10,000 Maniacs – MTV Unplugged: #772 of best 1,000 albums ever!

10,000 Maniacs - MTV Unplugged

Why is 10,000 Maniacs’ MTV Unplugged on my best 1,000 albums ever list?

The magic of the live and acoustic setting shines through for Natalie Merchant and crew.

What does 10,000 Maniacs’ MTV Unplugged mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?

One of the really special things about music and the 1990s was MTV’s Unplugged series.

Sure, live acoustic sets have been around since… well, before Ben Franklin played around with keys during lightning storms, I’d imagine. But there was something about the collection of bands and artists that MTV was able to put on stage at just the right time in their careers that magic (electrical sparks? No, Eric, this is acoustic, wrong analogy, drat!) was struck a number of times.

And if you’re thinking about that one band and that one iconic MTV Unplugged performance, then yeah, it’s pretty likely you’re gonna see that album on the best 1000 albums ever project at some point.  

But let’s get to 10,000 Maniacs, a band who has the great benefit of never really having bad songs thanks to competent songwriting and craftsmanship and the marvelous vocal stylings of Natalie Merchant (though as point of note, MTV Unplugged would be Merchant’s last album with 10,000 Maniacs).

Here’s what I jotted down about the band while doing research for the best 1,000 albums ever project:

I just love the mood that 10,000 Maniacs conjures on almost everything they put out: dreamy and wistful and beautiful with just the right hint of melancholy.

And man is that true on my favorite song on MTV Unplugged, a cover of Patti Smith’s “Because the Night.” The magic of the live and acoustic setting I mentioned really shines through here, and it’s just a powerhouse of a performance by Merchant and the band. The string accompaniment is also really fantastic.

“These Are Days” is my favorite original 10,000 Maniacs song, and it sounds as fresh as ever in this live acoustic setting.

I love a band that is literate and hip enough to have a song called “Hey Jack Kerouac,” and the driving piano is perfect to give the song momentum. Natalie Merchant’s vocals take the song home as ever.

And the lyrics are well worthy of the beatnik legend and mad lost dharma bum himself.

The hip flask slinging madman, steaming cafe flirts,
In Chinatown howling at night.

Some stats & info about 10,000 Maniacs’ MTV Unplugged  

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock, Rock Music, Indie Rock, Jangle Pop, College Rock, Live Albums, Pop, Pop Music, New York Bands
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating2 out of 5 stars(!!)
  • When was MTV Unplugged released? 1993
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #772 out of 1,000

10,000 Maniacs’ MTV Unplugged on Spotify

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.