on March 26, 2003
Although Nirvana's studio work was great (particularly In Utero), this live album of November 1993 solidified the band's legend.
The concept behind Unplugged was decidedly unusual. Here was an intense, loud punk band from Seattle playing acoustic. An odd concept indeed, but Cobain, Grohl, and Novoselic were more than up to the task with a beautiful 14-song set. To my knowledge, Nirvana was the first to play an entire Unplugged session in a single take, which makes the quality of the performance all the more remarkable.
Instead of just playing a list of popular hits (as Alice In Chains did in the Unplugged format), Kurt decided to pay homage to the band's indie roots with covers of the Vaselines (Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam), David Bowie (The Man Who Sold The World, featuring the only plugged guitar), and three selections from Meat Puppets II (Plateau, Oh Me, Lake Of Fire). All of these renditions are pure gold, and I consider them superior to the originals.
Their studio work takes on a new dimension without the electric distortion. About A Girl sends shivers up my spine, Come As You Are sounds even more impressive acoustic, Dumb is filled with beautiful stringwork, Pennyroyal Tea becomes a haunting solo ballad, and All Apologies changes from raw to meloncholy. Most of these songs are at least equivalent to the studio versions, with All Apologies being much better than the harsh In Utero version.
The best track of all though is the unforgettable Where Did You Sleep Last Night. In this Leadbelly cover, Kurt lets all the feeling hit home, especially toward the end with his piercing screams. I've never heard a more emotional song in my life, and I always shed a tear listening to it.
This one ranks as the best live album of the 1990's and among the best ever. If you love Nirvana, definitely buy this one. If you never considered buying a Nirvana album, this one will make you a fan. Trust me.
on December 22, 2003
Nirvana's Unplugged remains one of the band's most majestic moments. Coming hot off the heels of the noisy In Utero album, the band decided to stop into MTV's studios in New York City and play an acoustic set that completely erased any notions that they were just a simple "grunge" band. Kurt Cobain seems completely relaxed throughout, and he gives some staggeringly beautiful vocal performances. Dave Grohl plays the drums with wire brushes and demonstrates that he was just as capable of subtle shading as he was at hard-hitting fury. Krist Novoselic proves himself to be a worthwhile musician as well, playing accordion on "Jesus Doen't Want Me For a Sunbeam" in additon to playing a very solid-yet-laid back acoustic bass. Add former Germs guitarist Pat Smear to the lineup, as well as a guest appearance by the Kirkwood brothers of Tempe band the Meat Puppets, and you have all of the ingredients of that legendary November 1993 night.
All of the most obvious choices from Nevermind are featured here, "Polly," and "Something in the Way" of course, but their acoustic rendering of "On a Plain" is both relevatory and surprising, since I would not have expected them to include this song, and what's more it actually works as an acoustic! The classic "Come As You Are" is given more subtlely and emotion here, and that flanged guitar solo sounds positively stunning on an acoustic (actually he was using a half-acoustic/half-electric hybrid). The band also delivers some of the most mature songs from In Utero, too. "Dumb" sounds both blissful and melancholy at the same time, "All Apologies" is one of the highlights here, and "Pennyroyal Tea" stands as one of Kurt's most emotionally naked moments (I actually like the version here better).
Like the Beatles before him, Kurt Cobain had the uncanny ability to take any cover song and make it his own. From Devo to Leadbelly, David Bowie to the Vaselines, Kurt made it sound like all of these songs were his own, and he does this beautifully here as well, especially on their rendition of Bowie's "Man Who Sold the World," and of course, Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night." The latter has to be one of Nirvana's most chilling moments of all time, especially near the close of the song, where Kurt is giving it his all. Then, with an impassioned cry of "SHIVEEERRRRR!" he pauses for a couple of seconds before finishing the line. At this moment, I have to say the silence is deafening and is absolutely haunting in the purest sense of the word. It seems ironic that a band who was known for noisy live performances could rip walls out (and hearts) with two seconds of silence. This, if nothing else, stands as a testament to Nirvana's gifts.
As life affirming as this can be to listen to, sometimes it can also be quite sad knowing that this is ultimately the last word from Nirvana before Kurt's untimely death. But if this was the band's (and Kurt's) swan song, it is certainly the best finale that one can have, and I would certainly want something this beautiful to be my farewell, too. Even ten years later (God, has it been that long already?), Nirvana's Unplugged session remains as fresh as it was at the time, and stands as one of their very best live performances (as well as their most unique). Whether you are a casual fan or a diehard, this album is not to be missed and you are doing yourself a grave injustice if you skip out. This isn't just an Unplugged session, it is an experience.
on July 5, 2014
The final sigh of the last track wrote the story of the end of Nirvana. You could see it in his face; he was tired and Nirvana was over. But I think it was for the best. He said it himself, it's better to burn out than to fade away. Well, Neil Young said it, I suppose.
There is not a bad track on the album, and it is ghostly real and engrossing on vinyl with a nice set of speakers. A must have.
on September 27, 2001
First of all , this album is absolutely amazing . Kurt , Dave and Kris revisit their usual electric , noise and rage-ladden material , plus a few covers , and treat them in a whole new way.
The final result is as surprising as it is impressive .
If you don't actually hear it , you wouldn't believe they did this . Now , while obviously the songs lack the immediate power of their electric stuff , one discovers a whole new world of Nirvana sounds and emotions . There's actually a glimpse of serenity in some of the songs , and , from what we hear here is difficult to imagine Cobain's suicide . But that is a different story altogether . Or maybe not .
Musically , there's no low points here , but to me the best moments are :
- "About a girl" , which opens the album beautifully and sets the mood for the entire session .
- "The man who sold the world" - I'm a big Bowie fan , but I think Kurt does this one better than any version David Bowie ever did . Outstanding ! By the way , this is the only "electric" piece , but that doesn't change the serene , relaxed approach that is a constant throughout the album .
- "Dumb" : in two minutes and some seconds , Cobain made me feel 1000 different feelings , sensations and emotions . For many reasons , I'll stay with this one as the highest peak . He could sing without words and the result would still be the same , the tone of his voice tells it all . A gem among gems .
- " Oh me " : the same as above , but a little bit ( just a little bit )less shiver-making .
- " Where did you sleep last night ? " : if this one doesn't make you feel pain , a feeling of loss , despair and/or nostalgia
( either from personal experience or just from what Kurt is singing ) you better check your pulse , because most likely you're dead as a stone . Nirvana pay tribute to Leadbelly here , and giving the mood of the album , this is the perfect end , because as we all know , there was no happy end to Nirvana .
on August 12, 2001
Nirvana made by far the best performance of all artists that MTV invited to play the hit show "Unplugged." Why they are even bring the Unplugged show back is beyond me. Nirvana's effort at Unplugged was nearly legendary. About every song on this album is full of emotion, Kurt Cobain's trademark screech, and great drumming by Dave Grohl. Most of the original tracks written by Nirvana that appear on this are at least as good as the studio version. About a Girl starts the album off, and it is probably the 3rd or 4th best original Nirvana song on the album. Come as You Are is next, and to me this song was meant to be played on the electric guitar only, and the unplugged version is a dissapointment and probably should not have been played. Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sumbeam is pretty good, its an above average song but average by this albums standard. The Man Who Sold the World is the best song on this album, Cobain's voice is as haunting as ever and the guitars and drums are at their peak in this song. Pennyroyal Tea is probably the worst song on this album, even though the studio version on In Utero is quite good. Polly and On a Plain start off the high point in this album. These are both really great versions of two of the best songs on Nirvana's breakthrough album, Nevermind. Something in the Way fits the same description of the two songs before it. Platue is really great also, being a cover of a Meat Puppets song. Platuau also has the best vocals on the CD. Oh, Me is ok, but nothing special and it is down there with Pennyroyal Tea in quality. Lake of Fire is one of the best songs on this album, right up there with The Man Who Sold the World. The vocals on this song are screechy like on Plateau and the guitar work is great. All Apologies is really good, it is not on the level of Lake of Fire but it's still a great song. Where Did You Sleep Last Night is sort of mediocre but it is really haunting. This album is really great and EVERYONE should be issued a copy.
on July 26, 2001
Unplugged in New York shows a different style of Nirvana not the loud Pixiesque punk rock but quieter with acoustic guitars and cellos but certainly not lacking in emotion. I love this side of Nirvana. About A Girl and All Apologies sound like Beatles outtakes in their new style. Come As You Are and Polly have a haunting sound to them The Meat Puppet covers are cool Cris and Curt Kirkwood know how to make an acoustic guitar sound stellar, the solos in Oh Me. And the Leadbelly cover is amazing! I remember watching it on Mtv and seeing Cobain scream his lungs out then he stops for that breath he looks into the camera and those bright blue eyes are blazing. That wasn't the jaded with success Kurt Cobain this was the musician Kurt not caring what people think, and when he holds that note and bashes that guitar shivers go down my spine even today. And it seems the whole concert built up to that moment. It's a shame though that Cobain isn't around anymore. I was reading this interview with Michael Stipe and he was good friends with Cobain before his death and he said that Nirvana were going to lean toward the sound of this album in the future....
on December 25, 1999
And that's a fact too.This album is SO beatiful it shouldn't be legal,but it is and so be it.These songs are so lush and haunting like they're longing for something. I'm sixteen and all these songs I can relate to even without blazing electric guitars.The last song on the album "Where did you sleep last night" is to good for words.The end of it is stuff even legends aren't good enough for.The way Kurt sings lightly then starts screaming is jaw-dropping but he then goes quiet lets out a little yelp sighs and says "The whole night through" in a somewhat bitter way,amazing.In a world were flash and girls have become hip-hop, rockers take hip-hop to become cool (actually it's to become bankable) and pop music is a corporate takeover of little girls(and ther parents money) so they can gawk at "cute" guys and get fixations on them that isn't gonna help there dating lives 'cause they're to ugly to get any real dates anyways it's good to hear REAL music.
on July 12, 2004
This is one of the weridest albums i own, in a way. Nirvana, a band which set the whole grunge scene going, and arguably one of the best in the genre, decided to make a live unplugged show for MTV. Nirvana, you know. Fat distortions, atonal riffs, raging vocals, powerful shows. Nirvana.
That they did *THIS* good is a surprise, and should change more than one peoples' mind about the artistic merits of the band (and Kurt Cobain in particular). Forget what you thought of this Nirvana; the way they morphed their songs (and others too) into mellow accoustic tunes is remarkable, and against all odds, worked great. I mean, my dad, who can't stand 99.9% of grunge, loves this record. It's easy to listen, but not because the songs are cheezy, it's just the complete album is incredibly good.
From start to finish, it transports you first row to this (unique) performance. Like i said, the whole record is excellent, but tracks like "Plateau", "Oh me", "On a plain", "Jesus don't want me for a sunbeam", "Where did you sleep last night?", and "All apologies" are so deeply moving i prefer to listen them by myself, wearing headphones. I can only imagine, closing my eyes, what have it felt to be there.
This is hands down one of the best albums of the 90's, and easily one of the top 10 live recordings of all history. It's hard to say this things without sounding like a fanboy, but the truth is that it simply is. Whatever your musical cup-of-tea is, you deserve to give this record a listen. People argue about how much they like this album - i dare you find someone who doesn't.
on March 18, 2002
This is one of the greatest albums I have ever listened to. If you like Nirvana, you will love this album, and if you don't like Nirvana, you will like this album. I have always liked unplugged albums because they are just so raw and full of emotion. Nirvana as it is was a very raw band, and this album just completely captures that essence. One thing I love about this cd is that the songs on it are very diverse. There are Nirvana songs, but also "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam", "The Man Who Sold the World", "Plateau", "Oh, me", "Lake of Fire", and "Where Did You Sleep Last Night", all great songs originally by artists like the Vaselines, The Meat Puppets and others. Anyway it is impossible to choose the best tracks because all of them are great, but my favorites are "The Man Who Sold the World", "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam", "Pennyroyal Tea", "Something In The Way", and "All Apologies". This is a great, forceful album that shows another side of Nirvana. Even if you have classified Nirvana as a stupid band who contradicts themselves (which i disagree with, they are awesome), you will still love this album.
on November 11, 2003
Before I heard the version of "About A Girl" from "MTV Unplugged," I did not understand the big deal about Nirvana and I still think they are overrated but this live recording of their performance on "MTV Unplugged" is brilliant. It stands out as one of the best albums of the 90s. Even non-Nirvana fans like this album. It has something that everyone can like. What I find so incredible is the vast amount of genres represented on this album. Everything from indie grunge(The Vaselines) to traditional folk(Leadbelly.) In fact, I think the covers are the best songs on the album. The covers of The Vaselines' "Jesus Don't Want Me For A Sunbeam" and Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" are flawless. All of Nirvana's best songs like "Dumb" and "All Apologies" are played on this album too. So, even if you think you won't like Nirvana, check this album out. I have no doubt you will fall in love with it as I did when I bought it.