Various Artists

VH1 Classic Presents: Metal Mania - Stripped, Vol. 1

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Given the scope of the "unplugged" phenomenon during the late '80s and early '90s, it's surprising that it took this long to assemble a compilation of metal's finest unplugged moments. Aside from it being almost two decades too late, this 15-song collection takes some of hair metal's finest power ballads and puts them to the test in an acoustic setting. Starting off with the unplugged version of Poison's classic "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" from their MTV Unplugged sessions, the disc begins in fine form. "Sister Christian," one of Night Ranger's most recognized calling cards, is revisited in a new recording, as are contributions by Cinderella, L.A. Guns, White Lion, Alias, and Great White. While some of the vocalists on these records have aged well (specifically Night Ranger and L.A. Guns), others have not. Cinderella's Tom Keifer can no longer reach for that signature howl of his, and Mike Tramp's roar has been reduced to a grovel at best and an off-key, melodramatic warble at worst. By far, the most potent recordings are those that were simple acoustic ballads to begin with. Extreme's a cappella version of "More Than Words" not only proves the song has aged well, but still has the ability to be the ballad of the night when called for. Tesla's "The Way It Is" and Queensr├┐che's "Silent Lucidity" are also guilty of this most enjoyable offense. This is a good collection for metal heads who can no longer stand to listen to their music on 11, but rather turn the volume to four and drink a bit of Jack Daniels on ice with a straw instead of slamming it straight from the bottle.

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