DGC/ORG 180g black or pink LP
Produced by: Nirvana and Scott Litt
Engineered by: N/A
Mixed by: N/A (at Louie's Clubhouse)
Mastered by: Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Mastering
Nirvana's MTV Date Sounding Better Than Ever
by Michael Fremer
October 01, 2010
It’s difficult to believe this November 18th, 1993 Sony Music Studios performance is almost seventeen years old. Though it aired on MTV a month later, it wasn’t issued on vinyl or CD until November 1st, 1994, six months after Kurt Cobain’s suicide.
While the timing helped propel the album up the charts, its enduring popularity is due in large part to Cobain’s eclectic and well-timed programming and of course to the rare chance to hear the group perform in an intimate live venue.
Cobain opens with “About a Girl” from Bleach—an album he thought unfamiliar to most in the audience, followed by “Come As You Are” from the major label “sell-out” album with which he knew everyone was familiar.
Eschewing the familiar, he diverts to a cover of The Vaselines’ “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam” that he’s sure few if any in the audience have heard—the title of which refers to the opening line in a children’s hymn and he follows that with a swell cover of David Bowie’s haunting, mysterious “The Man Who Sold The World” that he hopes the audience knows, but he identifies the writer just in case some don't.
Backed by Grohl, Novoselic, Smear and Meat Puppets Curt and Cris Kirkwood, Cobain backtracks to the familiar: “Pennyroyal Tea,” “Dumb” and “Polly.”
Side two begins with “On a Plain” and “Something in the Way” from Nevermind and then Cobain generously turns the program over to three Meat Puppets songs. Then it’s back to “All Apologies” from In Utero. The set ends with a dense cover of Ledbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” How could Cobain sing anything else after the way he rips up his throat during the song’s climax?
The musical choices and ordering were astute and the performances focused, though the arrangements, particularly the rhythm guitar patterns, were uni-dimensional and kind of stodgy. What saves the evening was Cobain’s pained expressiveness. If he was having a really good time, he hid it well. However, the time he was having was what the audience was there to experience.
Do we really think analog tape was rolling at Sony Studios in 1993? Perhaps it was, but I would be more inclined to think this was a digital multitrack recording mixed down to high resolution digital two track like Bruce Springsteen’s live in New York album, which was mastered to vinyl from a high resolution digital mix and so not surprisingly sounds ridiculously better on vinyl than on CD.
Though there was a vinyl edition of Nirvana Unplugged in New Yorkback in 1994, it was a very limited edition. This ORG reissue cut from the original tape whatever it’s technological underpinnings, offers gut crunching, well focused bass, crystalline high frequencies and well-defined three dimensional images on a large, airy, well defined soundstage. Dynamics are what you would hope for. Put it all together and you have an excellent sounding, well-packaged reissue of an important event in the life of Nirvana and its fans, even if it makes painfully obvious that Curt Cobain was clearly the reluctant performer.
Thanks to Michael over at http://www.musicangle.com/ for the exclusive rights to reprint this material. Stop by MusicAngle.com for more reviews and features.
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