This is a textbook case of how to successfully handle a reissue. Eric Clapton fans, proceed directly to the newly expanded and remastered Unplugged. This is a reissue done right—and kept at a highly reasonable price, to boot. The packaging is the picture of simplicity, a standard-sized, tri-fold digipak that houses three discs and a booklet. The original 14-track Unplugged album has been remastered and sounds better than ever. There’s a second audio disc with six “Outtakes & Alternatives,” meaning a combination of songs that don’t appear on the album, plus different versions of ones that do. As for tunes not featured on the actual album, we get “Circus,” two takes of “My Father’s Eyes,” and a very enthusiastically received “Worried Life Blues.”
The third disc is a DVD of the original 65-minute MTV Unplugged broadcast, remixed in 5.1 DTS sound. But the coolest part is the bonus rehearsal footage. It’s not just a few songs or short clips, either—this is a full 62-minute rehearsal. No audience, just crew setting up while the band plays a slightly different set list. In essence, it’s a dress rehearsal. No goofing or mugging. The full ensemble works their way through what is basically an alternate, full-length “unplugged” concert. In addition to a slightly shuffled song order, we hear “My Father’s Eyes” and “Circus” in place of “Old Love” and “Rollin’ & Tumblin’.” Even if you know the original broadcast like the back of your hand (considering it has long been available on DVD), this is a tremendous opportunity to hear and see it all anew.
Of course, Unplugged was a true phenomenon back in 1992 upon its initial release, introducing millions of new listeners to Clapton while providing mature, relaxed reinterpretations and covers for veteran fans. Paul McCartney had kicked off the trend of releasing MTV Unplugged appearances as albums with his limited edition release, Unplugged (The Official Bootleg). It was successful, with its original 500,000 run selling out, but Clapton’s Unplugged soared to unbelievable heights. Some 10 million copies were sold, the reworked “Layla” became a major hit single, and the album cleaned up at the Grammys, winning the coveted Album of the Year award. While some have bemoaned the performance’s lack of rock intensity, few can deny it’s a terrific opportunity to hear Clapton’s acoustic prowess. Besides, there’s an entirely valid and palpable form of intensity in these performances, highlighted by a tender reading of “Tears in Heaven.”
While there are no fancy tchotchkes included in the package, the deluxe reissue of Unplugged delivers where it counts: the music. With over an hour and half of music between the two CDs and over two hours of performance footage on the DVD, one of Eric Clapton’s most celebrated releases has been duly honored.