Album #142 – At San Quentin

Album #142

I am surprised to say that this album was much better and exciting that Cash’s first album, At Folsom Prison. Cash is hilarious when he talks in between the songs. The 2000 expanded and remastered version is the version I listened to. Throughout this version, Cash talks about the songs and feeds off the prisoners. This adds to the excitement of the performance. Cash is not afraid to swear or tell jokes and stories. Cash even mentions at one point that he is here to play things that please himself and the prisoners, not the record company!!! He even told a very funny story about getting arrested in Mississippi for picking flowers!!! Cash seems to identify with the prisoners. They know he is for real and welcome him with open arms. That is what makes this album so magical. Cash rounds up the same group that accompanied him on At Folsom Prison. One notable exception is Luther Perkins who died several months before the recording. Cash honors Perkins’ memory and he even gets the prisoners to give Perkins a round of applause. In an ironic twist, I listened to this album 42 years to the day that it was recorded. The album was recorded on February 24, 1969 and was released in June of that year. It was also recorded on film for Granada TV in the UK and the special is included in the deluxe edition of this album. It is also on YouTube and Canadian specialty channel MuchMore used to air it on a regular basis. I am kicking myself now for not watching it. I always thought that At Folsom Prison was the better of the two albums. Boy, was I wrong. Musically, this album is Johnny Cash at his raw core. He holds nothing back and even swears a few times during the recording. This was not on the original LP of course. The song San Quentin was my favorite song on this album. It shows just how dirty and mean a prison can be and Cash sings it with such conviction. The prisoners were impressed and hooted and hollered with their appreciation. The usual Cash classics are here including:  the famous hit version of A Boy Named Sue (minus the censoring), I Walk The Line, Ring Of Fire (with The Carter Family singing the horn part!!!), Folsom Prison Blues and Daddy Sang Bass. A Boy Named Sue made so much sense after listening to it on this album. The lyrics fit in with the type of crowd Cash is appealing to. One thing that made me laugh was when the prisoners booed the warden and staff of the prison whenever they appeared on stage or whenever Cash mention them. Also appearing on this album are The Statler Brothers and Carl Perkins. I am now going to watch the Granada TV special and relive the album. This is certainly one of Cash’s best albums and this is a good starting point. It is best to get the 2000 re-release. It is not the most complete, but it is a good starting point. I will probably buy the deluxe edition. Overall, I give this album 5 out of 5.

Next: Green River by CCR!!!!

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