Friday, December 05, 2008

Album (and/or Video) Of The Day #119: MTV UNPLUGGED - Bob Dylan

Title: MTV Unplugged
Artist: Bob Dylan
Label: Columbia
Released: 1995 (CD), 2004 (DVD)
Songs: Tombstone Blues/Shooting Star/All Along The Watchtower/The Times They Are A-Changin'/John Brown/Desolation Row/Rainy Day Women #12 & 35/Love Minus Zero/No Limit/Dignity/Knockin' On Heaven's Door/Like A Rolling Stone/With God On Our Side
Executive Producers: Jeff Kramer & Jeff Rosen
Thoughts: Oh, the days when MTV was actually Music Television...Anyway, enough reminiscing, what do we have here?
The point of the "Unplugged" program was to have artists perform their songs with no electric instruments. The only other "Unplugged" program that I've ever enjoyed is Paul McCartney's, which was the first to be issued on CD. Paul sparingly had acoustic tracks on his solo LPs and it was nice to hear Beatle tracks like "And I Love Her" and "We Can Work It Out" in acoustic form. It was also really cool to hear Paul tear through some covers and hear Paul talk about his songs. The thing with Dylan though, is that he hates to talk or even slightly interact with an audience. In this program, he doesn't say a word, so the producers actually have to have the song titles appear on screen.
Bob's original plan was to use the show as a showcase for traditional material and make the show like a live version of his Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong LPs. Of course, Bob was somehow convinced otherwise and brought out his then-current "Never Ending Tour" band and they essentially put on a regular show. The humor in that is that they didn't have to change a thing - Bob already performs mostly acoustic tracks anyway! This is probably why Bob wanted to do something different, because otherwise, it would just be a standard show.
Bob gives all the songs pretty much a standard reading, although he puts on a great performance of "Dignity" and "Shooting Star". The version of "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" is also great. It is rather odd that the track was left off the US CD version, but it is on the DVD and is on the international CDs.
"John Brown", a song Bob wrote back in the Freewheelin' days, makes it first official appearance and it's a really pretty, heartbreaking song about a mother wanting her son to go to war, and when he comes back, she regrets her decision because he is wounded.
I would suggest getting the DVD over the CD, because, first off, you've heard all these songs, so do you really need another version of them? Secondly, it's great to see Bob smile and it is kind of funny to see him struggle and fight with the stool. Throughout the entire concert, he has problems sitting and playing guitar at the same time and it looks awkward. (Plus, it's great to see an audience full of rich folk who can't figure out what song he's doing.) He looks really uncomfortable and like he just wants to throw it off the stage. Still, he pulls off an enjoyable performance and it really is the only full official "Never Ending Tour" document.

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