Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Nirvana MTV Unplugged In New York (1994) Review

Nirvana "MTV Unplugged in New York" LP Cover (1994)
MTV Unplugged was a series of video taped recordings that were absolutely grand. They would take rock and pop artists and strip down their performances to only acoustic guitars and light piano, etc. Well, in 1994, the mighty folks at MTV put Nirvana into a studio set in New York City, and what would come through is one of the finest records in terms of acoustic music ever. I may be biased, but the nearly 54 minute record is perhaps one of the top 100 records that you should own, even if you’re not a big fan of Nirvana’s other records. This is a record that still holds true in 2018 as it did when it was released in 1994. I for one remember the cassette tape fondly, and now that I’m older, can truly recommend the DVD and vinyl record release of this 5 time platinum record that also pulled a Grammy Award in 1996. Of course, I’m going to be trying to discuss Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York” here.

The Not So Acoustic Showcase

This record is supposed to be acoustic, but honestly, it’s not 100 percent. According to the production crew that was there, Kurt Cobain required his acoustic guitar to run through an effects pedal and into an amp, so MTV obliged and created a wedge element that you don’t see on the camera, where his acoustic guitar would run through the amplifier. It’s not a big deal, but if you’re a purist, then you may not like the sound. It doesn’t matter that much, but it’s an interesting note in regard to the way that Nirvana’s music had to be done, especially for this performance.

A Complete Nirvana Experience

Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York” consists of 14 tracks, and they are all soft spoken, sung, and focused on the acoustic element of the television show. The band put together a setlist that did not have an encore, even though MTV wanted it. I was only 11 years old when this was filmed, and my parents didn’t want me to watch it when it aired. I did eventually sneak into the living room to see it live, and was blown away by the tracks. I didn’t end up picking up the record until a few years later on cassette tape, then on DVD and vinyl record. The songs that stood out to me then and now includes “Come As You Are”, “The Man Who Sold The World”, “Dumb”, “All Apologies”, and the cover of Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”. The array of songs chosen were not all from their hit records, they were chosen carefully, including the covers, which were done very well. It’s a complete experience of Nirvana, without focusing on the electric hard style that they played. It’s compelling with every note and focused lyrical elements that Kurt Cobain delivers alongside Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl.

Listen To The Whole Thing

People like to pick and choose tracks that they like, and that’s fine. There’s a “singles” mentality that comes with streaming music today, but honestly, if you’re going to listen to an acoustic Nirvana record, then you should really put this on loud, get yourself a cup of coffee or tea, and really listen to the recording. Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York” is not an album of just one or two singles, it’s something that should be focused on as a whole. It is meant to be listened to as a complete recording, not just “one” thing. It’s one of those records that people are going to remember for years and years because it encapsulates a time and a place in alternative music that can never return. Nirvana was able to capture the soul of their music, in a stripped down form, which is rare, and altogether amazing.

I give Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York” a 5 out of 5.

The rare perfect record is what Nirvana was able to put together here. Recorded in 1993, and released a year later commercially, the band really did something grand. In light of the death of Kurt Cobain, the legacy of the band would be encapsulated with the release of Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York”, and in many ways it should’ve been the last thing you heard from them. Even though they have more live records, box sets, and other releases out there, I still go back to Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York” as an essential focused record from the band. It’s truly one of the best records of all time.

You can purchase Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York” from 1994 by clicking here, and enjoying what may have been Kurt Cobain’s finest performance, even if it was riddled with difficulties.

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