On My Record Player Part 9

Nirvana – Unplugged in New York (1994)

Recorded on November 18, 1993 at Sony Studios in New York City for MTV Unplugged. I became a fan of Nirvana I think in 1997, the summer before 9th grade. There was me, Brian, Kenny, Scarface, and the lovable Old James, oh hold on. Wait a minute. Old James, Old James wasn’t there. I don’t even know nobody names Old James. Shoot Go on!  I used to watch a lot of MTV back then and they would show Unplugged episodes and I discovered the softer side of Nirvana when they played for the show. This performance and set-list was too simply put it, incredible. I am curious to know how much rehearsal and thought was put into this before they performed. Kurt Cobain had so much heart and feeling in these songs. There is a beautiful delicacy in every note played that you can only hear in something intimate as this. His choice of cover songs from David Bowie, the Vasolines, the Meat Puppets, and Lead Belly is so intriguing and beautifully executed. You really get a sense of his powerful emotional state in his final months alive and you can tell how satisfying it was for him to perform in this aesthetic compared to the common routine of loud rock in crowded clubs and arenas. He was a very sensitive, irritable spirit that needed specific outlets to nurture his poetic creativity. Thank God for the brains behind MTV Unplugged and Nirvana for agreeing to do this. Its funny to hear band members like Dave Grohl play this lite rock drumming when he was known for his bombastic loud fast drumming. These guys were (are) super talented in their craft. I love the harmonizing Dave and Kurt execute on some of these tracks. The sound on this record is truly timeless and sounds so fresh after 16 years, it also helps on 180 gram Vinyl going through multiple speakers. More bands known for their loud rock should try this acoustic thing. Its kind of like a great football player playing golf or something. Its just a matter of focus and adapting to a different setting. Nirvana really set the standard for showing how sweet they can sound in contrast to their otherwise loud angry rock n roll. The closing track “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” is gorgeously haunting and stays with you.

5 out of 5 stars – http://www.allmusic.com

If In Utero is a suicide note, MTV Unplugged in New York is a message from beyond the grave, a summation of Kurt Cobain’s talents and pain so fascinating, it’s hard to listen to repeatedly. Is it the choice of material or the spare surroundings that make it so effective? Well, it’s certainly a combination of both, how the version of the Vaselines’ “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” or the three covers of Meat Puppets II songs mean as much as “All Apologies” or “Something in the Way.” This, in many senses, isn’t just an abnormal Nirvana record, capturing them in their sincerest desire to be R.E.M. circa Automatic for the People, it’s the Nirvana record that nobody, especially Kurt, wanted revealed. It’s a nakedly emotional record, unintentionally so, as the subtext means more than the main themes of how Nirvana wanted to prove its worth and diversity, showcasing the depth of their songwriting. As it turns out, it accomplishes its goals rather too well; this is a band, and songwriter, on the verge of discovering a new sound and style. Then, there’s the subtexts, as Kurt’s hurt and suicidal impulses bubble to the surface even as he’s trying to suppress them. Few records are as unblinkingly bare and naked as this, especially albums recorded by their peers. No other band could have offered covers of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” and the folk standard “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” on the same record, turning in chilling performances of both performances that reveal as much as their original songs.


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