When the “unplugged” craze hit some years back it was kind of interesting for a while…a singer stripping down his or her music to the basics…coming at that music from a different angle…could be illuminating and entertaining (Eric Clapton, the Pretenders, and 10,000 Maniacs all made fun “unplugged” discs, for example…so did Tony Bennett, but then he was “unplugged” before it was cool.)
But, of course, anything done to excess will quickly lose the sparkle it had at first (and by the time folks were dragging whole orchestras and legions of background singers into their “unplugged” gigs…yes, I’m looking at you, Mariah Carey…it just got to be a silly marketing thing…and, thankfully, it went away.)
In the past couple of months there’s been a mini-renaissance of unplugged offerings. Alicia Keys’ new disc is actually associated with a special edition of the MTV show that started the craze and Alanis Morrissette re-recorded her breakthrough “Jagged Little Pill” acoustically.
And now Cyndi Lauper takes a graceful tour through her catalogue on this lovely little disc. Stripping down some of her biggest hits and some of her most noteworthy album tracks works for Lauper mostly because she is a better…more nuanced, mature, and engaging…singer than she was when she burst onto the scene (during the video-driven 80’s where attitude and the ability to play a quirky character counted more than just mere musicianship.)
The Body Acoustic kicks nicely off with a sprightly, twangy “Money Changes Everything”. Along the way Lauper manages to find new life in an oft-covered tune like “Time After Time” and she slows “She Bop” to a soft, sensual stroll that replaces the playfulness of the original version with a subtle carnality that works quite nicely.
There are guest-stars…Vivian Green and Ani DiFranco joining Cyndi for a feisty, joyful take on “Sisters of Avalon”, Shaggy adding some nice reggae shadings to “All Through the Night”, Sarah MacLachlan on lilting readings of “Time After Time” and “Water’s Edge”, the Japanese pop duo Puffy AmiYumi adding giddy harmonies to a zydeco-flavored romp on “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”…but the spotlight is firmly on our Ms. Cyndi (as well it should be.)
A couple of new tunes: the inspirational “Above the Clouds”, featuring some lovely guitar work by Jeff Beck, and the gently-passionate love song, “I’ll Be Your River” featuring harmony vocals by Vivian Green.
The Body Acoustic is not any kind of creative breakthrough but it is an entertaining disc and that’s just fine by me.