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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Album Review: Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash at San Quentin (1969)

As a kid, I swore that I'd never listen to country music. Ever. To me, it was ample evidence of Satan's previous career as a choir director. Listening to the likes of Conway Twitty or Charlie Rich to me was like picking your nose with a red hot iron building rod dipped in chili sauce, a vile, and very unpleasant experience. The ultimate form of torture, if not execution. But as I got older, this position changed slightly and I began dabbling with a little bit of country music - in this case, Kevin Bloody Wilson. But the fact that it was country music was rapidly overlooked by the profanity and sexual innuendo that peppered every track. Who cared about the country/western theme when you had lyrics that sang about ungrateful Santa-worshiping kids profanely accusing poor old Pere Noel (aka St. Nick, Father Christmas, Santy Claus) of being women's genitalia, and rebuking them for not delivering the goods?

But now, as an adult (and in my case I use the term most liberally), I can now openly admit to enjoying the warblings of Grand Ole Opry's (and Nashville's, of course) finest, without being picked on and teased mercilessly. In fact, one of my three favorite artists includes the legendary Johnny Cash. But enough rambling, and let's get back on track.

In the span of two years (1968-1969), Johnny Cash released two live albums, both recorded in prisons, Folsom and San Quentin, to be exact. His respect for, and ability to sympathize with prisoners is evident on both, as is his newly found Christian faith. The latter, At San Quentin, is in my opinion, and contrary to that of most critics, is the better one of the two. The reason for this simply comes down to a better set list, with songs like "Wreck of the Old '97", "Darlin' Companion" and "Wanted Man" holding much more appeal and charisma than the slightly stale "I Still Miss Someone" the all-too-common "Folsom Prison Blues", and the downright dull "Dark as the Dungeon." Plus, it has a prettier bluish album cover, with it's predecessor being marked down for it's slightly poo-brown aura. Not that it's a bad album overall, in fact it's really a good album. Just not as good as San Quentin, which to me should rightfully be the flagship record for Johnny's discography. The moral of the story - don't dis Willie Nelson, and don't underestimate the brilliance of Johnny Cash. A-