A song just came up on iTunes that's the inspiration for this post...so here ya go.
Unplugged. You remember that MTV series? People today forget how F'n great that series was on MTV and the recordings from those simple, acoustic sessions. I know they tried to keep it going or bring it back within the last decade by bringing on rap groups or hip hop artists but it never really worked quite as well as it did back in the early 90's with guitar-laden rock groups willing to unplug the amps (get it: unplug!) and re-invent some of their most popular songs.
So, without further adieu, here is my list of the top 10 "unplugged" versions of a song. Some are from MTV's Unplugged series, some are just acoustic versions of songs that ended up being WAY better than the original.
10. Long May You Run - Neil Young
This is a guy that doesn't get a lot of respect for being a great musician and storyteller and that's fine; I can understand that not everyone like harmonicas, folksy guitars and such. This whole album is awesome but I especially love this song. The band he has with him does a great job and although this is a live recording it sounds amazing. From Hank to Hendrix gets an honorbale mention on this album if you're so inclined to check it out...
9. Posters - Jack Johnson
Jack has a great voice, really mellow vibe and tells great stories. No clue where I got this studio recorded version of Posters, but it blows the original out of the water. Jack is the perfect candidate for an unplugged album showcasing his vocal and musical talents..let's hope he thinks the same.
8. Pretty Girl - Sugarcult
I'm not really a fan of Sugarcult and my stumbling upon this song was completely random, but I'm glad I found it. The original sounds NOTHING like the acoustic version, but that's a good thing...
7. Everlong - Foo Fighters
I still think the Foo's should release an album titled "I Pity the Foo" but that's another discussion. When I heard there was an acoustic version of this song it intrigued me. How do you take such an uptempo song with lightning fast drum work and hard hitting guitar riffs and a screaming Dave Grohl and make it sound good? Whatever they did, it worked. It shows a softer side to the Foo's and Dave Grohl that really made that song special with a single guitar and subdued Grohl vocals.
6. Cash Machine - Hard-Fi
This is a somewhat obscure song, but it's worth a mention. The acoustic version of this song isn't radically different than the original except for the absence of a drum-set and various synth parts in the background. The clapping and use of the guitar for all the percussion really works for this tune and the crescendo leading into the chorus just has a magical feel to it and I very much prefer the acoustic version to the original. Definitely worth the $0.99 download if you're interested...
5. Because the Night - 10,000 Maniacs
This is one of those songs that you ONLY hear in it's unplugged version anymore and for good reason. The original was a good song from a band that was really coming into their own in the early 90's but I think their appearance on Unplugged really made them a household name...which is why Natalie Merchant left months after they recorded Unplugged. Thankfully, they recorded this great song before she left...
4. Plush - Stone Temple Pilots
STP was huge when I was growing up and Plush put them on the map. Don't get me wrong: the regular version of Plush is killer, but the acoustic version of Scott Weiland and a single acoustic guitar in a studio is so bad-ass I'd give the nod to the low-key acoustic version any day of the week
3. The Remedy - Jason Mraz
Damn this is good. Anything Mraz does seems to be good and I remember when I first heard this acoustic version I was sold. Another great storyteller and musician turning a great song into a classic...this is definitely one that everybody should have in their collection.
2. Layla - Eric Clapton
"See if you can spot this one..."
It was hard not making this song #1 on the list because it's so amazing and probably the poster-child for the Unplugged series. The entire album is great, but taking a guitar super-riff like Layla and slowing the tempo down and picking away at a Martin acoustic and showing off the amazing talents of Eric Clapton solidified this song as the best by far. Who knew you could make a blusey, sexy, soulful version of Layla AND make it better than the original??
1. Heaven - Bryan Adams
Actually, the entire Unplugged album is gold. In particular, Summer of '69 leading off the album tells you in 4 measures that this album is gonna kill it. However, my absolute favorite song on here has to be Heaven. Man...when you hear the regular version of that song and then the unplugged version you wonder why he ever released the original, the unplugged version is that good.
Honorable Mention: Pirate Looks at 40 - Jack Johnson
First of all, this is one of my favorite songs of all time. I love Jimmy Buffett and his lyrical genius is often overlooked by those who can't stand Margaritaville. But, if I showed you some Buffett lyrics and told you they weren't his you'd call them genius. This song was covered by Jack on the soundtrack for his September Sessions soundtrack and I'd dare say it's better than what Buffett put out back in the 70's.