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Johnny Cash

Greatest Hits: The Sun Record Years (half speed mastered vinyl LP)

Review by Gary Hill

This is a classy release. To me, these songs were meant to be heard on vinyl, so this is the natural format. This is a great vinyl issue beyond that, though. The label has the track listing for both sides on side 2 with a great Sun Records label on the first side of the record. The vinyl is heavy duty and very nice. This really is the perfect way to relive some Johnny Cash history. 


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Side 1

           

Cry! Cry! Cry!

The recording on this is minimalist in a lot of ways. Cash's vocal sells the tune because there's just not that much else to it. Sure, there's a rhythm section, but that's about it.

Folsom Prison Blues
A classic Cash tune, this one has a bit more meat behind it. I think the bass makes this works in a lot of ways, but again Cash's vocals are the real money here.
So Doggone Lonesome

I like the bass on this quite a bit. If possible Cash's vocal delivery seems even lower register here.

I Walk The Line

I've loved this song since I was a kid. The musical arrangement here seems to pack a bit more of a punch than the backing on the previous tracks did. This still holds up pretty well all those years later.

There You Go
While I appreciate that the musical arrangement to this has a bit more in place, it doesn't really work that well for me. The vocals help the track, but aren't enough to make it work all that well. The execute an odd slow down at the end.
Train of Love
I remember this song from when I was a kid, too. It's another that works pretty well to me. This is energetic and fun.
Next in Line
This cut has a nice energy to it. I dig the little instrumental section mid-track.
Home of the Blues

The sound on this is just plain classic Johnny Cash. This is one of my favorites here. Cash's vocals really shine. I like sound of the acoustic guitar on it, too.

Ballad of a Teenage Queen

The backing vocals add quite a bit to this. Sure, this number sounds dated (obviously), but it's also cool. It brings some real variety to the table.

Big River

I love the old school rock and roll styled instrumental break on this cut. The tune sounds a lot like "Cry! Cry! Cry!" to me. It has a catchy groove, and the vocals really bring it home in style.

Side 2
       
Guess Things Happen That Way

There are some doo wop styled backing vocals on this. I'm not a fan of that style, so for me those kind of mar this a bit. That said, it's still a solid tune.

Come in Stranger
Cash's vocal really makes this one work. It's a shuffling country number.
The Ways of a Woman in Love
I like the bouncy kind of bass line on this number. This has some of those doo wop styled vocals, but they work better. In fact, this is one of the strongest cuts here. It's a nice piano solo, too.
You're the Nearest Thing to Heaven
This is another solid cut from the Johnny Cash catalog. It's not a standout, but when it comes to Cash's stuff you really can't go wrong, either.
Thanks a Lot
With a shuffling percussive element, this is another standout tune. It's a classic and well deserving of that distinction.
Luther Played the Boogie
I like this energized cut a lot. It's a lot of fun.
Katy Too
Another with a good energy, this doesn't work as well for me as some of the others do.
Straight A's in Love
Much more of a rock and roller, this is one of my favorites here. It's a lot of fun.
I Love You Because
The backing vocals and general arrangement on this lands it near the Lawrence Welk school of music. If you strip that away this is a pretty standard Johnny Cash kind of song. I just think that the arrangement kind of kills it.
Oh, Lonesome Me
The arrangement gets a bit over the top on this one, too. The cut has a bit more old school rock and roll substance to hold it together, though. That makes this one stronger than the previous number.
 
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