‘Unplugged’ album revisits good ole’ days of MTV

Josh Nicolay

Ahhh, remember the good ole’ days of MTV? The days when music was the fundamental core of programming, and (gasp) the musicians featured were talented? I know, I know, it’s a real stretch of the imagination, but there was a point in time where Music TeleVision was, in fact, music television.

Although losing sight of the original objective was probably not one of the long-term goals for MTV, it can’t be denied the network did help create some masterful works of art. One such gem is the Alice in Chains “MTV Unplugged” album. As you may already know, “Unplugged” is a showcase of popular musicians, typically rock musicians, who trade their electrical instruments for acoustics and play a collection of their original songs. This live Alice In Chains set, which MTV first aired in 1996, was one of the final shows with front man Layne Staley and, as a result of an almost three year hiatus from live concerts, is an emotionally charged tour de force.

Like any “Unplugged” session, this set draws original songs from both studio albums and EP sessions and, like any “Unplugged” session, the use of acoustical instruments results in an entirely new dynamic mood not found in regular studio albums. Poignant tracks, such as “Nutshell” and “Down in a Hole,” have such an emotive ambiance that one can’t help but wonder if they were originally meant to be played acoustically on a candlelit stage. Harder songs like “Would?” and “No Excuses” are revitalized with a caress of sheer brilliance.

This album is, without a doubt, one of my favorite albums of all time and, as such, I may be a tad bit biased when it comes to the overzealous praise. I’m probably stepping on some sensitive and potentially livid toes by saying this, but I firmly believe that “Alice in Chains Unplugged” is the best “MTV Unplugged” album released to date – better than Nirvana’s, better than Eric Clapton’s and, hell, even better than The Cure’s. I also firmly believe that anyone who disagrees with me is flat-out wrong and should get their head checked (but that’s neither here nor there).

Regardless, the fact still remains that “Alice in Chains Unplugged” will remain a timeless work of art, one that can find a place in the hearts of even the most discriminate of rock fans and leave them with the feeling of thinking, “Hey, MTV did something right.”