Johnny Cash at San Quentin

Johnny Cash at San Quentin

5.0 3
by Johnny Cash

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Johnny Cash at San Quentin was overpowering when it was released in 1969 and has grown in stature over the past three decades. Its reputation can only be enhanced with the addition of nine superb, previously unreleased tracks and the resequencing of the album to match the show's actual structure. "A Boy Named Sue" was performed for the first time here,


Johnny Cash at San Quentin was overpowering when it was released in 1969 and has grown in stature over the past three decades. Its reputation can only be enhanced with the addition of nine superb, previously unreleased tracks and the resequencing of the album to match the show's actual structure. "A Boy Named Sue" was performed for the first time here, extemporaneously, with Cash reciting Shel Silverstein's lyrics as Carl Perkins fashioned a melody behind him. The result, of course, was one of Cash's biggest hit singles. But "Sue," for all its energy and attitude, is just the beginning. Consider some of these new tracks: a stirring treatment of "I Still Miss Someone," containing some of Cash's most haunting lyrics; a brisk take on "Ring of Fire," with the Carter sisters mimicking the horn lines; a moving spiritual set comprised of Cash's "He Turned the Water into Wine," Carl Perkins's "Daddy Sang Bass" and L. R. Dalton's "The Old Account," with Perkins contributing a fiery, country-blues vocal. The package is rounded out by a touching reminiscence penned by June Carter Cash and an interview with a former San Quentin inmate named Merle Haggard (he was incarcerated when Cash first performed there in 1958), conducted by Marty Stuart. In the end, Stuart pretty much speaks for everyone in describing San Quentin as "a source of strength and inspiration for me throughout every nuance of my life." Yeah, it's that good.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
To put the performance on Johnny Cash at San Quentin in a bit of perspective: Johnny Cash's key partner in the Tennessee Two, guitarist Luther Perkins, died in August 1968, just seven months before this set was recorded in February 1969. In addition to that, Cash was nearing the peak of his popularity -- his 1968 live album, At Folsom Prison, was a smash success -- but he was nearly at his wildest in his personal life, which surely spilled over into his performance. All of this sets the stage for Johnny Cash at San Quentin, a nominal sequel to At Folsom Prison that surpasses its predecessor and captures Cash at his rawest and wildest. Part of this is due to how he feeds off of his captive audience, playing to the prisoners and seeming like one of them, but it's also due to the shifting dynamic within the band. Without Perkins, Cash isn't tied to the percolating two-step that defined his music to that point. Sure, it's still there, but it has a different feel coming from a different guitarist, and Cash sounds unhinged as he careens through his jailhouse ballads, old hits, and rockabilly-styled ravers, and even covers the Lovin' Spoonful ("Darlin' Companion"). No other Johnny Cash record sounds as wild as this. He sounds like an outlaw and renegade here, which is what gives it power -- listen to "A Boy Named Sue," a Shel Silverstein composition that could have been too cute by half, but is rescued by the wild-eyed, committed performance by Cash, where it sounds like he really was set on murdering that son of a bitch who named him Sue. He sounds that way throughout the record, and while most of the best moments did make it to the original 1969 album, the 2000 Columbia/Legacy release eclipses it by presenting nine previously unreleased bonus tracks, doubling the album's length, and presenting such insanely wild numbers as "Big River" as well as sweeter selections like "Daddy Sang Bass." Now, that's the only way to get the record, and that's how it should be, because this extra material makes a legendary album all the greater -- in fact, it helps make a case that this is the best Johnny Cash album ever cut.

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Johnny Cash   Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals
Carter Family   Vocals
Carl Perkins   Electric Guitar
Statler Brothers   Vocals
June Carter Cash   Vocals
Marshall Grant   Bass Guitar
Luther Perkins   Electric Guitar
Bob Wootton   Electric Guitar
W.S. Holland   Drums

Technical Credits

Norman Blake   Composer
Marty Stuart   Liner Notes
Johnny Cash   Composer,Liner Notes
Merle Haggard   Interviewer
Carl Perkins   Composer
John Sebastian   Composer
Bob Johnson   Composer
Bob Breault   Engineer
June Carter Cash   Composer,Liner Notes
Bob Johnston   Audio Production
Richard Markowitz   Composer
Neil Wilburn   Engineer
Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey   Composer
Bob Irwin   Reissue Producer
Merle Kilgore   Composer
Howard Fritzson   Art Direction
John Christiana   Packaging Manager
J. Sebastian   Composer

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Johnny Cash at San Quentin 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Who'da thought that one of the greatest live records ever recorded would be done inside the concrete and steel of San Quentin Prison? Besides getting to hear a great performance, you get the added bonus of hearing criminals in the background reacting to the band, to the female back-up singers, to the prison gaurds, and even the warden. My father was there that day...he was doin' time for 'seduction of a married woman", which back then was a serious crime. According to ol' Slappy (Slappy is what the other inmates called my father because he had once slapped a prison gaurd in the face for taking away his food tray) "It was the best dern honky-tonk i ever heard." You know what Dad-I think you're right. If you don't buy this album YOU belong in San Quentin, and I don't think Johnny will be comin' by any time soon!
Guest More than 1 year ago
After hearing the newer Folsom Prison release I was chomping at the bit wondering if or when San Quentin would follow. Gloriously it did. The added songs are great, the performances seem even more adrenaline-ized, the instrumentation sounds cleaner, bigger and more robust, and Johnny's voice, though noticably dry in this performance cuts through the taut atmosphere. JC's cocky bravado was never more evident and who can blame him facing this crowd. This is not the grand old Opry or the Ryman. It's a captive audience - captive for a reason. I feel the real gems here are A BOY NAMED SUE which never sounded better-allowing Carl Perkin's guitar to really shine, SAN QUENTIN, the MEDLEY featuring a historic who's who of country music, and a personal fave that proves unplugged was cool before it was called unplugged - STARKVILLE CITY JAIL. This version also shows the work that went into editing the first version which is quite fascinating, and the unbleeped ''SOB'' in ''Sue'' certainly takes me back several years to hearing the televised show from my bedroom as a kid. My CD copy was purchased used with no cover or liner notes. Fortunately I still have more to discover from this awesome live recording. Scott McKone Dartmouth NS Canada
Anonymous More than 1 year ago