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Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: The Making of a Masterpiece Paperback – August 16, 2005
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"A fascinating examination of the making of an icon." -- Tracks
"A lushly illustrated, note-by-note reconstruction of Cash's historic concert on Jan. 13, 1968." -- Chicago Tribune
"A riveting account of that day and the story that surrounds it." -- Shelf Awareness 11/16/2005
"A wonder.... This is an important book about an epochal album." -- American Songwriter
"Rich in detail on the background and recording of Cash's 1968 breakthrough." -- New York Post 9/18/05
"Streissguth goes above and beyond...The complete and total story of one of the greatest albums of all time." -- Bookgasm.com, 11/21/05
"The book is a revelation...Copiously illustrated and engaging from the first word, this is a fascinating work." -- HUB, 11/24/05
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One would do well to learn about this instant in the long career of Cash and how it changed him and America. I highly recommend this book for a quick afternoon read.
Author Streissguth's book is written in Rolling Stone style prose, with enthusiasm for the music and the performer and a degree of high drama. His argument is that the album not only helped Cash back onto the charts, after a long fallow period, but made of him a legend. The year being 1968 and the spirit of the times revolutionary, his drawing attention to the men in American prisons converged with the growth of social protest against any form of oppression and the recurrent American fascination with the outlaw.
Altogether, the book is long on personality and short on the music itself. We learn the history of Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," largely stolen from another songwriter, and "Greystone Chapel," written by a current Folsom inmate, and we are told of how the characteristic style of his back-up musicians evolved in the early years. But beyond this there is little exploration of the songs that make up the album and how they were performed, and very little is disclosed about the creative decisions that went into post-production, though it is revealed that the audience response to "I shot a man in Reno" was added after the fact. A fine companion piece for the film "Walk the Line," the book is definitely for fans, a time capsule for a moment of music history in the late 1960s.
This book rises to the occasion and gives us an in-depth look at the events leading up to and including the day that Johnny Cash took his band of musicians (including Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers) to Folsom Prison for a morning concert to be recorded for an LP. The author successfully traces the seeds of Cash's care for the prisoners, not sidestepping the obvious marketing advantages to his outlaw status.
At Folsom Prison is extremely well-researched and Streissguth obviously has a background in country music. For casual fans of the music of the 60's this is a great primer, but for those of us who've listened to the album again and again this is the definitive companion to the recordings. [Note: If there's anything disappointing about the book it's that there isn't more of it. Since it's heavy with admittedly amazing photographs from that day it's pretty short. You'll read it in one sitting.]
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BY: Michael Stressguth
On January 13, 1968, Johnny R.Read more