Friday, 26 September 2014

50 Albums to take to my grave #12: 10,000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged

Admit it, there can’t be many of you who would have expected to see this record in my all-time fave listing? But indeed, here it is, my all-time fave live album.

There are a number of reasons I love this record, but the overarching one of them all just has to be Natalie Merchant’s vocals. Her voice is instantly recognisable, completely unique, and here it is in arguably the finest form of her career. Maybe the simpler acoustic arrangements of the songs make her sound more resonant than usual, I’m not really sure. All I know is, for 60 minutes listening to this album, I fall in love all over again.

The whole Unplugged franchise actually wasn’t a bad idea. Back in the days when MTV still did music, to get one of the day’s top acts, put them in front of an audience and make them play acoustic sets – it’s a way of sorting the wheat from the chaff. It did lose its way eventually (I mean, Katy friggin’ Perry? Really???) but in its time, it hosted some extraordinary shows. Nirvana, Alice In Chains and Paul McCartney are probably the most heralded, but there were plenty others worthy of note. I think the 10,000 Maniacs one gets overlooked far too often.

The show was to be the last televised appearance of the band with Natalie Merchant who quit shortly after. The set comprised songs from their three most recent albums at the time (in my opinion their best ones). The line-up was augmented by string, brass and woodwind players. David Byrne of Talking Heads made an appearance too, duetting on some country covers with Natalie (although he was not to feature on the resulting album, he was featured on the DVD). The set was strong, the arrangements were perfect (in some cases even better than the original studio takes) and the overall feel was one of celebration and warmth.

10,000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged is my chill-out album, my go-to record when I need some comfort. Some may think I’ve thrown a curveball by including it in this series. To me, it’s probably the most obvious choice I could have made.

1 comment:

  1. one of the first cds I ever bought . I'd already got in my tribe on lp but now prefer the versions here. Havent played it in ages so going to dig it out