Friday, November 19, 2010

Michael Fremer Album Review

Unplugged in New York


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  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material. Stop by for more reviews and features.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission

This Date In Music History - November 19


Ray Collins - Frank Zappa band (1937)

Pete Moore - Miracles (1939)

Eddie Rayner - Split Enz (1941)

Fred Lipsius - Blood Sweat & Tears (1943)

Joe Correro - Paul Revere and the Raiders (1946)

Matt Sorum - The Cult, Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver (1960)

Travis McNabb - Better Than Ezra (1969)

Justin Chancellor - Peach, Tool (1971)

Tamika Scott - Xscape (1975)

They Are Missed:

Tom Evans from Badfinger committed suicide in 1983 by hanging himself in his back garden from a willow tree. Family members said the singer, songwriter was never able to get over his former bandmate's Pete Ham's suicide. Evans co-wrote "Without You," a hit for Harry Nilson and Mariah Carey.

Born on this day in 1934, Dave Guard, The Kingston Trio. Died March 22, 1991

Songwriter Bobby Russell, who wrote many US Top 40 hits including "Honey" and "Little Green Apples", died of heart disease at the age of 51 in 1992. In 1973, he composed "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," which became a number one hit for his wife, Vicki Lawrence.

English singer-songwriter and founding member of folk rock band, Lindisfarne Alan Hull died of a heart attack in 1995 (age 50).

English bassist player Greg Ridley died from pneumonia in 2003. Was member of the VIP’s with Keith Emerson, Spooky Tooth, Humble Pie. Formed Strange Brew with Clem Clempson and Cozy Powell.

Record producer Terry Melcher, who was behind hits by the Byrds, Ry Cooder and the Beach Boys, died in 2004 after a long battle with skin cancer (age 62). The son of actress Doris Day, he co-wrote "Kokomo" for the Beach Boys, produced "Mr Tambourine Man" for the Byrds, as well as hits for The Mamas and the Papas.

Born on this day in 1938, Hank Medress, The Tokens. He died from lung cancer on June 25, 2007 (age 68).

In 2007, Kevin DuBrow, the charismatic lead singer for Quiet Riot, died at his home in Las Vegas at the age of 52.


At the age of 14, Jerry Lee Lewis made his debut playing "Drinking Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee" at the opening of a Ford dealership in Ferriday of 1949.

In 1954, Sammy Davis Jr. was involved in a car accident in which he lost his left eye. Sammy had released a number of singles which were mostly ignored until he signed with Decca Records in 1955, where he scored hits with "Something's Gotta Give," "Love Me or Leave Me" and "That Old Black Magic." His biggest hit? The sappy "Candy Man," which hit #1 in 1972.

Carl Perkins recorded "Blue Suede Shoes" at Sun Studios in Memphis in 1955. The rock 'n' roll classic became a US #2 hit for Perkins in 1956, and has been covered by many acts including Elvis Presley and John Lennon. Elvis Presley's version, which gets more air-play these days, only managed to get to #20.

Chicago radio station WCFL was picketed by the local chapter of the Elvis Presley fan club in 1957 when it refused to play Presley's records. Despite the protest, the station did not change its policy.

In 1959, an RCA executive caused quite a stir when he told members of the press that when Elvis returns to civilian life, people will notice a great change in his style of music. Colonel Tom Parker quickly issued a statement to fans, telling them that won't be the case.

In 1962, the Beatles, played gigs at three different venues. First they performed a lunchtime show at the Cavern Club, Liverpool, followed by an 85-mile drive to the Midlands, where they performed at Smethwick Baths Ballroom and then at the Adelphi Ballroom, West Bromwich in Staffordshire.

Gary Lewis and The Playboys recorded "This Diamond Ring" in 1964. The cut would climb to number one in the US the following January.

The Supremes became the first all girl group to have a UK #1 single when "Baby Love" went to the top of the charts in 1964.

The Doors appeared at Hughes Aircraft Union Dance in Los Angeles, California in 1965.

The Supremes started a two week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1966 with "You Keep Me Hanging On," the group's 7th US #1 hit.

In 1968, Diana Ross, onstage with The Supremes at the Royal Command Variety Performance in London, interrupted the show with a plea for interracial understanding. The audience, which included members of the royal family, applauded for two minutes.

In 1977, the Ramones' lead singer, Joey Ramone (real name: Jeffrey Hyman) suffered second degree burns when a faulty humidifier exploded before a show in Passaic, New Jersey. After emergency treatment, he finished the concert, but would spend the following week at the New York Hospital Burn Center. I have spent time in a burn unit, all I can is OUCH, there is no pain worse than a serious burn...

Chuck Berry was released from prison in 1979 after serving a four-month sentence for tax evasion.

Tina Turner made her first chart appearance in over ten years in 1983 with her version of the Al Green hit "Let's Stay Together."

Bon Jovi started a two week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1988 with "Bad Medicine," the group's third US #1.

Milli Vanilli was stripped of their Grammy Award in 1990 because other singers had lent their voices to the 'Girl You Know It's True' album.

The iconic U2 album "Achtung Baby" was released in 1991.

In 1994, Crosby Stills & Nash member David Crosby had a successful liver transplant operation at Dumont-UCLA in Los Angeles. Crosby's liver was deteriorated from extensive alcohol and drug abuse, as well as hepatitis-C. He is like a cat, but how many more lives does he have?

'Out In L.A.,' a collection of Red Hot Chili Peppers b-sides and previously unreleased material was released in 1994.

Nirvana entered the US album chart at #1 in 1994 with 'MTV Unplugged In New York.'

In 1995, a 60 track album called "Beatles Anthology I" was released in the US and sets a first-day sales record of 450,000 units.

Bruce Springsteen's thirteenth album, "The Ghost of Tom Joad," was released in 1995.

The US premiere of Sir Paul McCartney's "Standing Stone" was played in Carnegie Hall by St. Luke's Orchestra in 1997.

The Beatles started an eleven-week run at #1 on the UK album chart in 2000 with 'The Beatles 1.'

Jay-Z was at #1 on the US album chart in 2000 with ‘The Dynasty Roc La Familia (2000).’

Mick Jagger released his new solo album 'Goddess In The Doorway' in 2001. First day sales stood at 954 copies. Umm, I don't think I have that in my collection either.

In 2002, safety experts blasted Michael Jackson after dangling his baby from a third-floor hotel balcony. Jacko was in Berlin for an awards ceremony and was showing his nine-month old baby to his fans outside the hotel. idiot....

In 2003, Meat Loaf collapsed onstage during a sold-out concert at London's Wembley Arena. He reportedly tried to continue his performance before being advised by paramedics on the scene to cancel the show.

Also in 2003, police issued an arrest warrant for Michael Jackson following allegations of sexual abuse of a 12-year old boy. Jackson who was in Las Vegas filming a video, negotiated with police to arrange a time and place to hand himself in. Really an idiot.....

Capitol Records issued the group’s first four US albums in a box set in 2004 approprietly called, "The Capitol Albums Vol. 1." The albums are, 'Meet the Beatles,' 'The Beatles` Second Album,' 'Something New' and 'Beatles `65,' all originally released in 1964. These are the albums that launched Beatlemania 40 years earlier.

In 2004, John Lennon topped the "Q" poll asking "Who is the Greatest Rock and Roll Icon of all time?" Lennon edges Elvis Presley in the British Magazine survey. David Bowie nails the #3 spot with Keith Richards at #4. Interestingly, Mick Jagger can only hit #17 but that is still two slots above Jimi Hendrix. What, Hendrix only at #19? That's just silly.......

In 2005, former glam rock star Gary Glitter was arrested in Vietnam after being detained at Ho Chi Minh airport as he tried to board a plane to Bangkok. Police said Glitter was being held under suspicion of committing lewd acts with two girls under the age of 18. Pig.

A guitar played by George Harrison was set to fetch more than $160,000 at a London auction in 2006. The Maton MS500 guitar was used on The Beatles first album.

The members of Red Hot Chili Peppers file a lawsuit in 2007 against Showtime Networks for unfair competition and unjust enrichment over the TV show Californication - the same name as the band's multi-platinum '99 album. "'Californication' is the signature CD, video and song of the band's career," says vocalist Anthony Kiedis. "For some TV show to come along and steal our identity is not right."

In 2009, Ringo Starr announced that he teamed up with his former Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney for a duet on 'Y Not,' the drummer's forthcoming solo album due out Jan. 12, 2010.