Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash at San Quentin (The Complete 1969 Concert)
Columbia Legacy

cd cover Prison sucks, and Johnny Cash makes no bones about that. But in this defiant prison concert, he pulls fire, freedom, and even fun, out of that long darkness.

The Man in Black, himself an ex-con, stands proud in front of a roomful of tough convicts. He jokes, swears and takes shots at the warden, the guards and the whole prison racket.

"San Quentin, you been living hell to me!
San Quentin, I hate every inch of you!
San Quentin, what good do you think you do?
San Quentin, may you rot and burn in hell, may your walls fall
...and may all the world regret you did no good!"
It's his third trip there, and the roars, whistles and cheers let him know he is very welcome. These cons know a strong man, and a true one, when they see and hear him.

Johnny Cash has long been the most credible country singer alive, as his recent albums and anthology attest. (His personal endorsement of Bob Dylan on this cd and on the Cash TV show was a milestone for Dylan.) He never shied away from hard truth, delivered straight up. To his great credit, Cash was the first Nashville artist to condemn the Vietnam War,a brave step, indeed.

cd cover Live At San Quentin was Cash's most popular album, released in 1969 and Number One on Billboard's album chart for four weeks that Woodstock summer. The popularity was well-deserved, as this cd is close to a definitive sketch of Johnny Cash at his most powerful and wide-ranging. Oldtime folk music ("Wreck of the Old 97"), touching spirituals ("Peace in the Valley"), rockabilly ("I Walk the Line"), a Dylan cover ("Wanted Man") and a song so corny only Cash himself could pull it off to laughter and wild applause ("A Boy Named Sue").

This reissue cd includes a half-dozen songs not on the original album, interesting liner notes by Merle Haggard, (who first saw Cash perform when Hag himself was a prisoner), and June Carter Cash, (who admits she was scared half to death standing by her man in that jail), and some great photos, including one of Johnny tossing a not-subtle "bird" to the camera crew.

Cash's backup on this album includes June and the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers and Carl Perkins. And that fierce audience, clapping, singing, stomping and hooting along. ("Folsom Prison Blues" suggests a jailbreak might be imminent!) A great, exciting recording. One truly free voice. - Bill Nevins

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