks: alongside such must-have hits as "Lovely Day," "Lean on Me," and "Ain't No Sunshine," the lesser-known songs have fallen cripplingly short, and until this release few have tried to shore them up with context. Ain't No Sunshine does, if only through its final eight tracks: live versions of "Friend of Mine," "Better Off Dead," "Let Me in Your Life," and others reveal Withers as a moody, gentle giant of an artist in or out of the recording studio. They hold a mirror up to a man who expertly encapsulated surges of feeling, and they demonstrate that for some artists, holding a microphone is more about suffusing a room with honesty than creating a spectacle.