Album Review: "Unplugged in New York" ~ Nirvana (1994)

Posted by prla1983 on September 08, 2005 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

A Truly Timeless Record

I am in that group of people who got into Nirvana not during the zenith of their career but rather shortly after Kurt Cobain passed away. In fact, I'm sad I didn't get into the whole grunge scene when it was in its peak because, bashed it might be today, it was a very important time for music at large. Bands like Nirvana, and Kurt Cobain in particular, showed that you don't need to be a technical wizard to play good and most of all heartfelt songs. Three chords are enough if you are sincere. As with many other truly great things in life, some people prefer to misunderstand the whole thing. For them, Kurt Cobain was just a junkie and Nirvana were a piece of trash that helped kill the whole 80s hair metal scene. Your mileage may vary.

I remember walking around school a decade ago and someone had a radio playing this awesome riff out loud. It puzzled me for a while until I finally heard it again, months later, at a friend's place. It was Nirvana's cover of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World". To this day, it may well be my favourite cover ever (and yes, I'm a sucker for good covers). This was also the time I got the whole show on tape and was finally able to perceive how magical that gig turned out to be. What's more eerie is that given the stage dressing, with all the candles and stuff, it's almost unavoidable to say this was like the guy singing at his own funeral (I trust you know what happened months later, if you're reading this review).

From the beautiful renditions of Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World", The Vaselines' "Jesus Don't Want Me For a Sunbeam" and Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night", through Kurt's solo spot in "Pennyroyal Tea", the Meat Puppets appearance for "Oh Me", "Lake of Fire" and "Plateau" and all the other Nirvana songs that just fit so well to the mood, this is a record that simply has no flaws. The production is crystal clear, you can easily distinguish Krist's pounding bass, Kurt's strings and Dave's smooth drumming aswell as the funny banter in between songs.

In hindsight, I have a hard time imagining the real impact this record had at the time, back in 1994 (the show itself took place in 1993). How could this heavy, punkish, hard rocking, livin-on-the-edge band just sit down and play a whole acoustic set? Thing is, they totally pulled it off, everything was completely spontaneous and that's the ultimate testament to the real genious of this band.


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