Friday, December 28, 2012

Nurse the Hate: The Johnny Cash Project

Disc 4:  "Now There Was A Song"  This is an all country covers album which I think is the first time Johnny gets down home with fiddles.  Of note is "Transfusion Blues", an early "non-offensive" version of "Cocaine Blues".  His versions of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Honky Tonk Girl" are pretty great.  This is a good album all things considered.  Somebody at Columbia must have decided to go for "the hillbilly market" with this.  I can see some guy with a flat top haircut chomping on a cigar saying, "Have him cut some of those goddamn hillbilly songs!  We'll move some fucking units down South at least!  Now where are we on that Miles Davis record?  Is he off the junk yet?"  Disc 5: "Ride This Train"  This is the first Johnny Cash concept record where he is doing American songs set as a travelogue where he is allegedly on a train that can travel not just across distance but also time.  In between every song is the exact same train sound effect and then Cash tells a story for about a minute and a half in character before each song.  It would have been nice to have the stories as separate tracks as I don't know if I might sprain my wrist hitting the fast forward button to avoid listening to the spoken word portions of each tune.  The songs are pretty good and sparse, just how I like Cash in this period.  "Loading Coal" is a good song, and "Going To Memphis" is interesting too except it sounds like one of the Tennessee Two is in blackface doing the chain gang chorus part.  It's pretty embarrassing.  Times have changed since this came out in 1960.  I also don't think Columbia Records would have released the song "Boss Jack" where Cash's character speaks to a slave he is going to punish because he was late coming back to the barn.  Disc 6:  "Hymns From The Heart" was tough going.  Everything I hate about those thick "ohhhhh" and "ahhhh" dated choruses gets applied to traditional hymns.  The original sleeve notes state "You will return to them often for inspiration and delight.".  I am not so sure about that.  This is what church in some shitty town down South must've sounded like if Johnny Cash was in the chorus.  Even then it's brutal.  Can you imagine sitting in a service in 1961 in Arkansas with whatever non-talented inbreds were singing these songs?  Bad haircuts, horrible church outfits, judgemental sermons, and then these songs?  Find me a Scientology center!  Snake handling?  OK.  I'm in! Just stop singing...  Disc 7: "The Sound of Johnny Cash" is really great.  "Lost On The Desert" is a killer Marty Robbins sounding cut.  He's got some great broken hearted lover songs with "Accidentally On Purpose", "Mr. Lonesome", "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know", "Let Me Down Easy", and "You Won't Have Far To Go".  He nails a couple standards with "In The Jailhouse Now" and "Cotton Fields".  This also has the originals "Delia's Gone" and "Sing It Pretty Sue".  It's more sparse, starting to retreat from that soft 50s production and relies mainly on the power of Cash's "voice of God".  This is his first great album for Columbia, and the first time he has the Man In Black look on the cover.  You need this.  Disc 8:  "Blood, Sweat, And Tears" is a collection of working songs, many of them real war horses like "Nine Pound Hammer", "John Henry", "Another Man Done Gone", and "Casey Jones".  The hit on this one is "Busted", where they use an autoharp in the response to the chorus instead of the doo-wop singers.  His one original is a bluesy thing called "Tell Him I'm Gone" which would be a great rockabilly cover.  This one feels like it was thrown together when they realized "Hey!  We have a whole bunch of working man/chain gang songs here.  What if we record Nine Pound Hammer and put out a full length!"  Disc 9:  "Ring Of Fire: The Best Of Johnny Cash" is by no means a greatest hits package.  "Ring of Fire" came out as a single in 1963, went to #1 across the country and pop charts and this was the album they rushed out.  There's some shitty over produced stuff on this like "Remember the Alamo", "Bonanza" with a vocal track, and "The Rebel-Johnny Yuma".  With some of these songs, you want to put on a coonskin hat and watch F-Troop in your pajamas.  It sounds really dated.  However, "Ring of Fire" is a monster, "I'd Still Be There", "What Do I Care" and "Tennessee Flat Top Box" are essential.  "I Still Miss Someone" makes yet another appearance, probably the song most likely to be on a Johnny Cash comp after "Folsom".  I think this would be worth owning on vinyl, just for the groovy cover.  (See below)  Also, please note that he is wearing the exact same shirt as the previous album, not that they rushed this out or anything...  


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