a seamless sampling from MTV

The Unplugged Collection, Volume I (Warner Bros.)
various artists

By Allen Howie

Assembled to sound like one long performance, The Unplugged Collection is actually sixteen separate songs by as many performers, all recorded on different dates for MTV's "Unplugged" series of concerts, then sequenced together in seamless fashion. The sound quality is so consistent from track to track that the effect actually works.

The disc starts with the blues. The crowd's Pavlovian clap-along is a real distraction during the late Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride and Joy" and Eric Clapton's "Before You Accuse Me," both fine performances. but this flaw subsides for good during Lenny Kravitz's bluesy slide retooling of "Are You Gonna Go My Way."

The performances on the rest of the disc are all top drawer; only Elton John overstays his welcome, dragging out the ending of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." Soul Asylum, Neil Young and k. d. lang each turn in gripping performances, while Rod Stewart and John Mellencamp both sound rejuvenated. Pauls Simon and McCartney live up to their icon status and Don Henley does much better here than on the Eagles' ghoulish reunion record. Elvis Costello is all nervous charm and Annie Lennox is quietly regal. Tunes by 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M. bring the collection to an edgy and satisfying close. And because the roster is so diverse, you're ready to cue it right back up again, as you speculate on who'll show up on Volume II.