Unplugged – Eric Clapton – 1992
Claimed Sales: 20m
First listen?: Yes
Format Listened?: Apple Music
Unlike anything else I’ve covered as part of this series, Unplugged is the only live album that has sold anywhere close to as many copies as the rest of these records. Its success is not simply surprising given it was recorded as an MTV Unplugged TV special, but that nothing else recorded by Eric Clapton, solo or as part of a group has ever come close to this success. It’s probably the most relaxed record I’ve talked about too, the cheers from the audience as the kazoo solo starts during San Francisco Bay Blues feels off the cuff and genuine. Everything from the Clapton originals, such as career highlights Layla and Tears From Heaven, to the classic blues of Hey Hey and closer Rollin’ and Tumblin’ feel smooth and easy. The last of those songs too starts suddenly mid verse as it began as a simple jam and audience singalong while Clapton was waiting for the band to set up for the next track, with the director quickly cueing the team to start recording. It’s this kind of thing that makes the best live albums so genuinely exciting even for someone like me who doesn’t know the source material. In fact, I had genuinely never heard any of the songs on Unplugged before, or if I had I couldn’t have pointed them out as being made famous by Eric Clapton. The blues genre is one where this doesn’t matter at all though, this is a guitarist and his band jamming away and somehow they’ve captured the anticipation and excitement of the crowd throughout. The songs that stay true to the genre fit this the best and while the album does jump between Clapton originals and covers it’s a true musician’s album. Unplugged went on to become a blueprint for live recordings to follow and it’s obvious to see why.
Will I listen again?: Probably not.
Best Track: The final recording on the album of Rollin’ and Tumblin’ wasn’t even meant for the performance, but I love that the album ends with Clapton asking the MTV team ‘did you get that’ once the song ends.