Friday, January 12, 2007

Unplugged Albums

Acoustic reworkings of a band's back catalogue are oftentimes tricky propositions. How do you put a fresh and inventive spin on this frequently used and abused musical concept? Well, here are three stellar examples of unplugged albums that have distinguished themselves through sheer artistic ingenuity, by coming up with remarkable and novel takes on the traditional unplugged aesthetic:

DAYS OF SPEED (Paul Weller, 2001)
The Modfather's inherent rough and ready sensibilities are brought to the fore on this project, which allows him to present stripped-down, but no less compelling versions of his best-loved tracks. Jam classics like "Town Called Malice" and "That's Entertainment" sound better than before, while solo standards like "You Do Something to Me" and "Out of the Sinking" are refreshingly loose. Mention should also be made of the fact that a couple of Weller's straitjacketed Style Council nuggets are also set free from their exacting Northern soul bindings, for a decidedly different .

SOLO ACOUSTIC VOL. 1 (Jackson Browne, 2005)
Veteran singer-songwriter Jackson Browne is a revelation on this well-crafted album of acoustic renditions, which has classics like "The Pretender", "Take It Easy" and "Fountain of Sorrow" presented in a stark, minimalist environment, allowing them to breathe in their new acoustic refittings. Browne's between-song banter (the work was recorded during his 2004 solo tour) is also insightful, enlightening, and quirkily humorous.

Not so much an unplugged effort than a completely new listening experience. Bolstered with the inclusion of five new songs, Experimentalism is the keyword of the day, as the Goth-rock veterans incorporate subtle electronic effects, add some artful vocal trickery, and modify a few instrumental bits. Also noteworthy for the band's bemusingly wry performance of early hit "The Unguarded Moment" (whose Spanish interpretation gives the album its title), a song never played live for at least twenty years.


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