Ten excellent MTV Unplugged albums that were not huge sellers

  • MTV Unplugged albums sold over 80 million copies.
  • The top 15 sellers all sold over 1million copies.
  • Here are ten excellent unplugged albums just below that level, but which are very much the best of the rest.
MTV Unplugged: Bob Dylan
MTV Unplugged: Bob Dylan / Frank Micelotta Archive/GettyImages
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Two Unplugged albums with initial limited releases

Paul McCartney - Unplugged (The Official Bootleg)

This was the first album released from the series. It certainly started something huge. The story is that Paul McCartney had recorded his unplugged session for the TV show and was listening to the recording on the way home. McCartney liked what he heard and felt that it might lead to someone recording the show and sneaking out a bootleg version. So by the time he reached home, McCartney had decided to release the MTV session as an official album. Hence the quirky album name.

And who wasn't happy with that as a decision and an album? It included a range of Lennon and McCartney songs, some old-time rock n roll, a great cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and more. All played as genuinely unplugged, unlike a few later albums in this series. The album sales aren't clear but are well below 1m sales, probably due to an initial limited number of releases. The ex-Beatle paved the way for some huge-selling unplugged albums from others to follow quickly.

R.E.M. - R.E.M. Unplugged: The Complete 1991 and 2001 Sessions

This is another unplugged album that deserved more sales but again was initially released on a limited number basis. This R.E.M. album was released in 2014 and made up of two shows around ten years apart, as the title shows. The band was an ideal candidate for the unplugged treatment. The stripped-back and acoustic-based sound is a great fit for their songs and Michael Stipe’s unique voice too.

The double disc set across the two sessions has many great songs. There is the usual mix of some covers and then lots of terrific versions of R.E.M. originals. The quality of the two sessions is high and consistent across both. The whole release is like a warm bath of their melodies and songs, one to treasure for its different nuances of the originals. 

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