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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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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.
"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!
Most recent customer reviews
excellent cd and lot of good old songs I really love it and I recommand it to all my friendsPublished on Jan. 21 2014 by Claude Couillard
Neil Young's acoustic musicianship is so appropriate to much of his music. Great collection of his songs, and wonderful performances.Published on April 3 2013 by jwarrack
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
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 morePublished on May 29 2004 by Garrett Sanders
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 morePublished on Aug. 29 2003 by Neil Fenton
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 morePublished on June 22 2003 by Blackberries
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 morePublished on Sept. 15 2002 by Carla J. Dinsmore
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 morePublished on Feb. 10 2002 by wondermike45