Paul McCartney: Unplugged (The Official Bootleg)

May 20, 1991 – Paul McCartney: Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) is released.
# Allmusic 4/5 stars
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) is a live unplugged performance by Paul McCartney, released on this date in May, 1991. Initially released in a limited edition run in 1991, Unplugged (The Official Bootleg)—with artwork that recalls Снова в СССР’s—was reissued in a more permanent fashion in the late 1990s. Upon its original issue, it reached #7 in the UK and became McCartney’s highest peaking US album in almost ten years, reaching #14.
Following the vastness of his world tour recently captured on Tripping the Live Fantastic, McCartney relished the opportunity to strip back his songs and appear on the newly-launched acoustic-only show. Consequently, McCartney was among the first in a long line of artists to release an unplugged album.
Unlike other artists who appeared on the acclaimed show with acoustic instruments plugged into amplifiers (producing the sound heard), McCartney’s instruments were 100% unplugged. Microphones were carefully placed close to guitars, pianos, etc. to pick up the sound (this can be seen on the album, where a large rectangular microphone can be seen in front of McCartney’s acoustic guitar).
Using the same line-up that recently backed him (save for Blair Cunningham who had replaced Chris Whitten), McCartney used the opportunity to dust off some of his rarer tracks, including three from his 1970 debut album McCartney, alongside some obscure covers amid a helping of familiar Beatles hits. With McCartney in a loose and carefree context, critical response to Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) was very warm.
Several tracks performed in the show were not included on the album, as follows: “Things We Said Today”, “Midnight Special”, “Matchbox”, “Mean Woman Blues” and “The Fool”. Among numbers rehearsed by the band but not performed at all, include: “Mother Nature’s Son”, “Figure of Eight”, “Cut Across Shorty”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Heart of the Country”, “She’s My Baby”, and “Mrs Vandebilt”.
A limited release, according to Capitol Records, that will not exceed a U.S. run of 500,000 copies, this seventeen-song concert nonetheless could turn out to be a significant album for Paul McCartney – much more than another item for the collectors. A majority of these performances, taped in London last January for MTV Unplugged, offer strong, straightforward acoustic pop. Accompanied by bassist Hamish Stuart, guitarist Robbie McIntosh, pianist and accordionist Paul Wickens and percussionists Blair Cunningham and Linda McCartney, Paul McCartney reinvents treasures like “Every Night,” “Blackbird” and “Here There and Everywhere” and lights up such Fifties inspirations as Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula” and Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Although the performances display the decisiveness of those on McCartney’s Tug of War, for example, they of course spring from far different circumstances. “This is so informal, we’ll start again!” McCartney says after first forgetting the opening lines of “We Can Work It Out.”
In sharp contrast to McCartney’s arena get-togethers last year, Unplugged’s important point has little to do with nostalgia: The emphasis is on McCartney’s songs, not the Beatlesque rock styles that have amounted to a major alternative-rock game plan for at least a decade. On Unplugged, McCartney catches, in confident and effective voice, some of the acoustic nonchalance of the Traveling Wilburys; at other times he comes across as the English João Gilberto – a country’s epic pop singer and songwriter transfiguring local styles while the rest of the world listens in. If McCartney’s next studio album figures out a way to retain the clarity, purpose, character and assertiveness of this concert, no one will be talking about runs of 500,000 copies. (RS 607)
~ JAMES HUNTER (June 27, 1991)
All songs written and composed by Paul McCartney except where noted.                                            
1              Be-Bop-A-Lula  (Gene Vincent/Tex Davis) 4:04
2              I Lost My Little Girl 1:45
                * The first song McCartney composed at the age of 14                  
3              Here, There and Everywhere (Lennon–McCartney)         3:16
                * First live performance by McCartney                  
4              Blue Moon of Kentucky (Bill Monroe) 4:21
5              We Can Work It Out (Lennon–McCartney) 2:48
6              San Francisco Bay Blues (Jesse Fuller) 3:29
7              I’ve Just Seen a Face  (Lennon–McCartney) 3:01
8              Every Night 3:24
9              She’s a Woman (Lennon–McCartney) 3:39
10           Hi-Heel Sneakers (Robert Higginbotham) 4:08
11           And I Love Her (Lennon–McCartney) 4:17
                * First live performance by McCartney                  
12           That Would Be Something 4:02
                * First live performance by McCartney                  
13           Blackbird (Lennon–McCartney) 2:09
14           Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers) 4:05
15           Good Rockin’ Tonight  (Roy Brown) 3:42
                * Cover of Roy Brown (1947) / Elvis Presley (1954)                           
16           Singing the Blues (Melvin Endsley) 3:46
17           Junk       2:26

                * First live performance by McCartney, actually “Singalong Junk”


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