Neil Young Unplugged is an excellent live album contrast to loud, electric Weld album released two years earlier.
After the critical and commercial success of Weld, Young the notorious contrarian released the acoustic Harvest Moon, a follow-up to his biggest selling album, Harvest from 1972.
This album appeared quite late in the MTV Unplugged fad but Neil Young is a natural and it shows. This album confirms that it was such a shame that Young lost his way in the 1980s.
Neil Young Unplugged Overall Rating – 26/30
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Set List Rating – 8/10
- The Old Laughing Lady – 5:15 (from his debut solo album Neil Young)
- Mr. Soul – 3:54 (from Buffalo Springfield Again)
- World on a String – 3:02 (Tonights The Night)
- Pocahontas – 5:06 (Rust Never Sleeps)
- Stringman – 4:01 (previously unreleased)
- Like a Hurricane – 4:44 (American Stars & Bars)
- The Needle and the Damage Done – 2:52 (Harvest)
- Helpless – 5:48 (from the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Deja Vu)
- Harvest Moon – 5:20 (Harvest Moon)
- Transformer Man – 3:36 (Trans)
- Unknown Legend – 4:47 (Harvest Moon)
- Look Out for My Love – 5:57 (Comes A Time)
- Long May You Run – 5:22 (from the Stills & Young album Long May You Run)
- From Hank to Hendrix – 5:51 (Harvest Moon)
Three tracks from the recent Harvest Moon album but otherwise this set-list is drawn from all corners off Neil Young’s musical history including Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I am particularly pleased that Helpless is included.
It doesn’t include many of his best known acoustic tracks from After The Goldrush and Harvest but it shows what a great back catalogue Young has to draw on.
I give the set list 8 out of 10. It’s not what I’d have chosen but the quality of the songs is consistently high.
Performance Rating – 10/10
The album starts with Young on his own but from Helpless onwards, Neil Young was joined by occasional Crazy Horse member Nils Lofgren and others to create a delicate, gentle, beautiful live album with one exception.
If you are familiar with Neil Young, you’ll know that Like A Hurricane is possibly his best over-the-top guitar workout.
Instead of toning it down and playing it on an acoustic guitar, we’re given a remarkable version where the full sound comes from a pump organ. Here it feels sad and mournful and instead of a blazing guitar solo it plays out with harmonica..
The other songs are captivating for their focus on the tunes and lyrics. Perhaps it’s just me, but they seem for soulful in this setting. Young sounds so sincere as he sings. This album is moving and memorable.
If I’ve got a criticism of the songs and arrangements, it would be that it’s sad and downbeat. Perfect for certain moods but it’s not the album for you if you want to party.
Here are some videos of Neil Young performing live unplugged.
Like A Hurricane this is very different from the version on Live Rust.
The Needle And The Damage Done
Atmosphere & Authenticity Rating – 8/10
Neil Young is very much at home playing these beautiful acoustic songs. I’ve docked one point because I’d have preferred he’s released this album before the MTV Unplugged craze.
The audience is relatively loud compared to the songs but the setting feels small and intimate.
You can listen to this album and imagine being there. You know you’d be spellbound by watching the great man perform. There’s very little chat… the music does the talking.
I’ve docked another point to be consistent with how I marked Weld. There I said that a Neil Young live album should reflect both sides of his music. I think that’s because I found the full on attack of Weld a bit overwhelming and wanted (needed?) a break. That’s not a problem where but the point stands. The ultimate Neil Young live album has the soft and gentle songs and the guitar work-outs and that’s why I prefer Live Rust.
Total Rating For Neil Young Unplugged – 26/30
If you’re a fan of both sides of Neil Young, I think you’ll find it impossible not to love this album.
It has such a pureness of spirit. I give it a rating of 26/30.
If you love the electric workouts but you’re not sure about his acoustic songs, I’d start with Live Rust and see what you think of that. It’s probably his most highly rated live album and gives you stand-out acoustic and electric performances.
If you’re new to Neil Young and you like acoustic music, then this is a good place to start but an even better place might be After The Goldrush and Harvest, often considered to be two of the best albums ever by any artist.
What Do Others Say About Neil Young Unplugged?
This Neil Young Unplugged album doesn’t feature in the greatest live albums ever lists. I think that’s because others also see Live Rust as the perfect compromise between the acoustic and electric sides of Neil Young.
Looking at Amazon.com, at the time of writing there are plenty of reviews and evidence that people love this album.
Buying Neil Young Unplugged
To help you to find the album quickly and easily, I’ve given you the following links::
- Amazon.com as a CD or mp3
- Amazon.co.uk as a CD or mp3
- iTunes as a digital download
- eBay as a CD
Amazon.com – Neil Young Unplugged
Amazon.co.uk – Neil Young Unplugged
What Do You Think About Unplugged by Neil Young?
I’m interested to know what you think about this live album. Do you agree with me that it’s a beautiful work of art?
Or should Neil Young stick to his electric guitar?
What is The Best Neil Young Live Album?
In recent years Neil Young has authorised the release of a lot of old concert recordings. This is exactly what I hope Bruce Springsteen will do.
However it does make the choice of finding the best Neil Young live album more difficult so I’d be grateful if you’d vote in my poll.
Will Neil Young Unplugged be one of the most highly rated albums? I don’t know because it’s such a tough choice.
What Are The Best Live Albums Ever?
Please help me find the best live albums by voting in my readers polls:
Click on the links to vote and to see the results so far.