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 25 February 2016
Not a lot to be said that hasn't already been stated about this fabulous album.Clapton doing the blues stripped down.A masterclass blues session.
My comment is on this 180g vinyl release,which to my mind adds a new crisp dimension to a superb show . The audio is absolutely phenomenal and quite simply enriches the experience even further.
If you enjoy Clapton doing his thang they please do not delay and buy this vinyl,which,i might add is in a gatefold sleeve with plain card inner sleeve.Ive added an anti static bag to preserve the pressing.
on 3 July 2014
I'll never play the cd again. This is a wonderful vinyl pressing. Not a single crackle or pop. There are a couple of extra tracks to the original cd that I have but this is not the main reason for this review.if you have a decent vinyl set up then you'll be using the cd as a frisby if you buy this record. The sound is absolutely gorgeous with acoustic guitar being reproduced is such a way that cd just can not. Incidentally I have a Linn Cd 12 long considered to be the best in the world.
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 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.
on 2 December 2012
The informative Paul Gambaccinni recently hosted a radio 4 slot titled 'For one night only' which featured this album. As I had not picked up on Eric Clapton at the height of his fame this programme intrigued me enough to want to tune in. I have never been a fan of the rock version of Layla and maybe this was why I have never explored the work of this artist. This recording of a live session is mellow, slightly country and very heartfelt. I love it! and the acoustic version of Layla would maybe now find a place on my desert island playlist. May now need to look more closely at the back catalogue.
on 6 February 2011
The earliest recordings of Eric Clapton that I have heard date back to 1963 with The Yardbirds. Nearly 30 years after with the release of "Unplugged", he is as good as ever. Clapton's music is always very identifiable, whether electric or acoustic, and he is clearly one of the best blues guitarists of all time. "Unplugged" was recorded on January 16th of 1992, and released on August 25th of the same year. The album went on to win six Grammy Awards, and reached number one on the charts in the U.S. The album includes some new pieces, as well as some old classics.
"Signe" is the only instrumental on the album, and is a new piece which Clapton wrote while on holiday and is named for the boat he was on when he wrote it. "Before You Accuse Me" is a song which Eric Clapton has recorded before, an electric version for his "Journeyman" album, but the song is originally by Ellas McDaniel (a.k.a. Bo Diddley). It is interesting hearing this in acoustic form, but I prefer the electric version. "Hey Hey" is a song written by Big Bill Broonzy which Eric once said was probably the first blues song he had ever heard. The fourth track is "Tears in Heaven", a live version of a song which was released on the "Rush" soundtrack in January of 1992. The song, as probably everyone knows now, is about the loss of Eric's four-year-old son Conor in March of 1991.
"Lonely Stranger" is another of Clapton's songs, written around the same time, but it is a bit more general being about loneliness. "Nobody Knows You When You're Down & Out" is a song by Jimmie Cox, but Clapton picked it up from Bessie Smith and recorded it for "Layla" and once again it appears here. The album continues with the title track from "Layla", completely reworked as an acoustic version, and an amazingly new rendition equally as good as the original. "Running on Faith" is another piece which Clapton recorded on his "Journeyman" album, it is a piece by Jerry Lynn Williams, one of many which he wrote for Clapton.
With "Walkin' Blues", Clapton returns to early blues as this is one of two pieces on the album which was originally done by Robert Johnson, but in this case Clapton creates a hybrid between Johnson's "Walkin' Blues" and Muddy Waters "Feel Like Going Home". "Alberta" is another classic song which Clapton credits to Snooks Eaglin. "San Francisco Bay Blues" is a folk song which is usually associated with Jesse Fuller. "Malted Milk" is the second Robert Johnson piece on the album. "Old Love" is a return to his newer works, and yet another piece from the "Journeyman" album. The album then closes with a version of Muddy Waters' "Rollin' and Tumblin'".
"Unplugged" is a tremendous album, which allows users to once again hear just how well Eric Clapton can play the guitar. All the musicians on this album do a wonderful job and deserve credit for the result as well. These include: Ray Cooper (percussion), Nathan East (bass guitar, backing vocals), Steve Ferrone (drums), Chuck Leavell (keyboards), Andy Fairweather Low (guitar), Katie Kissoon (backing vocals), and Tessa Niles (backing vocals). There is no doubt about it for me, this is a five-star album.
This really is a very good album. Leading with a few seconds of tuning and audience noise, to confirm that this was performed before a real audience, it moves into the first track, 'Signe', which is an instrumental: two guitars and simplest of backing arrangement. Then the famous 'Before you accuse me', a blues favourite, with the audience clapping in accompaniment. And you're hooked for the next hour.
I could list all the tracks but I won't. They are all excellent, in a performance that has Clapton's characteristic understated style matched with sublime (acoustic) guitar playing. Stand out tracks, not surprisingly, are the acoustic version of 'Layla' and the heart-wrenching 'Tears in Heaven'. I also very much like 'Old Love'. performed here as an extended version over seven minutes with the most remarkable acoustic guitar solo from Clapton at its core earning a deserved cheer from the audience.
The backing band is tight and supportive: Andy Fairweather Low on guitar, Ray Cooper on percussion, Nathan East on bass, Steve Ferrone on drums, Chuck Leavell on keyboards and Katie Kisson and Tessa Niles providing backing vocals.
The thing about the 'Unplugged' series is that it gave the performers nowhere to hide. They could either do their stuff in front of a live audience, and do it well, or they couldn't. As one would expect, with a master of his craft like Eric Clapton, this is an example of doing it and doing it well. This CD is therefore a record of Clapton giving a masterclass in front of a live audience. It is a 'play it often' piece of brilliance. Five stars.
on 30 May 2013
This is a classic. If only I could play like Eric! This is blues music at its best and represents Clapton returning to his roots.