This is a review of the October 2013 release of the 2CD+DVD package "Deluxe Edition" box set.
The original disc of Unplugged scarcely needs another review from me because there are plenty of informative views on it already published. I will just say that, as a fully paid-up Clapton devotee of over 45 years standing, I think it's one of his very finest albums, full of great songs, brilliant guitar work and fine, sincere singing from Eric. The band are excellent and the overall effect is stunning - it really is a Classic Album in my view. If you don't already own the original, don't hesitate - this is a very generous package for the price and you won't be disappointed.
The question is, do those of us who have already bought it (twice, in my case: once on cassette and once on CD) need this Extended Edition? There are two additions to the original album: a short disc of six extra tracks and a DVD of the performances recorded on the original album plus some rehearsal material. Personally, I'm not that fussed about owning the DVD because I prefer to just listen, and for me the Bonus Tracks disc doesn't add enough to make it worth buying the whole lot again. Like a lot of "bonus material," what it really shows is that they chose the best stuff for the original album. Worried Life Blues is the only really worthwhile track among the bonus tracks, I think. We get two very similar takes of My Father's Eyes and one of Circus, neither of which is a particularly great song, and there are also the rejected takes of Running On Faith and Walking Blues which add nothing to the original album versions.
My verdict (for what it's worth) is that this is an excellent value set if you don't have the fabulous original, and I've given it five stars on that basis. But if you already have Unplugged I'm not sure I'd bother with this too. If you'd like to have the DVD it may well be worth buying this again, but for me it doesn't really add enough to the original to make it worth the expense if you already own it.
on 8 January 2006
Everyone knows Eric Clapton can play the blues, but until this album, few believed he really understood the genre. Here, Clapton pulled together a set of covers and originals, which re-established him as the premier guitarist of his generation, particularly on the openers, Signe and Before You Accuse Me. The set also shows him at his most relaxed and confident, (Layla) and laying bare his demons (Tears In Heaven).
on 10 October 2004
this album is a must have for any rock or blues fan. The versatility of guitaring shown by Clapton - nylon fingerplucking, steel, resonator, slide, (all finger and plectrum) you name it he did it in this performance. The solos are perfect, the music is sensational and simply THE best unplugged performance that MTV have had. You can never get bored of this album as there are too many great songs on this, MTV can release this album as their "greatest ever MTV Unplugged Performances" as a seperate volume.
on 7 January 2015
In my opinion his best and also the best of all the Unplugged,which spread like a rash in the early 1990's - Dylan,the Stones,Rod Stewart,Springsteen,Neil Young etc etc etc all had a go.
This really shows his ability,more so than Cream,461 Ocean Boulevard or Derek and the Dominoes.
The acoustic Layla is,on it's own,worth the money.
on 19 August 2003
The debate whether, when learning to play the guitar, you should begin with an acoustic or an electric instrument, is probably as old as the history of the electric guitar itself; regardless which event you associate most strongly with its invention, and which of the enterprising souls who began experimenting with the amplification of the six-string sound way back in the 1930s you most credit therewith. Many find the sound of an electric guitar more impressive than that of an acoustic; and I'll freely admit that few pieces of music make my inner membranes resonate as instinctively as those featuring a really well-played e-guitar solo. Purists, however, argue passionately in favor of the acoustic guitar, and maintain that you're simply not going to learn to play "cleanly" if you don't start out that way. And there is definitely something to be said for that, because it is much easier to conceal a sloppily-played chord behind an electric guitar's amplified volume or a clever-sounding solo (or behind both) than in the unadulterated sound of an acoustic guitar. The discussion about the early 1990s' trend towards "unplugged" recordings centers around similar arguments. Some pieces of music are of course simply not meant to ever be played on an acoustic guitar. Others, however, live from their amplified soundeffects more than from their intrinsic musical values, and they simply fizzle when reduced to their core and performed acoustically.
And then there is that rare category of pieces which sound equally fantastic both ways, and that rare category of players who manage to dazzle you regardless what type of instrument they're playing. Eric Clapton is such a musician, and some of the songs on the playlist of his "Unplugged" album are such pieces of music. Most notable among those, of course, is "Layla," Clapton's intensely personal dedication to one-time wife Patty Boyd; written in 1970 and at a time when he saw no chance of ever winning her for himself. From the memorable opening riff of the song's original recording to its guitar solos, screaming with despair, it is extremely hard to imagine how this song could ever work in an acoustic version. Yet on a whim and at the last minute, Clapton decided to include it in the "Unplugged" playlist. And transposed by a full octave, reduced to a languid and almost upbeat, somewhat jazzy blues rhythm, it works out wonderfully; and Layla/Patty finds herself miraculously transformed from an object of desire to one of reflection instead. In fact, that track alone, which won the 1992 Grammy as Best Rock Song, turned out to be responsible for a good share of the enormous popularity of this album which (together with 1989's "Journeyman") reestablished Clapton as an artist to reckon with, after his career had threatened to slump over the course of much of the previous decade. And similarly responsible for the success of "Unplugged" was the inclusion of another and more recent piece performed from the bottom of Clapton's soul, the triple Grammy winning "Tears in Heaven;" dedicated to his son Conor who had tragically died after falling from the open window of a 53rd floor apartment in New York City the preceding year. (The studio version of the song is contained on the soundtrack of the movie "Rush," likewise released in 1992.)
But "Unplugged" is to large extents a classic blues album, from the twelve-bar rhythm of Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me" (featuring only Eric Clapton himself and one of the most modest and supremely talented living guitarists, Clapton's trusted friend and touring partner Andy Fairweather Low) to Jimmy Cox's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" (the second cut besides "Layla" from the famous album recorded under the name Derek and the Dominos), Delta Blues king Robert Johnson's "Walkin' Blues" and "Malted Milk," Jesse Fuller's upbeat "San Francisco Bay Blues," and the traditionals "Alberta" and "Rollin' and Tumblin'" (the latter, here attributed to the great Chess blues man M[cKinley] Morganfield a/k/a Muddy Waters, who made it famous). Three more of Eric Clapton's own compositions stand out among the songs which round up the album's playlist: the introductory lighthearted "Signe," which reflects his love of Brazilian music, the melancholic "Lonely Stranger" and finally "Old Love," a cut from 1989's "Journeyman."
Few white artists understand as well as Eric Clapton that the blues thrives, first and foremost, on a live atmosphere - preferably in a smaller setting like the one used for this recording, which allows for plenty of spontaneous interaction between stage and audience. And few artists are as unafraid of the gaffes that are almost invariably associated with a live appearance, even in the case of Clapton and his outstanding backup band; and manage, time and again, to turn them into a light moment. The garbled beginning of "Alberta" is an excellent example here; you can almost hear Clapton grinning when he says "Hang on, hang on, hang on" and simply starts over. Similarly, "Layla" is merely introduced with the words "See if you can spot this one" - and instantly greeted with the enthusiastic cheers of an audience which doesn't even need to hear the famous five notes of the song's introductory riff to recognize it.
Asked whether he, too, would ever consider an "unplugged" appearance, e-guitar legend Jeff Beck, who with Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page forms the trinity of "guitar gods" that emerged from Great Britain's famous Yardbirds, reportedly once responded that he couldn't imagine such a thing because it would make him feel "naked." And listening to Eric Clapton's "Unplugged" album, you can't shake the impression that Beck does have a point. These are pure, naked blues songs, supremely performed - and a pure joy to listen to.