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Neil Young - Unplugged

It is one of our favorite unplugged albums, it was released on June 15, 1993 and it is celebrating a birthday today.


So let's tell you a little bit about Neil Young's "Unplugged" album.


Not many know, but Neil Young's "Unplugged" album was barely released.


In December 1992, Neil Young was highly acclaimed after releasing of his successful album "Harvest Moon".


With 49 appearances behind him to promote his new album, Neil Youngg shows up at "Ed Sullivan's Hall" in New York to record an acoustic show, as part of the Unplugged MTV series.


But this time something did not work, things did not flow, there were errors, mistakes, songs were stopped and played again, and to the small audience present at the venue it was clear that Neil Youngg was completely unhappy with the result.


At one point Neil Young even left the stage and left the concert hall, wandering the streets of Manhattan with the stunned production crew behind him.


Neil Youngg finally relented and returned to perform the last two songs before finally finishing the show.


It is no wonder that given the circumstances, Young refused to allow the MTV to broadcast the show recorded that day.

But the veteran and experienced Neil Young did not let a single evening obscure his glorious career. He did not want to be remembered this way, and to be honest this great artist didn't deserve this once in a lifetime slip to shadow cast his amazing career.


About two months after that failed show, on 7/2/93, Neil Young arrives at "Universal Studios Los Angeles", with the backing band "Stray Gators" who made the masterpiece album "Harvest" with him, to record another unplugged show, as part of the MTV Unplugged series.


And this time things look a little different. The backing band blends in with Young like a glove. The show is flowing and fluid, even in the lesser known songs and even in Young's solo moments, when the band does not accompany him.


The show opens with "The Old Laughing Lady" - an excerpt from his debut album from 1969, a brave and somewhat strange choice for an opening song, mainly because it is a lesser known song by Young.


Immediately afterwards, Young moves on to the song "Mr. Soul" by the mother band "Buffalo Springfield". Young gives us a fundamentally different performance from the original version. Slower, acoustic and accompanied by a harmonica.

The song "World on a String" from the masterpiece album "Tonight’s The Night", is maybe slower from the studio version, but in a sense surpasses the original, perhaps thanks to the addition of the harmonica that add a lot of charm to it.


The song "Pochahontas" from the album "Rust Never Sleeps" may not be much different from the original version, but again significantly slower than the original recording (5:05 in the unplugged version versus 3:24 in the album version).


"Stringman" is perhaps the best song on the album, much thanks to the piano that adds a lot of emotion to the song, but perhaps also due to the fact that it is a song that has not been released until then on any of Young's albums.


"Like a Hurricane" is without a doubt one of the big surprises of the album. The unplugged version is not even close to the dirty and electric original version from the album "American Stars' N Bars". Neil Young plays on a kind of church organ that manages to flip this song 200 years back in time, but still maintain its relevance.


Seven songs into the album and we finally meet, for the first time, a "hit" from the album "Harvest" - the song "The Needle and the Damage Done". Even for the masterpiece album from 1972, Young chose a live version of the song that was recorded in 1971, so that the unplugged version, accurate and refined as it may be, is not surprising.

The eighth song on the album is another of Young's highs in his glorious career. "Helpless" from the masterpiece album "Déjà Vu" released together with "Crosby, Stills and Nash" in 1970. The song gets here a delightful addition of piano, harmonica and vocal harmonies that put a lot of emotion into this version.


It's interesting to mention that the album includes 3 songs from "Harvest Moon" released only 3 months before the recording of the show. The theme song, "Unknown Legend" and "From Hank to Hendrix", are all in a performance quite close to the original version, apparently aiming to be the newest songs on the set.


Another surprise on the album is the song "Transformer Man", which first appeared on the synthesized and infamous "Trans" album, which here finally gets a version that does it justice and undoubtedly surpasses the original.


Complete the 14 tracks of the album "Look Out For My Love" from the album "Comes a Time" and "Long May You Run" from an album bearing the same name of Young and his good friend Stephen Stills, both in a performance that renews almost nothing compared to the original versions.


There is no doubt that Young's second attempt was much more successful than his predecessor. The Unplugged show aired about a month later as part of the "MTV Unplugged" series and received rave reviews.


Neil Young was also pleased with the result this time, and evidently, just three months after the show, Young releases the Unplugged album, which joins the huge repertoire of this very special artist.


The story of this album teaches us that even the greatest artists, veteran and experienced dinosaurs as they may be, sometimes have moments when things get a little less perfect. The moral of this story is that one must never give up. Even if God forbid you stumble, pick up the pieces, get up and try again, because chances are this time it will go better.


For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music


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