We Love Music
Wait, people are still making MTV Unplugged albums? The whole trend of transforming uptempo songs into sedated acoustic versions is admittedly a played out trend by now, and it doesn’t help that every pretentious git seems to believe that singing Baa Baa Black Sheep like a tortoise trying to move while at the brink of death is a form of high art. Still, this is a-ha, and I will always have fond memories of Take on Me, The Sun Always Shines on TV, and Stay on These Roads.
The songs that are here are pretty much recognizable a-ha staples, with the appearance of duet partners such as Alison Moyet, Lissie, Ingrid, and Echo and the Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch here and there to keep things interesting. As per the whole unplugged thing, these songs are all injected with acoustic tranquilizer darts. There are some previously unreleased songs that finally see the living daylights (oh, I’m so funny) in this two-CD album, but to be honest, I can see why they had been unreleased up to that point.
Morten Harket’s voice still sounds as fabulous as ever, as I still haven’t come across many male vocalists that can do that falsetto while still coming off as manly as ever. Sure, Take on Me here gets the acoustic treatment and becomes the melancholic dirge to match the bittersweet lyrics, but that falsetto is simply gorgeous here. This is one of the few songs here that sound out after being given the acoustic treatment, as it is practically transformed by this treatment. Most of the other songs, unfortunately, just feel like a-ha just being old.
Oh, I was excited to see what a-ha can do with Alison Moyet in Summer Moved On, but yikes, her voice. I actually wince while listening to that track because I had such good memories of her, such as Is This Love? and Only You. This song is a forcible reminder that the 1980s is dead—sadly, it’s time to move on.
I don’t think fans of a-ha will have many issues with this one, as all in all, it’s a pleasant, listenable trip down memory lane, albeit as a more sedated pace. Still, aside from giving these people an excuse to hang out and perform, and make some chump change in the process, the whole thing does kind of seem unnecessary. The acoustic treatment of many of the songs here isn’t particularly noteworthy in any significant manner. On the other hand, a-ha has a nice collection of solid songs, showcased nicely here, so this is easily a good bet as a starter kit for folks unfamiliar with them.