May 2: Bob Dylan MTV Unplugged released in 1995
I wasn’t quite sure how to do it and what material to use. I would have liked to do old folk songs with acoustic instruments, but there was a lot of input from other sources as to what would be right for the MTV audience. The record company said, “You can’t do that, it’s too obscure.”
~Bob Dylan (to Edna Gundersen May 1995)
Knocking on Heaven’s Door:
Speculating on the motivation behind Dylan’s choices quickly becomes pointless. However, we can still — gratefully — feel the effect of those choices. In a political climate very different from the one that birthed these songs, Dylan’s voice runs like a shudder through the times that have changed, an echo of hope that now rings with the hollowness of a failed warning. Yet if the songs are complex in their meanings, Dylan has also shown them once again to be powerful and fresh music, specific to no time, relevant to all.
~Susan Richardson (RS 707 – May 4, 1995)
|Released||May 2, 1995|
|Recorded||November 17–18, 1994|
|Genre||Folk rock, rock and roll, folk|
MTV Unplugged is a live album by Bob Dylan, released in 1995 by Columbia Records (reissued in 2007 by Sony). It documents Dylan’s appearance on the then-highly popular MTV Unplugged television series, recorded at Sony Music Studios in New York on November 17, 1994 and November 18, 1994. It gave Dylan his best sales in years, reaching US #23 and going gold, while hitting #10 in the UK.
The singer-songwriter had originally wanted to do a set of traditional folk songs. At MTV’s behest, he instead performed mostly classics from his early albums.
The dreariest, most contemptible, phony, tawdry piece of product ever issued by a great artist, which manages to omit the TV concert’s one fresh and fine performance, ‘I Want You’, but is otherwise an accurate record of the awfulness of the concert itself, in which the performer who had been so numinously ‘unplugged’ in the first place ducked the opportunity to use television to perform, solo, some of the ballad and country-blues material from his most recent studio albums, Good as I Been to You and World Gone Wrong. That could have been magical. Instead—instead of seizing this moment and really stepping into the arena—we got the usual greatest hits, wretchedly performed in a phoney construct of a ‘live’ concert. This is what happens when Bob Dylan capitulates and lets overpaid coke-head executives, lawyers and PRseholes from the Entertainment Industry tell him what to do.
~Michael Gray (The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia)
…Dylan, accompanied by a competent five-piece band, approaches his material in a gentler fashion than on some of the originals — “The Times They Are A-Changin'” and “With God on Our Side,” for example, seem sadder and less defiant than they did back in 1964. Otherwise, unlike some other Unplugged performances, this one doesn’t offer a noticeably different view of the artist’s work. But then, Dylan has been unplugged for much of his career, anyway.
~William Ruhlmann (allmusic.com)
All songs written by Bob Dylan
- “Tombstone Blues” – 4:54
- “Shooting Star” – 4:06
- “All Along the Watchtower” – 3:36
- “The Times They Are a-Changin'” – 5:48
- “John Brown” – 5:22
- “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” – 3:31
- “Desolation Row” – 8:22
- “Dignity” – 6:30
- “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” – 5:30
- “Like a Rolling Stone” – 9:09
- “With God on Our Side” – 7:16
The European release includes “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”.
My grades (0-10):
- Bob Dylan – guitar, vocals, harmonica
- Additional musicians
- Bucky Baxter – dobro, pedal steel, steel guitar
- Tony Garnier – bass guitar
- John Jackson – guitar
- Brendan O’Brien – Hammond organ
- Winston Watson – drums
- Technical personnel
- Greg Calbi – mastering
- Ed Cherney – mixing
- Randy Ezratty – engineering
- Kim Gaucher – illustrations
- Scott Hull – mastering
- Frank Micelotta – photography
- Jeff Rosen – executive production
- Don Was – mixing
- Allen Weinberg – art direction