Bill Withers: Can We Pretend
From +’Justments (Sussex, 1974)
For some reason, Bill Withers has the reputation as someone whose songwriting was better than his singing. I always found this a strange accusation – Withers was certainly a genius writer (“Ain’t No Sunshine” anyone?) but it’s hardly as if he had a terrible voice. It’s true – he didn’t have the range or purity of tone like Marvin Gaye or Sam Cooke but Withers was comforting and familiar – like a good friend to share an afternoon with. For some reason, he reminds me of what a happier Chet Baker might have sounded like singing soul.
Anyways, most soul/funk heads I know own two Withers’ albums – maybe three, but that’s about it: Still Bill, Just As I Am and Menagerie (for “Lovely Day”). But I admit, I’ve always passed by +’Justments and never thought twice about it. Until I listened to it.
The more uptempo, funkier stuff is ok – definitely not as good as what’s on Still Bill but it’s ok. However, it’s the ballads that really shine. “Can We Pretend” is simply sublime, especially Withers’ vocal arrangement. Damn, how did I sleep on this for so long?