10,000 Maniacs,
MTV Unplugged
(Elektra, 1993)

The 10,000 Maniacs have, for many years, been an important part of the American music scene, thanks in a large part to their former lead vocalist Natalie Merchant. Merchant has, of course, left the band to pursue a solo career, which has been thus far proved fairly successful. Their album MTV Unplugged was her last release with the Maniacs before she departed the band, and it is fans of Merchant who will be most impressed with the release as it shows off her full talent as a vocalist.

The CD starts off with "These are the Days," an ironic beginning since this would be Merchant's last CD with the band, and also a great kick off for the album. From there it goes into "Eat for Two," which is one of the more interesting tracks on the CD, and includes the best instrumentals as well. Next is "Candy Everybody Wants," a favorite among the crowd at the show, as well as among many Maniac fans at home. It is also the shortest track on a CD where some of the tracks drone on a little bit too long.

Other notable tracks on this installment of MTV Unplugged series are "Don't Talk," which is a wonderful song, but goes one for about a minute longer than necessary and ends with an unimpressive instrumental, "What's the Matter Here," which is possibly the best song on the album. Lastly there is a cover of Patti Smith's "Because the Night," which was the first single off the album and shows off Merchant's voice like no other song released during her days with 10,000 Maniacs.

The 10,000 Maniac's installment on MTV Unplugged is, overall, a well-made album that brought the Natalie Merchant era, for the Maniacs at least, to a graceful close. There are songs on the CD that span from the band's 1987 release In My Tribe to their last studio recording, Our Time in Eden. This CD is wonderful both for fans of Merchant as a solo artist and as the voice of the Maniacs.

[ by Dan Ford ]

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