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This CD reissues two lesser-known Johnny Cash albums, both from an era when his work wasn't given much respect. Still, anyone who gives this disc a spin will probably be pleasantly surprised.
"JOHNNY CASH IS COMING TO TOWN" (1987): Anybody wowed and mystified by Johnny Cash's "big change" in the 1990s, when he started covering edgy rock tunes must notta been paying attention during the '60s when he avidly championed Bob Dylan... Or here, when he tackled Elvis Costello's "Big Light." He also includes not one, but two songs by Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark -- "Let Him Roll" and Clark's ode to construction machinery, "Heavy Metal." Admittedly, this isn't the high point of Cash's career, and the sometimes misguided production frequently falls flat, but it's still an interesting album, and worth checking out. A high point is his tribute to the founders of western swing, "W. Lee O'Daniel (And The Light Crust Dough Boys)" which thematically is a great country song, even if the horn arrangements and melodies are all wrong.
"BOOM CHICKA BOOM" (1989): Yeah, he's got that same old "boom chicka boom" rhythm going on behind him, but the songs sure veer off in some interesting directions. The opening track, "Backstage Pass To A Willie Nelson Show," affectionately makes fun of Willie and Waylon and their whole "outlaw" crew while "Farmer's Almanac," "Harley" and "Don't Go Near The Water" pursue political and environmental themes that are as pointed and on-the-nose as anything Johnny recorded in the Vietnam War era. The production is pretty simplified and stripped down, and it suits Johnny well. Good record... definitely worth checking out!
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on January 18, 2004
If you're curious as to what Johnny Cash did between Columbia Records dropping him in 1986, and hooking up with Rick Rubin in 1994, then this two-fer of albums released in 1987 and 1989 will satisfy you. Although, Coming To Town got the most attention, I've always been partial to the latter, with its Sun Rockabilly sound. These aren't essential releases for Cash newbies. But for die-hards they're a good addition to your Cash library.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 10, 2006
A friend recently offered me a Cash album someone gave him that had been laying around for several years.Lo and Behold it had never been opened.I didn't recall seeing it and when I looked at the songs on the back,most were not familar to me.This album was published in 1987 by PolyGram after Cash had left Columbia and was in a hiatus of his popularity,and before he teamed up with Rubin when it took off again.I have to admit,as much as I've followed Cash there were only two songs here that were familar;the title song and 'Sixteen Tons'.As for the rest,what a pleasant surprise.My favorite is "Let Him Roll',written by that great Texas Songwriter ,Guy Clark.In my opinion ,as great a song as ,and somewhat along the linesof 'The Ballad of Ira Hayes",one of Cash's all time best ballads.Clark filled this ballad with insightful and picturesque lines which get spoken like nobody but Cash can do.
Here are just a couple from it;
"He always thought that Heaven was a Dallas whore."
"He was an elevator man in a cheap hotel,in exchange for rent
in a one room cell."
"She turned his last proposal down in favor of being a girl
about town."
"Old One-eyed John said her name was Alice,she used to be whore
in Dallas."
"When they went through his personal affects,among the stubs
from the Welfare cheques....
"I'll bet he's gone to Dallas--Bless his Soul."

When do the words in a Country Song get better than that!!
This recording is a big departure from his earlier which were recorded in the Nashville studios.This was recorded in "The Cowboy Arms & Recording Spa with Jack "Cowboy" Clement ,the performer-writer-producer-publisher and proprietor in his home turned office/recording studio/salon.Here we also get the great harmony of The Carter Sisters(Helen,Anita and June),Carlene Carter,Waylon Jennings and Cindy Cash-Stuart;along with that are Cash,s band including Marty Stuart.The album liner notes include Cash's accomplishments of 32 years at that time.The are two very different and excellent,and to me not seen before,portraits of Cash from that period.
I would be remiss in not saying that on several of the songs ,the music tended to drown out Cash's voice,making it difficult to understand his words at times.On a couple of ballads it even sounded like he was standing too far from the mike.
In spite of this I am very thrilled to add this album to my collection of Johnny's work.
By the way,it seems this album has been reissued as a CD and it appears from the sound sample,that my concerns have been corrected.
Any Cash fan should enjoy this;even though sometimes he's not the man in black.
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on September 19, 2003
I loved the album and the music is so real sounding with out all the studio garb in the music tracks. You can here the words and feel the story. I've been on Monteagle Mountain and That is a real Trucker song if ever there was one! I first heard this on the radio and was so glad to find that the album is that good with all the other songs.
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on April 12, 2009
Despite being a huge Johnny Cash fan, I had not paid a whole lot of attention to his four albums he did for Mercury between 1987 and 1991. The "word on the street" was that they weren't very good, and his resurrection with Rick Rubin at American Records pretty much overshadowed everything between Cash's departure from Columbia and the "American Recordings" album. I did get the "Wanted Man" compilation of his Mercury stuff and found it uneven. Maybe the critics were right.

During Cash's post-television years at Columbia he recorded albums with all kinds of arrangements. Some had the classic "boom chicka boom" Cash sound invented by Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant in the 1950s (notably "One Piece at a Time") while some had strings - lots of them -- such as "John R. Cash" and "Silver." The traditional Cash sound was getting pushed away more and more, however.

Mercury has reissued two of the four Cash albums in a two-fer CD, 1987's "Johnny Cash Is Coming To Town" and 1990's "Boom Chicka Boom." I had not heard these albums before (other than a couple of songs on the "Wanted Man" sampler) and it was like finding a brand new Cash album after two decades. Both have their strong points.

"Johnny Cash Is Coming To Town" continues the sound of his late Columbia years -- a watered-down version of the 1960s sound. We start of with Elvis Costello's "The Big Light." Cash seldom sang about "the morning after" a wild night, and this drunk out of your mind song is just out of character for Cash. "The Ballad of Barbara" is a re-recording of a tune he did on a late Columbia album. This version is better. "I'd Rather Have You" is a fun song, but not a classic.

That brings us to "Let Him Roll," a song written by Guy Clark. This is one powerful song -- probably the best Cash ever did on Mercury. This ranks right up there with his best narratives, and could very well be one of the ten best performances of Cash's career. This song is worth the price of admission.

Waylon Jennings chimes in on "The Night Hank Williams Came To Town," a tune about the Drifting Cowboys playing the local auditorium. Next is what was probably Cash's biggest commercial success on Mercury (albeit a small big success), his cover of the Merle Travis/Tennessee Ernie Ford classic, "Sixteen Tons." The Cash version bounces a little more than Ernie's. "Letters From Home" works a common theme of Cash songs, although "Send A Picture of Mother" from the Folsom Prison album conveys the same message a little better. "W. Lee O'Daniel (And the Light Crust Dough Boys)" recounts the early days of Western Swing, but misses in its production. Another Guy Clark tune, "Heavy Metal (Don't Mean Rock `n' Roll to Me)," bogs down for some reason. The album finishes off with "My Ship Will Sail" with all the Cash clan joining in.

That brings us to "Boom Chicka Boom." Suddenly we have most of the extraneous instrumentation stripped away and Cash is in great voice with good material and a great sound behind him. The set starts off with "A Backstage Pass," a story about everyone with a backstage pass at a Willie Nelson show ("There were wackos and weirdos and dingbats and dodos and athletes and movie stars and David Allan Coe..."). Funny stuff. Next up is Harry Chapin's "Cat's In the Cradle" which lopes along with the Cash beat. This is possibly the best version of this song I have ever heard. Following is "Farmer's Almanac," which Cash has a lot of fun. It's very reminiscent of "Sold Out of Flagpoles" from the "One Piece at a Time" album.

Cash recorded "Don't Go Near the Water" on his "Ragged Old Flag" album on Columbia, and a better version of it appears on this album. The Cash sound brings fresh life to the old chestnut "Family Bible" (and Cash's mother Carrie can be heard in the background). "Harley" is a song about getting ahead and falling behind in business and is as relevant now as it was then.

"I Love You, Love You" falls a little flat (and real guys wouldn't promise a woman all this anyhow -- guys don't change). "Hidden Shame" was written by Elvis Costello, and while I really wanted to like this song I just couldn't. The song doesn't fit the Cash sound. We're back to a great match of sound and material with "Monteagle Mountain," a truck driving song in the spirit of Dick Curless's "Tombstone Every Mile." The album finishes off with the somewhat predictable "That's One You Owe Me." If you were to list the Top Ten Johnny Cash Albums of All Time, "Boom Chicka Boom" might not make the list, but you'd sure have to give it a lot of consideration. With Cash changing direction in 1994, it will go down as the last great stand of the traditional Cash sound.

Okay, this two album set is sold as one unit, so we'll judge it that way. "Johnny Cash Is Coming To Town" has one of Cash's greatest performances of all time on it but is otherwise average, so on its own it would get three stars. On the other hand, "Boom Chicka Boom" is going to pull in five stars for being consistently strong. Give the set four stars.
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on March 3, 2007
Among Cashophiles there's no little debate over the quality of his recordings for Mercury/Polygram, the label he turned to after his long stint with Columbia Records. Some detect a falling-off during this period, and perhaps there was: Once hit the peaks of Cash at Folsom and At San Quentin, and then where do you go? Still, Cash kept recording, expanding in difrerent directions, revisiting old songs with new takes. And subpar Cash--if this be--is superior to most of whatever else is available, even thirty years later. This is a reasonably priced, two-album compilation disc. I enjoy listening to it, and repeatedly so.
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on February 24, 2003
I'm familiar with most of the songs on this album
A good blend of music and story well done Johnny
you've won me over again & again.:
I'm in Sydney Australia and would certainly love to
get my hands on this album. I have checked the music
stores locally and this album plus other Johnny Cash
albums are sadly not available in Sydney.
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on September 10, 2010
If this is not the best - it is certainly one of the best Johnny Cash CD's I have ever heard! I cannot think of anyone being disappointed with this CD - I recommend it to any Johnny Cash fan, young or old.
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on March 11, 2010
One of Johnny Cash's better albums (i have over 30) out there. Plain & simple . No big production. Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two. Thats all that is needed. Great album.
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on December 2, 2009
My grandma searched and searched for this. Finding it made her very happy. It is in great condition and plays beautifully. Thanks.
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