MTV Unplugged EP
Columbia Records, 1992
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/08/1997
Any time I review an artist who is a favorite of one of our writers, I run the risk of really upsetting them. If I don't like an album by that particular artist, I usually get nasty little notes from that writer. If, however, I like the release, I usually don't hear from them.
One of our writers, "Always JB," is a drooling Mariah Carey fan. I have never been a big fan of hers - like other "divas" (Whitney Houston, etc.), I have always felt their songs have been more of vehicles to show how high their vocal range is. If I want to see someone showing off, I'll watch the Detroit Red Wings pummel Philadelphia - oh, wait, I did that before I wrote this review.
So it may seem strange that I am the one reviewing Carey - today's subject, MTV Unplugged EP - rather than JB. Call it an attempt to be open-minded or call it an impulse buy as a result of my last trip to the used record store.
I can't help but notice one particular section of the liner notes: "We broke the arrangements down to their simplest forms by using only acoustic instruments on all of the songs." Duh - that's why they called it "unplugged," you fool! (This didn't stop Tesla from breaking out an electric guitar on their "acoustic" album, however.)
Now that I have my cheap shot out of the way, I will admit that Carey does have some impetus as a vocalist - though I think she is better as a "torch" singer than when she is hitting some of those high notes that would make the dog howl with pain. (I did once hit a note that high - when my then-girlfriend kicked me in the crotch after I rated The The as "okay" - but I digress.) When Carey is in torch mode, songs like "Vision Of Love" shine.
Too bad moments like this are few and far between on MTV Unplugged EP. Carey puts a slight gospel twist on the opening track "Emotions," and continues to keep a gospel theme going throughout various parts of the album. But on "Emotions" and "Someday," Carey shows off how high she can sing (though she does stay true to form with the studio versions). Two words: who cares?
In fact, it is on a cover song that Carey seems to be in the most control - "I'll Be There," a song which grated on my eardrums when it played on the in-store piped music while I worked in retail. Trey Lorenz's background solo work does add to the power of the track.To Carey's credit, she does revive my interest in the early stage of her career with a decent job on "Can't Let Go."
New fans may be turned off at the brevity of this album, while diehard fans like JB probably appreciate the new twist on some of their favorites. But I don't think MTV Unplugged EP will attract that many more fans - it's more of an album for diehard fans only.
Sorry, JB - though I will be looking forward to your next review for me, where you'll probably bludgeon someone like Led Zeppelin to death.