Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Johnny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music DVD

This DVD shows Johnny Cash during the heyday of his career in the late sixties. I want to say it shows him "in his prime," but that is a matter of debate. Even though he was not at the height of his powers physically, the series of recordings that he did at the end of his life with producer Rick Rubin is among his best work. This production highlights that phase of his career when he and June Carter Cash were riding the wave of hit songs that made him a household name in country music and beyond.

Raw concert performances of a number of those songs, including "Ring of Fire," "Daddy Sings Bass," "Folsom Prison Blues," and "Jackson," are found along with rare recordings of lesser-known songs. This includes a couple of gospel songs and some guest appearances, that include a solo performance by Carl Perkins on "Blue Suede Shoes" and a duet with Bob Dylan. Cash and Dylan clearly warm-up to each other, smiling as the song progresses from opposing microphones. It’s enjoyable throughout the DVD to see a healthy Cash singing in such a strong voice.

Footage of Cash backstage, on the road in a motorhome, and interacting with family and friends is also provided. Cash comes across as a down-to-earth guy who relates well with ordinary people. He doesn’t try to impress, and never postures for the camera. It’s an unadorned look with no narration or graphics.

The music is country with a little bit of folk and gospel. The sound and picture quality is a little more than acceptable, but the content is historic. This is the music that made him famous.
The varied settings—a prison performance, a concert on a reservation, a trip to Wounded Knee, a song sung at home, or in the woods with a wounded crow, provide moving moments in the life of a man, who despite his success was humble and kind to others.

This is a must for the Cash collector and worth exploring for those looking for a mix of documentary and performance from the early life of a music legend.

In an interview on the DVD, Cash says, "Singing seems to help a troubled soul." This DVD provides a glimpse of the many people and the man himself who were helped on their way through the singing of simple songs about everyday life.
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