Eric Clapton – Unplugged (Deluxe Edition) (review)

Eric Clapton – Unplugged (Deluxe Edition) (Reprise) review

Clapton’s biggest-selling album gets “amped up”

With over 10 million copies sold, Unplugged is not only Eric Clapton’s best-selling album, it also ranks on the list of biggest of all-time.  It also garnered the guitarist a whopping six Grammy’s in 1992.  Reprise Records has just remastered the original album, tacking on a disc of bonus tracks left off the original program.  Also included is a DVD featuring the full episode, plus a never-before seen rehearsal, taped earlier in the day.

What’s amazing is that, unlike most Unplugged shows, Clapton chose to ignore most of his hits.  Opening with the Latin instrumental “Signe,” Clapton instead runs through many of his influences, including Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me” and Big Bill Broonzy’s “Hey Hey,” stopping for a pair of Robert Johnson compositions, “Walkin’ Blues,” and “Malted Milk” along the way.  The atmosphere is relaxed and Clapton is, as usual, surrounded by incredibly talented musicians, including Andy Fairweather-Low on guitar, and Nathan East on bass.

The album was bolstered by Clapton’s poignant tribute to his recently-deceased son, Conor, in “Tears in Heaven,” which hit #2 on the Billboard Charts.  The record’s other hit was a vast reworking of the Derek & the Dominos’ classic, “Layla” – here slowed way down to a blues shuffle.

Of the bonus material, he runs through several fantastic versions of “My Father’s Eyes,” yet chose to omit it from the episode and album.  It would later surface six year later on his album Pilgrim.  This is a head-scratcher – it could’ve been another hit.

The original episode looks and sounds fantastic on DVD.  The bonus footage is of the rehearsal, earlier in the day.  Some of the lighting and audio is still being worked out, so there are times when things fade in and out.  The highlight of this is the run through of  “San Francisco Bay Blues,” where every member plays a kazoo.  The take ends in laughter from everyone involved.

Surprisingly, there is no essay on the show’s filming or historical background, choosing to let the performance speak for itself.

At the height of the show’s popularity, MTV Unplugged was an opportunity to showcase artists in a different, more intimate setting. While Paul McCartney and R.E.M. both recorded memorable shows the previous season, Clapton helped solidify the show as a force to be reckoned with, at least for a short time.  Any fan of the guitarist will enjoy this Deluxe Edition of Eric Clapton’s Unplugged.  —Tony Peters