Saturday, June 5, 2010


Oh my god, you guys, do you remember the 90's? Bill Clinton was president, and we all dressed in flannel and watched Boy Meets World and the Spice Girls were at the top of the pops and we watched Titanic like 50 times and cried every time. And, holy shit, remember MTV's Unplugged series, where they had beloved artists play acoustic versions of their songs?! It was so rad!

Okay, I'm being flip, but Unplugged was actually a pretty awesome concept that lead to some decent albums by Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Jay-Z. (And actually, wouldn't you know, they apparently still do it periodically, although its been years since an artist I give a shit about has done one).

Neil's is pretty mixed in terms of performance quality, but what's cool about it is he takes the concept to heart and reworks some of his hard rock songs into acoustic versions. I mean, he stills plays some of the obvious songs ("Pocahontas" "The Needle and the Damage Done" "Harvest Moon" and so on). But the real fun is the unexpected stuff, like acoustic versions of "Long May You Run" "Mr. Soul" and "World on a String." Or the upbeat version of "The Old Laughing Lady." Or the organ version of "Like a Hurricane."

The best is probably his folk version of "Transformer Man," a beautiful song that I sense has been unfairly dismissed because of the electro-pop trappings of the album version. The unplugged version is normal enough that it might make some converts.

The other notable track is "Stringman," which as far as I can tell has never been released on any other album. It's not a great song, but, you know, I'm something of a Neil completist, glad I have it in the collection.

Not all the experiments work out, frankly, but they are irresistible to a fan, at least to hear once. As I said before, the performance quality is not consistent, so you're left with an interesting album with a few standout tracks, but it's not one of the live albums you'll return to often.

Rating: B -

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