MAY 1971 (41 YEARS AGO)
Bill Withers: Just as I Am is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4.5/5
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
Just As I Am is the debut studio album by Bill Withers, released in May 1971 on Sussex Records. The album features the hit single “Ain’t No Sunshine”, which was ranked at number 280 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The bluesy ‘Grandma’s Hands’ reached R&B #18 and Pop #42 shortly after its release. Booker T. Jones produced, arranged, and played keyboards on Just as I Am.
One of the sacred texts of 1970s R&B (not to mention ’70s pop), Just as I Am goes toe to toe with STILL BILL for the lofty position of being Bill Withers’s best album. It features Withers’s unique blend of pop, gospel, and soul, filtered through an acoustic-guitar-based singer/songwriter sensibility. The two big hits (the lovelorn “Ain’t No Sunshine” and the bittersweet, nostalgic “Grandma’s Hands”) are staggering enough, but between striking reinventions of others’ material (folkie Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’,” the Beatles’ “Let it Be”) and lesser-known songs that nearly equal the smashes, Just as I Am is incredibly consistent, and captivating from beginning to end. Stack this one up alongside any classic Stevie or Marvin album as one of the milestones of the era.
by Rob Theakston, allmusic
In a career laden with highlights and hallmarks in the annals of soul history, Just as I Am gets rather overlooked as one of the best soul debuts ever issued…
Of course, the instantly recognizable anthem “Ain’t No Sunshine” gets all of the acclaim it so richly deserves, but tracks like “Harlem” and “Better Off Dead” also warrant kudos for the intensity and maturity of their performances. Even when he’s doing covers, Withers treats them as if they are his own compositions and handles them with great delicacy. And while the audio performances are top-notch, the new documentary on the making of the record, as well as rare performances of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Ain’t Her Daddy,” and “Harlem” are the icing on the proverbial cake.
All songs written and composed by Bill Withers; except where indicated.
1 Harlem – 3:23
2 Ain’t No Sunshine – 2:04
3 Grandma’s Hands – 2:00
4 Sweet Wanomi – 2:34
5 Everybody’s Talkin’ (Fred Neil) – 3:26
6 Do It Good – 2:53
1 Hope She’ll Be Happier – 3:49
2 Let It Be (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – 2:35
3 I’m Her Daddy – 3:17
4 In My Heart – 4:20
5 Moanin’ and Groanin’ – 2:59
6 Better Off Dead – 2:16