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Neil Young Unplugged >

VHS Tape
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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In Neil Young's world--to paraphrase John Lennon (who was quoting Harry Nilsson)--everything is the opposite of what it is. The fragile is epic, the epic is personal, the personal is a collective dream. Young's best songs are like Tennyson's poems, somehow always shimmering under scrutiny, somehow all the more soulful for evading fixed points of meaning. While there was nothing evasive about Young's negative opinions of MTV in the 1980s, both he and the cable channel had broad enough shoulders to collaborate on an Unplugged installment in 1993 featuring Young and a few of his friends. The result was one of the best events in the innovative series, a strong but relaxed, sharp but dreamy acoustic performance with several of Young's best live recordings in the '90s. Starting with a couple of folk-rock mysteries--the sorrowful "The Old Laughing Lady" and eerie classic "Mr. Soul"--Young lumbers beautifully from the fantastic, hippie elegy of "Pocahontas" to an unlikely psychedelic spin on "Like a Hurricane" (sounding a bit like "Strawberry Fields Forever").

The second half of the show finds a few other musicians strolling in, including Young's old ally, Nils Lofgren, with accordian, guitar, and harmonies at the ready. Young's unequivocally nongrungy sister, Astrid, and the late Nicolette Larson sweeten the vocals and add warmth to the instant-community atmosphere. Together, everyone reshapes the never-quite-on-the-money CSN&Y classic "Helpless" into a taut, private prayer, teases the tenderness and fun out of "Transformer Man," and makes "Harvest Moon" sound so delicate that anything else on the radio seems slightly obscene. The program ends with an encore performance of "From Hank to Hendrix," which, in this MTV context, comes across as a nonsubtle plea from a rock godfather to beware the momentum of time and change on popular music, to "still get it together" despite the pressures of fashion. A very satisfying experience all around. --Tom Keogh


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wasn't he unplugged already? Sept. 25 2003
Format:Audio CD
Given Neil Young's huge catalog and its inclusion of so much acoustic material, you might think that 'unplugging' him would just amount to his doing a show of his acoustic songs. Well, that certainly would have been the easy way. But if Neil took the easy way, he wouldn't be the Neil we've come to know and love.
In fact, although there is a generous helping of material on this CD that was originally released in 'acoustic' form, there are also a number of surprises. For this show, Neil took several highly non-'acoustic' songs and converted them.
One of my favorites is his bluesy, wailing version of 'Mr. Soul'. Originally a Buffalo Springfield tune, this time it's just Neil with his guitar and harmonica. I also like the stripped-down, countryfolkified performances of 'Old Laughing Lady' and 'World on a String'.
And wait until you hear what he's done with 'Transformer Man'. Even if you didn't like it before, you may like it now.
There's also 'Like a Hurricane', a blistering rocker originally released on _American Stars 'n' Bars_ (which, incidentally, is now available on CD at last!). Here Neil performs it solo, accompanying himself on pump organ.
This show took place not long after the release of the magnificent _Harvest Moon_, so there are a couple of selections from that album. And the rest is what you'd expect -- a set of solid performances of old and new favorites, some well-known and some obscure, from all stages of Neil's long career. "The Needle and the Damage Done', 'Look Out for My Love', 'Long May You Run' -- this stuff is never going to wear out its welcome.
One last highlight: Neil also does a fine tune called 'Stringman' (which I suspect is about Stephen Stills); I don't believe I'd ever heard it, or even heard _of_ it, before this release.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good cross selection of material July 23 2002
Format:Audio CD
Although Neil Young is almost universally considered one of the finest rock songwriters, he has an almost perversely huge back catalog (several of which have never been released on CD), more than a few uneven albums, and a self-imposed lack of anthologies. Young, who has always alternated between blistering, grunge-inciting guitar noise riots and gentle, acousitc folk in his own music, was a natural choice - indeed, you might even say a forebearer - for MTV's Unplugged program. Unlike many other veteran rockers (say, Dylan) who chose to offer up a "Greatest Hits" sort of set when their turn on Unplugged came, Neil's selections veer across his entire career, seeming almost arbitrary at times. Although there are some of his more prominent acoustic numbers here (The Needle And The Damage Done, Pocahontas) as well as several numbers from his most recent album at the time, Harvest Moon, there are also tracks dating back to his Buffalo Springfield days and his first solo album, as well as some definitely obscure numbers (Transformer Man, which was completely remade in this acoustic setting; the previously unreleased Stringman, and others.) It is a neat deal and quite a treat for the Young fan to see him perform such a wide cross section of material. Several songs are completely remade in this acoustic context (Mr. Soul, Transformer Man), and many others have already mentioned the standout pump organ/harmonica-led version of Like A Hurricane. This is an essential purchase for the Neil Young fan, and, in point of fact, not a bad early pick for the neophyte.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Money well spent! April 30 2002
Format:Audio CD
While there are more than enough individual tracks dotted around his huge number of recordings to justify Neil Young's major reputation there are only a few albums that, on their own, hold together as satisfyingly complete "works". And... in the (self imposed) absence of any sensible retrospectives since 1977's "Decade" (definitely the best place to start for any "casual buyer") those not "in the know" could be in for some seriously expensive mistakes. So, what's been worth the money since then? Well...for anyone looking for the mellower side of this brilliantly mercurial but annoyingly erratic artist here's a few suggestions: "Comes a Time" (1978), "Freedom" (1989), "Harvest Moon" (1992) and "Unplugged" (1995).
"Unplugged", a review of some of his best tracks from the previous 25 years, takes this often tired format to its highest levels. Opening with "The Old Laughing Lady" (a wonderfully laid-back acoustic re-working of a stand-out track from his first solo album) and followed by a beautifully low-key version of his Buffalo Springfield hit "Mr Soul", the album just flows from start to finish. And... on the way through you get arguably better versions than the original outings of "Pocahontas", "Harvest Moon", "Look Out for My Love" & "Transformer Man". Played and sung with the sincerity of an artist who wants to deliver a cohesive retrospective of his career, and impressive in that it avoids revisiting many of his better known, more obvious choices, this is mellow music at its very best and an album that leaves you feeling... happy. Money well spent!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Acoustic Young May 8 2001
Format:Audio CD
Neil Young was unplugged before the MTV show become a phenomenon, so it was only natural that he make an appearance on the show. As usual, Mr. Young mixes up his set, playing new songs like "From Hank To Hendrix" and the sweet "Harvest Moon" to old chestnuts like the Buffalo Springfield's "Mr. Soul" and "The Old Laughing Lady" from his first solo album. While many of the songs like "The Needle & The Damage Done" & the brilliant "Pocahontas" were acoustic to begin with, there are songs that go under some radical transformations. "Like A Hurricane" was a fuzz guitar heavy, sonic blast, but here it is propelled by only Mr. Young's voice and an eerie pump organ. The results are outstanding. "Transformer Man" is from his electronic album, Trans, and the vocals were distorted by a vocoder. In it's acoustic form, it takes on a weird perspective with its futuristic lyrics. "Helpless" is absolutely gorgeous with lush harmonies led by old Crazy Horse member and current E Streeter, Nils Lofgren. Unplugged is one of the better album taken from the show and shows Neil Young's chameleon like ability to transform songs into different styles.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars cd
excellent cd and lot of good old songs I really love it and I recommand it to all my friends
Published 7 months ago by Claude Couillard
5.0 out of 5 stars Neil Young at his best.
Neil Young's acoustic musicianship is so appropriate to much of his music. Great collection of his songs, and wonderful performances.
Published 17 months ago by jwarrack
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Artist..That's for Sure!
Neil doesn't disappoint. I would love to see him in concert and do the national anthem Hendrix-style. That would be interesting.
From "Mr. Read more
Published on July 11 2004 by J. McAndrew
5.0 out of 5 stars The Brilliance of Depression
This album is probably the best acoustic performance Neil has done in awhile. Everyone knows this is a great album. I just want to clarify that the version of "Mr. Read more
Published on May 29 2004 by Garrett Sanders
5.0 out of 5 stars dour, gripping, uptight and brilliant performance.
The tense atmosphere of this acoustic performance(Created undoubtedly by Young himself as he barely exchanges a word with his wooed audience) works well on haunting numbers like... Read more
Published on Aug. 29 2003 by Neil Fenton
5.0 out of 5 stars Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and Him
Neil Young Unplugged is gorgeous. Each rendition of Neal's captivating songs sounds poignant, nostalgic and beautiful. There isn't one note that goes to waste here. Read more
Published on June 22 2003 by Blackberries
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Fine Acoustic Concert!
When this MTV Unplugged concert of Neil Young originally aired on MTV, I made sure to tape it, as Neil Young is one of my favorite musicians. Read more
Published on Sept. 15 2002 by Carla J. Dinsmore
5.0 out of 5 stars An album for all occasions
This is one of those rare CDs that's great to put on anytime, whether you're down, tired, or happy. It flows perfectly from "The Old Laughing Lady" right through... Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2002 by wondermike45
5.0 out of 5 stars ...and we're gonna play it real slow
Just to show my age (23), my dad used to play this album when I was young and it has become totally ingrained in my consciousness.
It's Neil Young... Read more
Published on Aug. 3 2001 by Dan Higham
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