Album Review: Eric Clapton – Unplugged: Deluxe Edition
The MTV Unplugged series is one I’m sure most of you will have heard of. With iconic performances from the likes Bruce Springsteen, Florence & The Machine, Pearl Jam as well of course as the now legendary Nirvana concert, the series which promotes popular acts to perform a show using acoustic instruments has been a resounding success.
Eric Clapton’s 1992 performance is most likely the most well known and definitely the most successful appearance. Clapton released the concert audio on the 14 track album Unplugged later that year to critical acclaim with six grammy nominations (including record, album and song of the year) and 10 million copies sold in the United States alone.
Now, twenty-one years since the album of reworked Clapton songs and blues covers’ release, the powers that be have gifted us with a twenty track reissue featuring six outtakes and DVD footage of the performance with a tasty hours worth of unreleased rehearsal footage, not bad at all!
First things first, the album itself has held the test of time rather admirably, making an enjoyable work start to finish, even with the new additional material. The short bursts of dialogue between songs as well as Clapton mucking about on his guitar makes for a charmingly homely feel to the album. Almost as if you are sitting in as some kind of sightless crowd member, it has a way of engaging your interest simply by being more human.
The songs themselves are of course enjoyable also as Clapton originals like the calypso-esque opening instrumental track Signe and the easy going Lonely Stranger feel comfortable at home with covers of definitive blues tracks of the 20th century such as Muddy Waters’ Rollin’ & Tumblin’, the Bo Diddley classic Before You Accuse Me and a compelling version of blues standard Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out. Clapton and his backing band bring an impressive level of musicality to every song with Clapton’s voice bending notes perfectly with his signature growl.
Of course though, the classic moments come in two of Clapton’s most popular songs. Firstly the delicate and emotionally fuelled Tears In Heaven, a song dedicated to the singer and guitarist’s late son who sadly died in a horrific fall, is performed so practically to perfection that without the audiences applause, you could believe it was an album take. Layla is of course the song everyone associates with Clapton and his bluesy re-imagining of the 70s rock tune is probably the best known performance from Unplugged, the tastefully changed version an entertaining difference for anyone familiar with the original.
The extras are welcome additions, with extra takes of Running On Faith and Walking Blues as well as newly included songs Circus and Worried Life Blues, they’ll supply a nice touch to the legions of faithful fans and don’t retract anything from the original album for any new listeners. Indeed the album as a whole is not only a fine recorded record but the kind of setlist that not many musicians can emulate live, especially with obscure blues songs in the mix. A fittingly satisfying update to one of the most interesting and enjoyable live records in existence.