Stripped to the Bare Bones

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Stripped to the Bare Bones
Steve Harley Stripped to the Bare Bones 1999 CD.jpg
Live album by Steve Harley
Released 27 September 1999
Genre Pop rock
Length 73:56
Label Burning Airlines (NMC Ltd.)
Producer Steve Harley
Steve Harley chronology
The Cream of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
(1999)The Cream of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel1999
Stripped to the Bare Bones
Acoustic and Pure: Live
(2003)Acoustic and Pure: Live2003
Alternative Cover
2000 re-issue "Unplugged"
2000 re-issue "Unplugged"

Stripped to the Bare Bones is a 1999 live acoustic album by English songwriter and musician Steve Harley.[1][2] The album was produced by Harley and features Nick Pynn.


Having returned to touring as Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel in 1989, Harley and his band would continue to tour throughout the 1990s. Although Harley had performed a small number of one-off acoustic-based shows during that time, his first acoustic tour would be the "Stripped to the Bare Bones" tour of 1998. In August 1997, Harley performed a string of casual, more acoustic-based, shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Accompanied by Cockney Rebel violinist/guitarist Nick Pynn, these shows consisted of music and chat about Harley's career. In November, he also performed an acoustic show at Castlemilk Festival in Glasgow. In the liner notes of Stripped to the Bare Bones, Harley revealed:

"I was invited to do an acoustic show; it wasn't my idea. It all started with the Castlemilk Festival which is basically a week-long folk festival in Glasgow, and they called my agent and asked if I would come and play an acoustic show. I thought about it and decided to take a chance. I really enjoyed it and got a taste for it."[3]

The success of these shows led to Harley and Pynn playing over a hundred dates in 1998 as part of the "Stripped to the Bare Bones" tour. This tour included fifty-four concerts in the UK alone, while around ninety songs were rehearsed for use on the tour. Coinciding with the tour was the release of the new compilation album More Than Somewhat – The Very Best of Steve Harley.[4] Harley commented:

"Your songs are what they are. When I write, 90% are with the piano or guitar with the prerequisite that they stand on their own two feet - maybe not those on Prima Donna which were production numbers - but most others which meant I could get up with an acoustic guitar and sing my songs. That's why the tour was called 'Stripped to the Bare Bones'. We play for 2 and a half hours most nights, about 24/25 titles out of 90 odd we have rehearsed. I've tried a lot of combinations. A lot of songs get one go and you know instantly if they work, and it's best to try them all in public but audiences vary across the country of course. So, sometimes I give them two airings."[3]

In March 1998, as part of the tour, Harley and Pynn played at The Jazz Café in London. This show was recorded using Sensible Music Ltd. and an ADAT system for possible release as a live album.[5] During the show, Harley played acoustic guitar and harmonica, while Pynn played acoustic lead guitar, dulcimer, mando-cello and violin. Speaking of playing with Pynn, Harley commented: "It's a privilege to play with a musician of his calibre."

In September 1999, the album Stripped to the Bare Bones was released on the Burning Airlines label. The album featured fourteen live unplugged tracks from the show and CD liner notes by Kevin Cann. Of the included tracks on the CD, one was a new song titled "Only You". The song later appeared on the 2006 compilation The Cockney Rebel – A Steve Harley Anthology, but has never been recorded in the studio.

As Harley continued performing acoustic shows, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel would not embark on a full tour until the "Back with the Band" UK tour of 2001.[6] As the first acoustic album from Harley, two others would follow; Acoustic and Pure: Live in 2002, and Anytime! (A Live Set) in 2004.


The album was released in the UK by Burning Airlines (NMC Ltd.). In 2000, it was re-issued under a new title Unplugged by the budget compilation label Brilliant, which is run by Digimode Entertainment Ltd.[7] The re-issue features the same track-listing as Stripped to the Bare Bones, but has different artwork.[8] Although Stripped to the Bare Bones is now out-of-print, Unplugged remains in print to date.[9]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Steve Harley.

1."My Only Vice (Is the Fantastic Prices I Charge for Being Eaten Alive)"2:41
2."Star for a Week (Dino)"5:07
3."The Best Years of Our Lives"9:33
4."Judy Teen"3:08
5."The Last Time I Saw You"5:21
6."Mr. Soft"3:17
7."(Love) Compared with You"5:39
8."Tumbling Down"6:28
9."Only You"5:11
10."Bed in the Corner"3:20
11."Sling It!"3:46
12."Riding the Waves (For Virginia Woolf)"6:30
14."Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)"5:16

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic (Stripped to Bare Bones)3/5 stars[10]
AllMusic (Unplugged)3.5/5 stars[11]

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic reviewed Stripped to Bare Bones and commented:

"The live album happens to be proof that Harley was a solid song-craftsman and a fine performer, more than just a glam has-been. His relaxed yet energetic performances and ease at storytelling make it a highly entertaining album, even for listeners who aren't familiar with his body of work. Since the record is effectively a document of a full concert, complete with shtick, it isn't something that would make its way to the stereo all that often, but when it's on, it will likely make you smile."[10]

Dave Thompson of AllMusic reviewed the album's re-issue as Unplugged. He stated:

"At a time when every artist worth his salt, and a lot who wished they still were, was jumping on the "unplugged" bandwagon, it became increasingly difficult to even hear that word without cringing just a little bit at the prospect of another round of hits strummed earnestly on acoustic guitars. But even amid so much swine there was the occasional pearl, Steve Harley's contribution to the genre stands as one of the best. Harley is a most engaging host, punctuating songs with humor and anecdote, and if he does push the "gee, it's really great to be here" sincerity button a little too often for comfort, then that goes with the territory as well. A quarter of a century had passed since he was last considered a commercial force, yet his audience is as devotedly die-hard as ever, and the songs have held up remarkably well too, particularly those which were drawn from the peak years of Harley's career."[11]


  • Steve Harley – vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, compiler
  • Nick Pynn – acoustic lead guitar, dulcimer, mando-cello, violin
  • Kevin Whooley - engineer
  • Carlton P. Sandercock-Rout - project concept for NMC Ltd., compiler
  • Patrick Bird - mixing, mastering for Sound Discs Ltd.
  • Andy Abbott - centre photograph (courtesy of The East Anglian Daily Times)
  • G.D. Young - cover photograph, inside photography
  • S. Raulfs - inside photography
  • Ann Meuer - inside photography
  • Becky Stewart - design, layout
  • Paul Charles at Asgard - agent
  • Steve Blackwell - representation
  • James Wylie - representation


  1. ^ "Stripped To The Bare Bones". Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  2. ^ "Discography". Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  3. ^ a b Stripped to the Bare Bones CD booklet liner notes
  4. ^ The Rough Guide to Rock - Google Books. 2003. ISBN 9781843531050. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  5. ^ "Stripped To The Bare Bones". Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  6. ^ Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel (2001). The 'Back with the Band' Tour Official Programme. Don Fraser Print. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Official Steve Harley Website UK - Stripped To The Bare Bones (1999)". Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  9. ^ "Unplugged: Music". Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  10. ^ a b Stephen Thomas Erlewine (1999-08-03). "Stripped to Bare Bones - Steve Harley | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  11. ^ a b Dave Thompson (2001-03-19). "Unplugged - Steve Harley | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-07-09.