Neil Young


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The virtue of the "unplugged" concept pioneered by MTV was that it provided a forum for rock musicians to reinterpret their work without using rock's favorite instrument, the electric guitar. But by 1993, the unplugged sessions were serving as another way of creating product without coming up with anything really new, thus joining live albums, greatest-hits albums, and covers albums. Neil Young, who has always alternated between rock and folk approaches to his music anyway, would not seem like an ideal candidate for an "unplugged" session, but in a few of the 14 selections in this 65-and-a-half-minute recording, he did give his audience new ways to listen to his repertoire. Particularly notable were a pump-organ and harmonica arrangement of his guitar rock classic "Like a Hurricane" and an acoustic guitar rendition of his Buffalo Springfield hit "Mr. Soul." For the most part, however, Young's Unplugged was simply an acoustic live album drawn from a show that was part of his Harvest Moon promotional tour. Songs like "Pocahontas" and "The Needle and the Damage Done" had been in his acoustic set lists for years, played exactly as they were here. While Young ranged across his career, picking songs from as far back as 1967 and including three Harvest Moon songs, the set did not function as a live acoustic greatest-hits selection since favorites like "Heart of Gold" and "Old Man" were missing. The choices seemed nearly arbitrary: popular songs like "Helpless" (first heard on the 1970 Crosby, Stills, Nash Young album Déjà Vu) shared space with relatively obscure album tracks like "World on a String" (from Tonight's the Night) and the never before released 20-year-old song "Stringman." It may be that a random selection of 14 Neil Young songs gives as accurate a representation of his work as a more carefully compiled one would, but it does not show Young off at his best. Unplugged is an enjoyable record that with greater care in arrangement, performance, and song selection could have been considerably better. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi

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