"What I wanted was a simple production of provocative performances: a non-concert live album," writes Elliott Murphy in the liner notes to Unreal City, an abridged, revised, and resequenced version of his 1990 album 12, which was released outside the U.S. in 1990. (12 had 21 tracks; Unreal City 15, 12 of which were on the earlier album.) The songs ("a diary of sorts," according to the songwriter) include reminiscences of childhood along with comments on his new status as a father as well as Murphy's reflections on his career as a journeyman singer/songwriter. "Some say my songs are long and much too complicated," he sings in "Sicily (Tropic of Separation)," "but they're highly personal / I say they're underrated." They are also underproduced on this record as compared to some of his earlier albums, which gives them a more direct appeal. Fans may regret that the album has been cut down for domestic release, but in fact, 12 was a sprawling work; Unreal City benefits from the deletion of extraneous songs and the addition of a few better ones, and, at close to 54 minutes, it's still a full-length record.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann