Two albums to listen to: A pair of Unplugged concerts

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Frank Micelotta

Editor’s note: In this recurring column, music writer Chris Duncan suggests two albums to listen to this week. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @chr_dunc, and your pick might appear in next week’s Two Albums To Listen To.

Unplugged – Alice in Chains

On April 10, 1996, Alice in Chains resurfaced after nearly three years of absence from live music, making an appearance on MTV’s Unplugged special.

There were several reasons for their absence from the music scene, but the primary cause was concern for Lane Stanley’s declining health. When Stanley walked out on stage, the audience was exuberant, but his dark demeanor and rugged appearance showed he was still far from full health.

Yet, Stanley’s pain and suffering is what makes his vocal performance stand out. While the rest of the band plays their instruments as if their three year gap between performances never happened, Stanley accidentally messed up the lyrics to songs on multiple occasions. By the end of the performance, though, Stanley somewhat restores his confidence. The acoustic elements of each song stay true to album renditions, making this performance a much-listen for any 90s music fan.

Tracks to listen to: “Nutshell,” “Sludge Factory,” “Would?”

Unplugged – Eric Clapton

Many Unplugged performances are lauded for their creativity, but no one performance defines the series more than Eric Clapton’s.

Signature performances from Clapton include his interpretations of classic blues tunes, especially Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues” and Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me (Take a Look at Yourself).” He brings new life to these classics by adding a diverse backing band to contribute new dimensions, especially in percussion, to each song.

Clapton also displays his own song writing chops, with the concert accentuated by his emotional performance of “Tears in Heaven,” a song written by Clapton to reflect and endure the death of his 4-year-old son Connor.

The effort put into this album is undeniable, leading to its Grammy win for Album of the Year in 1993, but more importantly this album revitalized Clapton’s struggling career, solidifying his already tremendous legacy as one of the best bluesmen to live.

Tracks to listen to: “Signe,“ “Tears in Heaven,“ “Alberta“