on May 9, 2001
The impact of Johnny Cash's proto bad-boy on country, blues, and rock is inestimable, which doesn't even speak to the fact that the man is a great entertainer. If you are a serious music fan, your musical education isn't complete without Live At Folsom Prison.
This isn't a singles record, this is an album; you put it on to hear the whole thing. The performance itself is tight and structured, just like the venue. The recording is especially atmospheric - the reverb bouncing off the concrete walls, the sounds of doors slamming in the background, and an interruption by a prison announcement. Cash and the band (which includes the brilliant Luther Perkins and Carl Perkins - think Blue Suede Shoes) seem unflappable and completely at ease, belying the actual tension of the gig.
This reissue restores the original recording to its raw, warts-and all-feel, in direct contrast to the sanitized version that I grew up with: four songs have been restored to the set due to increased available length, plus Cash's interaction with the audience and the profanity (tasteful by today's standards) has been re-introduced, revealing the incredibly gritty nature of this record. Plus, the packaging is incredible: the handwritten note from Cash, describing why he felt compelled to make this album, the liner notes, and an appreciation from Steve Earle round out the package to create not merely a reissue, but a full restoration.
If you are hungry for something more substantial than the latest Clapton disc or Zeppelin reissue, you won't regret a minute of this terrific album.
on September 13, 2003
When I heard Johnny Cash had passed away, I was saddened to know his booming baritone would be silent now. I turned on the radio, hoping to catch some fleeting moments of the Man in Black's life in song. Instead, each and every country station (with one or two exceptions) seemed to be going about "business as usual", with nothing besides a "RIP Johnny" message, no full-fledged celebrations of his music to be found.
So I went out and bought Folsom Prison, as I didn't have any Cash records in my collection. Let me just say: I wish I'd gotten this earlier, it's absolutely fantastic. Being in the South, I couldn't help but grow up with country music, but as I got older the modern stuff began to turn into Garth Brooks-like medeocrity dressed up in loud clothes, and I found more substance in the entire body of rock music (from the Sun Studio days to English punk rock). I never thought I'd like country music...until I realized that the older stuff, like Cash and Waylon and Willie, that was the good stuff. The rebels of country music weren't pre-packaged pretty boys who strutted around singing other people's words with the emotion of a too-good-for-my-pants primadonna. These were men who grew up during the Depression, who sang about the hard times, the heartbreak, the loss, the depravity of life.
So Johnny Cash and his peers keep me from hating country music entirely, and this (as well as the Oh Brother soundtrack) have found a welcome place in my record collection. RIP Johnny, you will be missed. I couldn't have picked a better record to get to honor your memory.
on January 9, 2000
I am definitely not a country music fan, but Johnny Cash goes way beyond the country music spectrum. With songs about boozin', druggin', and killin', Johnny Cash blows away most rock artists. Nothing proves that more than "Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison". Recorded live in 1968, in front of 2000 inmates, this is a really rockin' concert. Cash relates to the prisoners' lives with songs like "Folsom Prison Blues", "Cocaine Blues", and even some humorous tunes like "Dirty old egg-suckin' dog". The band, including Carl Perkins on Electric guitar, keeps a clanky, driving, two-beat rhythm that makes this more of a rock-a-billy album than a country album. The CD includes photos of the concert and honest, heart-felt linear notes of the show, written by Cash himself in June of 1999.
After reading these memoirs, you start to realize how much of an event this show must have been, not just to the inmates, but to Cash himself, who apparently is no stranger to Folsom Prison himself.
Johnny Cash is Badass, so if your thinking about picking up that new Creed CD, (not that you would be) DON'T! Pick this up instead.
on October 15, 2008
There were two Folsom shows performed and recorded that day: The first show, the bulk of which comprised the classic, familiar 16-song album; and a longer second show, the bulk of whose 26 tracks (except for two songs) were put on the shelf.
The entire unvarnished 65-minute first show on disc one - expletives intact for the first time, and with seven previously unissued tracks; and the entire 75-minute second show on disc two, with 24 previously unissued tracks (out of 26).
on April 8, 2006
I am not at all a country music fan. I, like many others around my age (20) listen to alternative, rock, rap. Like many who saw the motion picture WALK THE LINE I grew interested in Johnny Cash's performance at Folsom Prison. I was familar with Johnny Cash before the film, members of my family had recordings of Johnny Cash which they played from time to time. I decided to buy AT FOLSOM PRISON, this is not at all a country album. This is a live performance that makes you feel like you are acutally in Folsom Prison when Johnny Cash was performing. Johnny Cash's interaction with the inmates is caught in this recording, as well as an annoucement calling a inmate and doors closing it has the real feel and puts you back in time as if your there.
This albums is one of the best live recordings ever because Johnny Cash's jokes and interactions with inmates and his envolving the audience is so evident that he and the inmates are having a great time. This is not country music, This is rock, some punk (from the lyrics). The beat has a steady slight rock to it. The duet with June Carter Cash in the song JACKSON is great, the slight flirting by Johnny Cash before the song and the small, warm, thankful crack by June shows the great protrayl of Reese Witherspoon and Joaqiun Phoenix in the film.
This is not a album where you listen to one particular track, everything flows great so you can't help but listen to the entire album everytime and the music (unlike some songs and albums today) never gets old.
I stongly recomend this albums for not just country music fans or Johnny Cash fans but fans of the movie WALK THE LINE and music fans in general, Johnny Cash will walk the line forever!!
on July 9, 2009
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Johnny Cash's iconic recording at Folsom Prison, Sony Legacy has presented the entire concert from start to finish similar to the San Quentin box set. This package has it all including a documentary that focused on Cash on that momentous day. Is this extended edition necessary for your collection? Sony Legacy reissued the complete `At Folsom Prison' nine years ago, or so we thought. The purpose of this review is to examine what the extras bring to the table in terms of merit and what they add to an already outstanding live recording.
The answer to the above question is a resounding yes; this collection is indeed very necessary. This edition of `At Folsom Prison' contains both concerts that were recorded that day in 1968. I was unaware that there was a concert at 9:40 am and 12:40 pm, and that the original `At Folsom Prison' recording was a compilation of the two recordings. The producer, Bob Johnson weeded out what he perceived to be the weaker material or lesser performances and had to edit out some of the stage banter because of album length constraints.
In the first concert, Johnny Cash seemed to be on fire and was hitting all the right notes, and the majority of performances from the original album come from this recording. In the afternoon, Cash appeared to be struggling to recapture the dynamic from the earlier performance. He fumbles lyrics at times and hits sour notes on "Orange Blossom Special" during the second concert but he remains dedicated to his cause. Highlights from the second concert are "Long-Legged Guitar Pickin' Man" with June Carter, "Busted" and "Greystone Chapel."
The remastering on this edition has made the performances sharper. Everything sounds clearer, from the reverb drenched guitars to the crispness of the bass. Notes seem punchier, vibrant, and more direct. The unreleased material also showcases the performances of Carl Perkins and The Statler Brothers. Both Carl Perkins' performances are lively and excellent. His renditions of "Blue Suede Shoes," "The Old Spinning Wheel" and "Matchbox" have been lying dormant for far too long. These recordings sound vital as if they were recorded yesterday.
It's also nice to see The Statler Brothers acknowledged for their role in this momentous recording. The Statler Brothers contribute "This Ole House," "Flowers On The Wall," a stirring rendition of "How Great Thou Art" and the novelty tune, "You Can't Have Your Kate and Edith Too." Interestingly included in this edition is the opening announcement from radio deejay Hugh Cherry. Cherry introduces both Johnny Cash shows and tells the prisoners how to present themselves to Johnny Cash. Cherry indicates how they should respond to Johnny Cash on stage, which might seem to take some of the magic away from the time that Johnny Cash does arrive on stage. It does not appear that the prisoners needed much prodding though, as most of them are in awe of the man in black.
The DVD `Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison' is included in this box set as well. The documentary features archival footage and photographs of the day that Cash played Folsom. It includes interviews with members of Johnny Cash's family and recollections from former prisoners.
So how essential is this package? Completely.
Johnny Cash was a legendary figure of American music who often seemed the embodiment of an prophet from the Old Testament (and not one of the happier ones at that). With his passing there is a natural impulse to want to listen to the man and his music, but we really should resist the impulse to take the easy way out and listen to one of the greatest hits collections of The Man in Black (after all, the first Johnny Cash hits album came out forty years ago). Instead you track done one of the superb albums that he put out during his music career. From that perspective "At Folsom Prison" and "At San Quentin" are the two quintessential Johnny Cash albums from what ended up being the "early" part of one of the great careers in American music. Both albums were recorded live in front of eager audiences of prison inmates in the late 1960s and provide ample proof of why Cash was one of the most imposing and influential figures in country music.
Part of the reason this is a great album is because Cash clearly plays to his audience, singing songs about prison, crime and murder, loss and regret, mother and God, and most importantly loneliness. There is no sugarcoating of the harsh realities of prison life in these songs as Cash sings the songs of the gospel of darkness and rage. Cash's singing is truly authentic (you can feel him feeding off of his audience) and the result is compelling cathartic. This is not an album filled with hits although there are certainly several recognizable songs: "Folsom Prison Blues," "Jackson," and "I Still Miss Someone." But it will be the ones you might never have heard before, such as "I Got Stripes," that stand out in your mind after listening to the album. This was already a 5 star album, but this 1999 reissue CD now provides the entire concert, adding three previously unreleased tracks: "Busted," "Joe Bean," and "The Legend of John Henry's Hammer." "At Folsom Prison" is an essential Johnny Cash album and if you own just two Johnny Cash CDs I would pick this one and 1994's "American Recording." They will surely give you the measure of the Man in Black and his music.
on January 18, 2000
Johnny Cash was the original punk. Who else in their right mind would go to a jail and sing songs about everything from cowboys, crime, and prison to women and Jesus. Future wife June Carter is also on hand, as is rockabilly legend Carl Perkins. Most of Johnny's classics can be found on here, as can some rarities, but one thing is for sure. In this reissued form not only is the sound great, but the performance is complete and uncensored for your enjoyment. Any fan of Bob Dylan or The Rolling Stones (two artists who cite Cash as a key influence) and especially country music should check this out!
on April 2, 2006
After I saw the great Johnny Cash biography film, WALK THE LINE, I became curious about the real recordings of Johnny Cash. There are many compilations of his songs, but you can learn more about Johnny Cash by listening to the entire albums that were officially released as brand new material during Johnny's career, not from the many compilations of hits (and misses) that clutter the Johnny Cash album racks at the store. JOHNNY CASH AT FOLSOM PRISON is probably the single most famous album released during his long, influential musical career.
This album, JOHNNY CASH AT FOLSOM PRISON, was a major scene in the WALK THE LINE film, so it is really interesting to hear the real Johnny Cash versions from this event, since the film only showed the actors singing songs that the actors' recorded using their own voices, not the real Johnny Cash.
This album is a classic and does not disappoint! It is a really nice digital remastering and it includes a really sweet CD booklet full of text and b/w photos of this historical musical event of American music. I learned from this CD booklet that this was actually the FOURTH time that Johnny Cash had played a show at Folsom Prison, which the film did not explain very well, giving the impression that this was the first concert ever at Folsom Prison.
If you like the film, WALK THE LINE, then you will find this CD very listenable and entertaining. After I saw the film, I first purchased the MOVIE SOUNDTRACK, which is great! It features all the actors singing many great Johnny Cash songs, and songs from the real-life musical artists who appear in the film.
I can also recommend the Johnny Cash, self-produced film on DVD now, THE GOSPEL ROAD, which also shows June Carter Cash and Johnny, about 5 years after the events in the WALK THE LINE film.
Besides Johnny's biggest hits, my all-time favorite Johnny Cash project is his reading of the entire NEW TESTAMENT of the Bible, which is 16 CDs long, but very affordable from amazon.com, and very calm and enjoyable for Bible fans and Johnny Cash listeners!
on October 19, 2005
To someone who has never heard a Johnny Cash song, Cash could easily be labeled a cliche, a product, an archetype of bad-boy-gone-good, a sham, a shakedown. None of these generalizations are accurate.
Cash did not dwell in the cheesy sentimentality and easy, sweet crooning most commonly associated with country, and even when the songs weren't his, he made them his own. A song stylist in his own right, Johnny Cash could imbue a tender and sad quality to the rowdiest, devil-may-care anthems. Listening to this album, one gets the sense that if Cash is an outlaw, he is still secretly drawn to the life of an insider: while he sneers at the righteous man, he secretly envies him; while he curses God for his injustice, he pleads to him for atonement; while he does his best to damn all the world to hell, in the quietest moments, he still believes in it. This is what is compelling.
The audience, too, has a palpable reaction to each change in tone: while most live albums are lo-fi and contain little interaction with the artist beyond the occasional cheers, Folsom Prison is a perfect environment for Cash's ruffian persona to shake its tailfeathers. Slow and taciturn, Cash guides the appreciative audience from mood to mood, all the while maintaining a familiar backbeat and bare-bones honky-tonk instrumental section. Because the captive audience (see what I did there?) will return, after the concert, to a brutal, sub-human existence, this album particularly holds the interest and makes one think, making their temporary freedom that much sweeter--and that much more tragic--than our own.
Not to be missed, either, are the liner notes, written by Johnny Cash himself, on the prison experience. This album serves as a sad and tantalizing trip through the lower depths of American Darkness.