Sunday, October 13, 2013


Nobody nailed MTV's Unplugged show better than Clapton.  His 1992 appearance wasn't just for TV's sake.  The album went to #1, sold over 12 million copies, gave him a hit single (#1 in Canada) with the reworked Layla, and firmed up his image as the sauve and smooth singer, as well as appeased his old blues fans. It was all things to all people, giving him mass appeal as well as helping restore his credibility.  Not bad for a night's work.
This expanded deluxe edition comes with lots of extras, packaging up the original DVD of the show, plus the full TV rehearsal from earlier in the day, quite interesting really with its casual, behind-the-scenes view.  There's also a second CD of the out-takes from the performance.  As with all taped TV shows, something goes wrong at some point, so there are a couple of takes of Walkin' Blues and Running On Faith, a version of Worried Life Blues that were dropped from the broadcast and CD, and most surprisingly, two songs that wouldn't be released for another six years, on the Pilgrim album, takes of My Father's Eyes and Circus.  Both are fine performances, so he must have decided not to give away too much on the live disc.
For my money, the album has always felt a little too slick, with Ray Cooper's precise percussion, backing vocals, and all too many musicians up there.  I'd rather it be a little more raw, and a little more fire on display. Even the covers of classic blues, the Robert Johnson and Big Bill Broonzy numbers are handled with conservative technique rather than any daring.  However, there's no denying the marvel of Clapton's acoustic guitar work here, and in 1992, it had been a long time since he'd done anything this close to the blues for a new album.  Plus, admit it, that version of Layla, completely rearranged, is always cool to hear.

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