Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures

Unknown Pleasures is the first album released by seminal post-punk group Joy Division. Sadly it was to be the only album Joy Division would release during frontman Ian Curtis' lifetime, as sophomore album Closer would be released in the wake of his suicide in 1980 as a posthumous album. Unknown Pleasures is regarded as one of the best British albums of all time and with very good reason, I'd put this in the top ten albums I have ever heard by anyone. It's a musical opus really.

Unknown Pleasures though had utterly no impact on the charts when it was initially released, which did surprise me I have to admit given it's classic status as an album now. Amazingly, the highest position Unknown Pleasures obtained on the UK Albums Chart was a very lowly #71, and even then this was in 1980 following the release of Closer. Despite it's lack of chart success this has always been a critically acclaimed album though.

Of course, whilst the band are all excellent here you can't fail to ignore someone else key to making this album work as well as it does: the late Martin Hannet. Martin Hannet produced the record in such a way that gives it a transcendental nature. Simply put, the album has a timeless quality that ensures it still sounds as strong as it did when initially released. They did this by recording each instrument separately on tracks which gives it that cavernous and consequently eerie atmosphere. Whilst in the studio, their aim was to simply not recreate the feel of Joy Divisions live shows and by doing so I think that's how they've made Unknown Pleasures an album with real longevity. As much as I love Joy Division's live sound, there is an ambient and spacious feel to the album that really makes the listener resonate with Ian's voice. Honestly, the only production mishap for me was burying the guitar deep in the mix in She's Lost Control. I actually prefer the live version on Something Goes because the studio version of She's Lost Control just sounds a little bit too watered down for my liking. That minor criticism aside though, this honestly is one of the best production jobs on an album I've ever heard.

Consequently the production on the album leads me onto another reason why I love this album so much. It has an amazing atmosphere that really envelopes the listener into the soundscape of the record. Honestly, I think only those albums of the highest musical caliber can entice you in in such a way. It's eerie and unsettling in places, and its not just down to hindsight in knowing the sad fate for the band. I tried to listen to Shadowplay a number of years ago and even without knowing anything about the band it still gave me chills. It's a listening experience really unlike any other I have heard. From the opening chords of Disorder to the final seconds of I Remember Nothing you really do feel like you are someplace else with the album. Even the first lyrics sung on the album "I've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand" make you feel like you are going on a journey. The album is sequenced in such a way too, on the LP version side A is called Outside, and contains the first five tracks from Disorder to New Dawn Fades. Subsequently Side B is called Inside and contains the following five tracks, from She's Lost Control to I Remember Nothing. It's appropriate in a way I think, as the second half of the album is even more of a soundscape than the first, particularly the final three tracks. It's maybe the single most cohesive album I have ever heard. Every track has its place on the album and every track brings something to the record. There's honestly not a track here I class as filler at all.

All in all I think this is one of the most consistently brilliant albums I have ever heard. Some of the more commonly known tracks include She's Lost Control and Shadowplay but honestly, those would be two tracks on the album that I find myself playing less frequently. Songs like Candidate are among some of the best that Joy Division would record in their sadly all too brief career, and Unknown Pleasures has one of the greatest pair of opening and closing tracks (Disorder and I Remember Nothing) that you'll ever hear. I will concede that the album has a cathartic tone that may be off-putting, but if you persevere you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful production work - and music in general-  you will ever hear on record. A mesmerizing album that only gets better the more you listen to it. I'll go so far to say that not only is it one of the best albums ever, it may just be the best debut album I've ever heard. By any artist.

Michael Jackson - I'm So Blue

So in the last month or so Bad 25 has been released, which aims to be a fitting tribute to one of Michael Jackson's most revered albums. I'll admit that Bad isn't one of my favourite albums actually, but the Bad 25 package does seem terrific value. I've yet to actually get my copy but thanks to Spotify I have managed to hear the tracks on it (bar the live ones, I'm saving that for when I'm able to watch the DVD) and I have to say that the unreleased tracks really suprised me actually. Of the unreleased tracks, Free and I'm So Blue are my favorites. Actually, I think I'm So Blue is fast becoming one of my favourite Michael Jackson tracks! The lyrics of the song are rather simplistic, basically the narrator of the song's lover has left them for another man, and their coping mechnaism for this break-up is more or less to sing. The lyrics of the song are rather sad I think but what really makes the song more moving is Michael's vocal delivery. I absolutely love the little "dah dah dah's" that provides the song's main hook. For me at least, they sound like they come from a narrator who is obviously hurting following the end of their relationship. Although I do get an underlying sense of optimism from them as they obviously take such comfort from singing, (if that doesn't sound daft). The lyrics don't have the depth that makes songs like Man In The Mirror classic tracks, but they're not the main reason why I love this song. What I love about the song is that it has a much more organic sound that was disappointedly lacking in Bad. Whilst its still a very good album it's too polished and glossy in sound for me. I think I'm So Blue would have made a refreshing change from the highly polished nature of the other tracks on the record. Without sounding too harsh, I think the song has actually aged better than more or less every track that was on Bad. It could be just me, but I actually think I'm So Blue sounds like it could have fitted relatively well on Thriller if I'm being honest. Listening to this makes me wonder if there's any other tracks of a similar ilk (and knowing how frequently Michael recorded, its very likely there is) that have been simply left in the vaults for all these years. Really, it makes the posthumous Michael album seem like even more of a joke than it already was. A great song that I'm pleased has been brought to light!

Blur - Bang

Widely touted as their worst song, Bang was Blur's third single from their debut album Leisure. It was a song that didn't take long to do at all, fifteen minutes was the grand total according to Blur bassist Alex James. Being written in such a quick time you can't really expect an artistic masterpiece hardly, although I still quite like the song really. It's very straightforward though and lacks the creative element (much like their whole debut album really) that would make subsequent albums from Blur ones of high caliber. If I'm honest, its your typical early 90's indie fodder. Lyrically the song has a very simple message. It seems to be about someone who seems to be just coasting along ("bang goes another day; where and when I could not say") without much of a care in the world. They're happy to just do what is the norm "Everybody's doing it so I'll do it too". Then comes the chorus - and whilst it doesn't exactly give the song depth (its far too typical of its era for that really) - it does redeem it lyrically somewhat. Basically, the narrator shows a deep down vulnerability, whilst they don't rely on anyone in particularly they're willing to admit "a little love would make things better.". Despite its jangly guitar pop sound (including that shuffle esque rhythm which every guitar pop band seemed to be doing at the time); I think the lyrics are quite sad really. I personally get the image of this rather tragic figure aimlessly living their life without any real sense of direction. Despite this the lyrics really are a far cry from Damon Albarn's best work. Honestly, I find it hard to believe listening to this song that Damon Albarn would go on to be one of (if not the) most creative minds that British music has produced in the last 20 years or so. Even the band agree, the song has been utterly disowned by them and Damon has even gone on record saying its crap. Whilst I think its a nice little song it does feel like its being performed by a group that have yet to reach their musical peak in all honesty. Having said that I do love the music video, its probably one of my favorite videos Blur have done (It's drummer Dave Rowntree's favorite actually) and it does enhance the song. A pleasant enough song although its very rightly not looked on as their finest moment. Not quite the disaster the band make it out, but it also doesn't justify their talents at all.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Happy Mondays - Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches

Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches is Happy Mondays third studio album, released in 1990. The album for me epitomizes the late 80's/early 90's "Madchester" scene much more so than the other leaders of the era, The Stone Roses who always had a much more retro sound compared to the Happy Mondays more contemporary style. The album is their most successful, as well as their most critically acclaimed and its not hard to see why: it would personally be in my top ten most favorite records of all time!

With Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches, Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder finally got to work with the producer that he was vouching for: Paul Oakenfold, no doubt thanks to the success of his "Think About The Future" mix of Wrote For Luck. Their singles would be typically remixed by DJ's anyway so really a more dance oriented album was a pretty natural move I think. In any case, the sound on Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches was the sound that Shaun had always hoped the band would go for. Happy Mondays were always a band that lent towards the dance end of the music spectrum but with Pill N Thrills and Bellyaches they finally embraced their dance influences. By doing so, they created their defining album and many people agree. The album reached #4 in the UK charts which was a colossal leap from previous album Bummed, which only reached #59.

The album also spawned their two biggest hits: Step On and Kinky Afro. To say that these are the best songs though would do the other tracks a massive disservice. If anything Step On and Kinky Afro are two of my least favorite tracks on the album. The album tracks on Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches more than match (they surpass in my opinion) the singles released from the set. The only song that I'm not overly keen on is Grandma's Funeral but I like or love every other song. With the other Happy Mondays albums, as much as I like them all they do always have a few songs I'd regard as filler. With Pills 'n' Thrills And Bellyaches though there is a special cohesion here: every song adds to the album really and it really is Happy Mondays at their peak.

Another thing I must pay special attention to is Shaun Ryder's lyrics on the record. Shaun Ryder has always been a really good lyricist in a twisted and manic sort of way. Its his lyrics coupled with Happy Mondays hard hitting dance rhythms that give them a certain edge I think. On Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches his lyrics are particularly strong. Kinky Afro has got some of the most twisted and consequently funny lyrics I have heard and the same can be said for God's Cop. Really, the whole band are at their peak here. No aspect of the band has ever sounded stronger than on Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches in my view.

All in all, if British indie music is the 90's is your thing then this is an absolutely essential listen. All of the songs are memorable and the band are at the peak of powers in every respect from the music to the lyrics, right down to the choice of producer. Currently the band are in the studio recording their first studio album to feature the original line up since their fourth record, 1992's Yes Please. Whilst you can never rule anything out really, its hard to imagine they'll ever top this record. It's that good! 

Favorite Tracks:
  • Dennis and Lois
  • Bob's Yer Uncle
  • God's Cop

Joy Division - Live At The Paradiso (Bootleg)

I'm sure those of you who know in depth about the many bootlegs of Joy Division concerts will know about this. I just thought I'd post the link to it for others who may not be aware of it as it really as a treasure! This isn't a review of the bootleg, I'm just promoting it really. This is from their gig at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, which took place on January 11th, 1980. It's the complete show This is by far and away the best quality Joy Division bootleg I've ever heard, so much better than the sound quality at the Preston set. I'd even go so far as to say it's probably got the best sound quality of any bootleg I've heard from any artist, period! A real treat to hear, given Ian would sadly pass away in a matter of months. Highly recommended if you have an interest in Joy Division!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

South Bank Show

So I've just managed to (finally) watch the Pet Shop Boys edition of The South Bank Show. The South Bank show was basically an arts programme that originally ran between 1978 and 2010 although it has came back in recent months. Anyhow, Pet Shop Boys featured on the show in the early 90s. Wikipedia states it was in 1990 although that has to be a mistake. I'm sure it was from 1992 because the album artwork for DJ Culture (which was released in that year) is shown and they reference the Performance tour being a year ago. In any case this is a really interesting documentary. I personally love watching old documentaries on artists, its like they capture a little snapshot of how they were feeling at a particular time if that makes sense? I personally found the documentary particularly enlightening on two particular subjects: firstly how Pet Shop Boys present themselves and how/why they're different to other pop artists around at that time. The documentary also features contributions from various people they have worked with over the years such as Liza Minnelli and the late Eric Watson. Eric Watson's contributions were particularly illuminating, not because of his passing earlier in the year but because I've never actually seen any video footage of him talking about working with Pet Sop Boys before. The video in this post is indeed the full documentary. It is a fascinating documentary that is well worth watching!

The Jacksons - Triumph Tour medley

This is a medley (Showing bits of Ben, Rock With You, Don't Stop Til You Get Enough) from the The Jacksons performance in Los Angeles on their Triumph tour in 1981, in support of the album of the same name. I personally feel the Triumph tour was one of Michael's most important in terms of his development of a solo artist, as some of  his signature feature's of his solo tours originated on this one. The tour is an incredibly popular one (one of my personal favorites too) but no official DVD of the tour has been released. An incomplete recording of the show were this medley was taken from can be found on Youtube, but its worth noting that the footage is split into four screens and can be pretty annoying to watch, but its better than nothing! A high quality full recording though doesn't seem to be in circulation and its for that reason that the existence of this small piece great quality footage (albeit criminally short) does puzzle me. I mean comparing the short little medley to the fuller show, its clear that the picture quality has been enhanced immensely. I'm pretty sure this medley was fan made though, simply because the Rock With You segment doesn't actually use a recording from the actual tour itself, the audio comes from the Bad Tour in Yokohama. Its not a massive issue, although you can clearly hear a female voice (who's actually Sheryl Crow) singing backing vocals, even though the other members of The Jacksons sang backing vocals on tour on Michael's solo songs. Also, a live album was released of the tour so I do wonder why they couldn't have used that audio instead.  Having said that, whoever restored this has done an absolutely amazing job with the picture, especially considering how grainy the picture quality of the other recordings are on Youtube. It also gains extra points from me for being the only live footage I've actually seen of the Triumph tour performance of Don't Stop Til You Get Enough. In many ways this is bittersweet, its a brilliant little performance, but also highlights not only how badly his estate has handled releases, but also as a reminder to what a brilliant performer he was!

Depeche Mode - Photographic (Live Something Else)

I do love  Depeche Mode's work with Alan Wilder naturally (who appeared on Construction Time Again through to Songs of Faith & Devotion). In spite of this though,  I'm actually a really big fan of their debut album, Speak & Spell, I think its prone to some unfair criticism really, and Photographic just so happens to be one of my favorite songs from the album. Having said that, I think this particular live version of the song is even better than the version that is on the album! It's a lot faster than the album version and there's much more synths in this which makes it a much more exciting track to listen to I think. The synths in this live arrangement give the track a slightly more dark flavor which is a great counterbalance to the more fluffy synthpop found on their first album. This particular performance is from the BBC show Something Else, which ran from 1978-1982 and was very much aimed at young people and featured more alternative artists (the show is perhaps best remembered for featuring Joy Division in their last TV appearance in 1979). I don't think Depeche Mode performed any other songs on Something Else although I could be wrong there. It's also one of the last Depeche Mode performances that feature founding member Vince Clarke before his departure as far as I know. The arrangement here is very similar (more or less identical really) to the original version of Photographic that appeared on the Some Bizarre album, which was actually the first ever recording of Depeche Mode to be released. You can find the original version on the very well known Some Bizarre compilation album (originally released in 1981 but reissued on CD in 2008). The compilation also contains early recordings by other groups that would become very well known such as The The, Blancmange and Soft Cell. If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea though you can also find it on the Depeche Mode compilation Singles 81-85. Sadly, this particular live performance of Photographic hasn't been released officially I think. It's a pity because it's a great performance!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Pet Shop Boys - Live at the Tube 1986

As far as TV show appearances go, this is probably their most interesting TV performance that I've seen! In short, The Tube was a very popular British music show in the 80's, that concentrated on more up and coming bands or ones in their infancy (hence why all the Pet Shop Boys appearances are from 1986, they also performed Paninaro on the show). The show was innovative though because it featured live performances as opposed to the mimed ones on the slightly more mainstream Top Of The Pops. The Tonight Is Forever clip is now legendary amongst fans but the West End Girls clip was one I actually hadn't seen until very recently. To cut a long story short, I couldn't find any information about the performance; what gave it away in the end was realizing that Chris was wearing the same attire as he did for Tonight Is Forever at The Tube. Whilst reading the Tonight is Forever entry in the Please Further Listening booklet they did indeed confirm they also did West End Girls on that particular broadcast.

For those reasons, I'll assume that West End Girls at The Tube is somewhat forgotten, which is a shame because this performance of West End Girls is very unique! This is the only performance of West End Girls that features both the "Who do you think you are, Joe Stalin?" verse in the hit version (it was cut from the original version). As a bonus, it also features what some fans refer to as the hidden verse. The hidden verse is the one that appears in longer mixes of the track, such as the 10" mix, the dance mix found on Disco etc. It's the verse that starts with "You can find a place that no-one knows..." and culminates with the line "and no-one knows your name." Its one of the few times they performed that hidden verse live (I can only recall the other time being on the Performance tour in 1991). It's definitely the only time that they have performed both these segments of lyrics together though. I used to think that the Joe Stalin line was a bit corny if I'm honest but I think it was the arrangement of the original version because here they sound really good!

The second performance also is interesting but for slightly more humorous reasons. Tonight is Forever was an album track from Please that both Neil and Chris highly rated. So much so in fact that they were sure it would be the follow up single to West End Girls (the re-released version). That is, until this performance happened. There was a two hour delay between performing the two tracks, and in this time Neil drank four pints of beer due to nerves. It's important to remember that because they didn't play live concerts in their early years, their initial performances on The Tube and Old Grey Whistle Test would have been some of their first forays into live performance so I'm sure their nerves were at fever pitch. Due to the drinking though, Neil's vocals sounded a bit weaker (by his own admission the worst he's ever sounded). I think the first verse a bit flat but he sounds decent from the first chorus onwards. It is one of their weaker performances admittedly but I still think they are a bit hard on themselves over it. They were so embarrassed by it they decided not to release it as a single. I'd say this same embarrassment is why we've never heard this song at any of their concerts other than as a brief introduction to the Discovery tour.

I can understand why Tonight is Forever wasn't on Ultimate. I mean it's interesting to watch if you are a fan but as an actual live performance its hardly their best. West End Girls though on the other hand is a rare little gem that I think definitely needs more attention, not having that on Ultimate was a mixed opportunity I think!

Little gems from London Calling

So last night I watched two really interesting shows: London Calling and London Songs at the BBC. The documentary was hosted by Jools Holland and told a history of London through various songs written about places in the city. What was a real treat though was the second show which was essentially a compilation of various performances of songs written about London. I just love watching those sort of compilation shows for the variety of music. The two highlights for me though (as well as Pet Shop Boys performing West End Girls naturally) were these: Blur's For Tomorrow official video and a performance of London Calling  by The Clash but this time it was by Joe Strummer and the Mescalero's.  It's quite a bittersweet performance too I think as it was only two years before Joe sadly died rather suddenly in December of 2002. It's actually made me all the more eager to watch The Future is Unwritten. My only criticism is that it would have been amazing if, instead of showing For Tomorrow they showed Damon Albarn and Ray Davies together singing Waterloo Sunset/Parklife as it's a stellar performance. Never the less, both shows were so interesting!

From the Archives...

A bit of a non-post really, but last night I was watching two very interesting musical shows: London Calling and London Songs at The BBC. The documentary aimed to tell a history of London's history through various songs written about it. I loved the second show which was a compilation of various performances of songs written about London. Naturally great songs like Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks and London Calling by The Clash were featured, but it's always lovely to see Pet Shop Boys on one of these shows, this time with one of their TOTP appearances performing West End Girls (obviously). Many of you will have already seen it no doubt, but its always lovely to see them on such shows as they can be ignored somewhat I feel.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Joy Division - She's Lost Control (Something Else)

Joy Division are one of my favourite groups ever, and this is probably my favourite live performance of theirs! This performance was what got me really sold on in their music. I had been struggling somewhat to enjoy them beforehand, but this made me realize what a captivating band they were. This is one of the few television appearances they made, and it was originally broadcast on September 15th 1979. They performed two songs on the show, She's Lost Control and also Transmission and were briefly interviewed (although the only one that talks in the interview is drummer Stephen Morris). For me, this live version of She's Lost Control is the definitive version. I find it hard to listen to the album version on Unknown Pleasures so much because I don't like how diluted the guitar sounds on the album version. Here though the guitar is much punchier and it really makes the track. Really though, I think all aspects of the song sound superior here to the album version. The atmosphere here is much more creepy and foreboding than the album version too I find. Another plus point is]Ian's dancing here too, you get a far better sense of his distinctive dance style here in comparison to the likes of the Here Are The Young Men VHS tape which is very hard to watch in places because of the poor quality. Sadly, the video footage of their appearance on Something Else hasn't been officially released, although the audio of their two performances is on the special edition of the compilation The Best of Joy Division that comes with the bonus disc. The video footage can be found on a bootleg release called Substance though, that was released on VHS but can also be found on a DVDR with Here Are The Young Men as a bonus disc. The performance does seem popular though, I have seen it on two separate BBC broadcasts: Punk Britannia and Sounds of the 70's: Punk. Both are great compilations of live performances by various bands which are worth a watch. In any case, this is Joy Division at their best I think!

Depeche Mode - Behind The Wheel

I love this song, easily one of my favourite songs from the 80's and probably of all time! Behind The Wheel is the third single from their album Music For The Masses. Before I heard this song, I have to admit I was struggling to get really into Depeche Mode. I had loved some of their songs but most of them took some time to grow on me. I heard Behind The Wheel on their well known 101 documentary (which was also seminal in finally making me a fan). The song was remixed for single release by Daniel Miller. In all honestly, I do prefer the album version by a substantial margin to the single version. I just think the single version has nearly too much going on in its arrangement, I think the extra synths are just a bit surplus to requirements really. What I really love about the album version is the musical symbolism that's very prevalent. The arrangement of the song is very simplistic and doesn't alter very much at all during the course of the track. Very appropriately, the beat merely keeps driving on, conjuring up images of driving down a highway for me at least. It goes perfectly with the driving metaphor that is the focal point of the lyrics. The lyrics of the song tell the story of  someone completing submitting themselves to their partner. In terms of theme, it implicitly reminds me of another well known Depeche Mode song, Never Let Me Down Again (also from Music For The Masses), as Never Let Me Down Again is again about submission, but in that song its about submission to drugs. I also love the B-side for Behind The Wheel, a cover version of the well known Bobby Troup composition Route 66. Usually I don't mention a B-side in a post that covers the A-side but for Behind The Wheel/Route 66 I make a special exception. It was the perfect B-side choice for Behind The Wheel I think as it maintains the driving theme of it's A-side counterpart. Route 66 even incorporates some of Behind The Wheel in its arrangement which ties the two even further. In any case, great song by a great band!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Nirvana - Unplugged

This is one of those legendary live sets that most people will have probably heard of, even if they're not fans of Nirvana to begin with. I was actually the same way, before I investigated Nirvana properly this was one of the few things about them that I was aware of.  Even when I was talking to my brother a few weeks ago about the performance (he's a Nirvana fan), he even said that it was in heavy rotation on the MTV channel, particularly after Kurt's death and it was one of those shows that when it was on, you almost had to watch it. After all, only the audio of the of the concert had been released at that point. I have to say that the concert is one of the most consistently brilliant live shows I've ever seen by anyone, it's simply that good.

 MTV Unplugged In New York was the first album of Nirvana's to be released posthumously after the death of lead singer Kurt Cobain. Initially in August 1994, an announcement was made that a two disc live compilation called Verse Chorus Verse would be released and would contain various different tracks from live performances from 1989-1994 and the Unplugged set in its entirety. However, given that Kurt's death was still very much fresh in the minds of surviving members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, compiling the album proved to be too emotionally difficult. This lead to the plans being shelved a mere week after the original announcement, although on November 1st of that year, the full Unplugged set was finally released as a standalone album.

Trying to get Nirvana on Unplugged was a difficult task, as the band members showed a dislike for the way many of the artists on the show treated their sets. They felt that they would simply play through their greatest hits except in this case they would merely substitute electric guitars for acoustic ones. Whilst touring with The Meat Puppets though (two members of which join Nirvana in the Unplugged set), Kurt finally accepted. In typical Nirvana fashion though, they opted not to do things the conventional way. Their set is mainly comprised of lesser known material and cover versions - six out of the fourteen tracks in the set are covers. I think the set is all the better for it though, I mean as great as songs like Smells Like Teen Spirit are, its good to see a band showcase their lesser known material, especially because I think Nirvana are one of those bands were the lesser known material is actually superior to their known hits. Speaking of hits, the only one you will find here is Come As You Are which may put some people off listening to the album, but honestly the cover versions here are so good that it really doesn't matter.

I have to say that the first time I watched this I was instantly hooked, to the point were it's been about two months since I originally seen it and I still play at least one song from this set a day. The Man Who Sold The World, which was originally by David Bowie, is honestly one of the best cover versions I have ever heard. I think I actually prefer it to the original, although I still really like the original. Another cover version of equal merit is of Lake of Fire, which was originally by The Meat Puppets. Two members of The Meat Puppets - Cris and Curt Kirkwood - join Nirvana onstage during their rendition of this song and two other Meat Puppet covers in the set. Many of Nirvana's songs here are performed even better than their studio versions I think, particularly Come As You Are. I'm really glad they decided to choose that as the only hit they performed, as Come As You Are is my favorite Nirvana single along with Lithium and it's arrangement really suits the Unplugged style. Having said that, I don't think Lithium would suit an Unplugged style arrangement, because of the usage of dynamic shifts between the verses and the choruses. I just don't see how you could make the performance acoustic yet still convey that part of the song just as effectively as the studio version does.

Another thing that I feel I must mention is the stage design. It was Kurt's own idea that the stage be adorned with things like stargazer lilies and black candles, in his own words "Exactly like a funeral". It gives an extra layer of eeriness to an already very emotional sounding performance I think, seeing as Kurt would be dead within six months of Unplugged. One particularly potent part is in the line in Come As You Are: "And I swear that I don't have a gun". For me, the stage design coupled with Kurts poweful vocals make it simply gut wrenching to listen too. Another highlight for me is the emotional resonance that the listener feels with Kurt's voice for the duration  of the set which really adds an extra dimension to the songs. As much as I love the other Nirvana concerts I've seen because of their highly energetic atmosphere, there's a very organic and consequently timeless quality to Unplugged which makes it work as an album of music and not just a live spectacle.

I have to say that this is simply a must listen of an album if you have any interest in live music. Each song on the album is performed absolutely beautifully and it serves as a sobering reminder of what a loss to music Kurt was. It's also one of the most acclaimed albums I have ever seen on Amazon US: it has a staggering average of five (yes, five) stars out of 454 reviews. Listening to the album, its hard to say its not justified. Honestly, the only downside for me for this performance was that it it flies in whilst watching it I found. It's absolutely imperative to remember that there are no pyrotechnics or costume changes here. The performance earns the praise it does through the music and the music alone. Indeed, there are some things in life that get elevated to legendary status through hype, but every so often something gets elevated to such status simply because they deserve it on merit. This Unplugged set (and Nirvana as a whole) are most definitely the latter. I've never concluded any post with the following statement but this really does warrant it: it's quite simply perfection from beginning to end.