on 3 February 2006
The atmosphere of this live concert from Folsom Prison is electric. The inmate crowd are full of life, energy and buzz.
Generally, it is annoying when songs get interrupted, but here, where nearly every otehr song has an interruption of some sort, they are welcome. Cash's interaction with the crowd, his responses to their shouts mid-song, and humourous remarks are really what make this album great.
There are even interruptions from the prison tannoy system, barking out prisoner numbers and telling them to go to reception. This gives it a stark reality.
Fortunately, you also get some of the best Johnny Cash songs as well! It would obviously start with Folsom Prison Blues, but others like 25 minutes to go, cocaine blues, and Orange Blossom Special are incredibly good. Recorded in a prison seem to give Cash's songs more meaning.
It's also great to have June Carter pop in for a couple of songs, including Jackson, and it's great to hear her voice when she arrives.
Greystone Chapel is the last song on this album, and this performance was the first time it had ever been sung by Cash for a recording...history in the making!
Not only is this the best Johnny Cash album ever, it is one of the best albums ever created. Fun, meaningful, sad, exciting, buzzing, this is what a live album is all about.
on 30 May 2004
As a teenager, it was a bit of a social blunder to admit to liking Johnny Cash, but his music has always fascinated me- and judging by how many of my peers now express a deep-set love of his work, the converts well outnumber the cynics. Glancing over J.C.'s extensive back catalogue, it's hard to a find a more fitting tribute to one of the best artists of our time than 'At Folsom Prison'.
'At Folsom Prison' was my first Johnny Cash record, and I can think of no better introduction to his work. The style and content of the songs are varied, yet they incorporate themes both fitting to the venue and the body of work completed to that date (Johnny Cash was to write many more classic songs after 1968!).
'At Folsom Prison' is one of the few live albums that feels free of either novelty and blandness, yet gives a brilliant picture of the artist. You'll find the crowds almost threateningly receptive to lines such as 'I shot a man in Reno/ just to watch him die', contrasted by ironic prison humour ('25 Minutes to go') and brilliantly tongue-in-cheek love songs ('Flushed...'). The recording is remarkably atmospheric and clear, drawing you into the performance and giving real poignancy to Cash's laconic observations on prison (and American) life.
There is not a single track that feels out of place or inappropriate. For example- far from detracting from the original recording, the bonus tracks add a deal of variety and structure to the album; particularly 'Busted' and 'John Henry' (watch out for the 'dirty minds' comment!). And the rest is as startling as it was upon first release; as such, standout tracks tend to occur when the audience is at their most captivated- the opening 'Folsom Prison Blues' and the dysfunctional, jaunty 'Cocaine Blues'.
Epic and focused, dark and humourous, edgy and restrained- 'At Folsom Prison' serves as a fitting example to the inherant contradictions in Johnny Cash's work, and thus, inadvertedly, his genius. The biased teenager in me still dislikes most country music- but Johnny Cash has a universal appeal, a deal of which can be found on this album. This album is a great introduction to a fine artist and a landmark recording. There is simply no excuse for not owning it!
I've never been into Johnny Cash, it was the movie Walk The Line that got me interested in this man, this myth, this legend. So far I have a number of his works now on CD but this is by far the BEST album I have of his, and my collection!
Never has a live recording been so full of passion, raw music and attitude from both the artist, the band and the audience.
Cash will hold you with his electric renditions of songs with the band and his wife-to-be sounding fine, June Carter. PLEASE buy this album for a taste of true rock and roll, true country and true music at it's best with Johnny Cash. You will feel like you're there with the man. You WILL laugh, smile, tap your feet and feel strong emotion from all songs. Priceless.
on 16 December 2009
This is probably Johnny Cash's most famous recording, an amazing performance made against the advice of his record company, after his comeback from near-suicide and his recovery from addiction (would he have made it without his faith and the love of June Carter and her family?). Raw, genuine, full of great songs, humour and grit, his voice getting back to its best, this live performance sums up everything that was heroic about Johnny Cash.
I discovered Johnny Cash, about 1964 when I was a young teenager, when I found his single "Ring of Fire", unbelievably, in a remaindered box of singles for sale at 1/6d each. I'd never heard of him, but the moment I heard the song, I had to know more. I saved up to buy his latest album, "Blood, Sweat and Tears", and have never looked back. I was a fan.
Of course, I've had the record "Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison" a long time. First the LP, later the CD. Delighted to find the Legacy edition, containing the full recordings of both concerts, on Amazon, it was a must-buy. With the previously unissued tracks from the first concert, and the whole of the repeat afternoon concert (which includes a classic performance of "Long-Legged Guitar Pickin' Man" with June Carter -- worth buying just for that), these recordings are a piece of history everyone who even just likes Johnny Cash should own.
The DVD contains a documentary, recently seen on TV, looking back at the concert and full of illuminating interviews. Sadly, no film of the concert was made (unlike its sister "At San Quentin", recorded for British TV), but there's lots on this DVD to savour.
However, I can't let this review pass without expressing a warning: despite the misleading image on the Amazon site, this is NOT the classic luxury Legacy box set, but a German re-packaging in a cheap card foldout. I'm sure the discs are the same, and that's what matters I guess, but it won't sit well beside my Legacy edition of the San Quentin concert. Shame about that, and for this reason I've only given it 4 stars. It really deserves at least 5.
on 7 September 2001
This is an album that stands out among other live albums. It is a complete recording of a show mr. Cash did at Folsom Prison, you can even hear announcements for inmates! June Carter also appears and she does a couple of songs with Johnny (They were married not long before the date of the show) with one of the best songs from the set being one of them: "Jackson". Also noteworthy are a few songs that were not on the original album, such as "Busted".
All in all a great album, and this comes from someone who only knew Johnny Cash from "Boy Named Sue" ...
on 4 September 2011
Johnny Cash is a voice from along time ago for me, a voice I heard and enjoyed for the first time in North Carolina in the late 60s, yes after Woodstock that occupied my musical conscience a lot too. What attracts me, and many other people, in this music?
First it is the country style, and I should say his country style which is very distinctive by the voice and the systematic, too systematic some would say, opening chords. We can recognize his songs because of that trait. It is not in every song, for sure, but quite present.
Second the themes are often dealing with crime, outlaw-ness, prison, the death penalty, the loss of freedom and the dream of freedom. Of course his concerts in prisons are famous and the songs he wrote to these prisons are well-known but he sings in prisons and about prisons to celebrate freedom, a sort of compensation for the inmates, a sort of relief for the ex-con he may have been, the demonstration that no matter what a man is free everywhere, even where he is locked up and tied up and humiliated. Freedom is in the head and not in the hands and guns of judges that gavel things away and prison wardens that ring their sticks on all the bars of the gates.
The third interest is his singing about love. For him love is simple: I am yours and you are mine, hence I keep on the line. That means love is a way to live with someone else and to share duties and chores, to live under common choices and with common objectives. He does not elaborate on the subject more than that.
The fourth element is America and its rebellious history. It is amazing how he rewrites the history of the United States in that simple perspective that the constitution is to be improved all the time to keep the promise of a government from the people, for the people and by the people. At times he speaks like Obama spoke in his campaign. But he does not deal with the serious dramas of modern history that we know. These dramas were divisive and he looks for unity, the unity of the United States after Gettysburg.
Then he wrote some songs that were absolutely luminously brilliant and my favorite in that line is the Boy Named Sue. It portrays the relation between a father and a son in the most loving and moving terms. I think that it is probably one of the best songs ever written in the world about that subject, the recognition of the enormous debt a son has towards his father, and the acknowledgement of the tremendous responsibility a father has towards his son. And what's more this is contradictory and that contradiction is expressed entirely in a name. No love is lost here but there is a lot of love there anyway, but certainly not wasted.
The song about his ending up in prison because he was picking a dandelion flower after midnight in a city that had a curfew to prevent the roaming around of bad guys is also very funny and original, and yes I have experienced that in a small city in North Carolina. I did not end up in prison and with a ticket but I had to prove my identity because I was too close to some flowers in the street late at night.
That's what is most moving in Johnny Cash. He is speaking to us of a world that we have encountered, visited, liked and feared, disliked and jeered, and the night when I was more or less "kidnapped" for a few hours by some frantic students who pretended to be the Ku Klux Klan is one episode that goes in that direction: a deep love-fear relation with the deeper layers of the American society.
And yet I defended peace in Vietnam under Nixon, including in the press and no one ever said anything against the right to do so, even if they were in full disagreement with the content. My best recollection in that line is when I was asked, by a local newspaper, my opinion on Davis California in 1974 or so and I answered that I loved the extreme quiet working atmosphere of this campus city but that it was cut from the rest of the world like an intellectual ghetto. Some did not like the "ghetto".
That's what Johnny Cash is for me and He is not aging that much altogether.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
Folsom prison is in California and the recording was made in 1968 becoming number 1 in the country charts for 4 weeks
Johnny goes to prison and walks the line. Apart from the Ramones Alive this live recording is one of a few transcending the originals. A powerful poetic piece of pathos as Johnny galvanises and connects to the crowds anguish. Operating on his wavelength the man in black outsider finds himself on the inside ranting and bewailing the conditions of the prisoners to the authorities.
The recording is however carefully constructed. At the time the prisoners were under close scrutiny for any anti prison sentiment by the guards. They kept quiet when Johnny critiqued the prison because when Johnny returned home they were at the mercy of the guards. The fans became more zealous when the music flowed, as the captivated audience found a vehicle for their emotional release.
To capture the essence some crowd noises were added post production to fit the mood of the nation in 1968. The record is not live and unadulterated but crafted to reflect the zeitgeist.
Even knowing this, the recording communicates on another level. Johnny threw everything into the cell, all his stories about murder, cocaine, being locked up, the wait, the loss and the fear. His voices stretches with emotion as his anger brims with empathy for the defeated and downtrodden making this recording so vital. Normally prisoners are the projection for mutilation, torure, eye for an eye, payback, revenge and humiliation. Johnny makes them into human beings, people who have been wronged as they have committed wrong by bringing out the emotional rage.
Country and Western not normally renown for reforming allegiances connected with the outsider on the inside and for once prisoners were given a right to speak. This documents a time when things were about to change. Instead reform disipated and prisons became lockdowns, breeding grounds for gangs, violence and revenge fantasies for those who wanted ever more brutal punishments.
Could anyone play in prison with this form of intensity in the 21st century? First you have to find an artist who has any fire in their soul. Secondly a navigation of the various regulations put in place to halt rehabilitation needs to be undertaken. Thirdly would anyone buy it?
Johnny Cash was a legendary figure of American music who often seemed the embodiment of an prophet from the Old Testament (and not one of the happier ones at that). With his passing there is a natural impulse to want to listen to the man and his music, but we really should resist the impulse to take the easy way out and listen to one of the greatest hits collections of The Man in Black (after all, the first Johnny Cash hits album came out forty years ago). Instead you track done one of the superb albums that he put out during his music career. From that perspective "At Folsom Prison" and "At San Quentin" are the two quintessential Johnny Cash albums from what ended up being the "early" part of one of the great careers in American music. Both albums were recorded live in front of eager audiences of prison inmates in the late 1960s and provide ample proof of why Cash was one of the most imposing and influential figures in country music.
Part of the reason this is a great album is because Cash clearly plays to his audience, singing songs about prison, crime and murder, loss and regret, mother and God, and most importantly loneliness. There is no sugarcoating of the harsh realities of prison life in these songs as Cash sings the songs of the gospel of darkness and rage. Cash's singing is truly authentic (you can feel him feeding off of his audience) and the result is compelling cathartic. This is not an album filled with hits although there are certainly several recognizable songs: "Folsom Prison Blues," "Jackson," and "I Still Miss Someone." But it will be the ones you might never have heard before, such as "I Got Stripes," that stand out in your mind after listening to the album. This was already a 5 star album, but this 1999 reissue CD now provides the entire concert, adding three previously unreleased tracks: "Busted," "Joe Bean," and "The Legend of John Henry's Hammer." "At Folsom Prison" is an essential Johnny Cash album and if you own just two Johnny Cash CDs I would pick this one and 1994's "American Recording." They will surely give you the measure of the Man in Black and his music.
on 20 February 2010
This is a fine 2-CD & one DVD reissue of a classic LP, with CD 2 including mostly previously unissued versions. My only gripe is that the packaging shows 25 tracks on CD 1, but there are only 19, and a couple of songs are different to those listed.
on 6 October 2008
Johnny Cash was born in Arkansas in 1942. Formerly in the United States Air Force, Cash made his name in the vibrant American country scene of the 1950's, but it would be wrong to pigeon hole the man, if anything I would try to stick him between Rock N Roll, Folk and maybe half way towards Tennessee, but certainly Cash's sound was very much of his own with a voice unmistakably his.
Hit after hit would be very prominent throughout his output in the 1950s and early sixties; however by 1963 his excesses caught up with his, and his career was most definitely on the wane, a brief come back in 1964 did nothing to halt this slide.
After a turbulent few years, Cash, thanks to new wife June Carter had managed to compose himself and gathered some direction and in 1968 recorded one of the greatest live albums ever made.
Live at Folsom Prison funnily enough was an album recorded in Folsom Prison, a prison situated in California. You can imagine the looks on the faces of those Record Company Executives at Columbia when he pitched the idea for this album. In essence what this album was is Johnny Cash playing golden oldies which now seemed awfully dated, to an audience of thieves, rapists and murderers, as well as these issues, Cash by this point was a forgotten artist and very much irrelevant, but someone at CBS must have owed him a favour or something.
The first time you play At Folsom Prison you're met with the now iconic greeting of "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash", followed by a huge roar, at this point you think..... well I certainly thought anyway, "oh my", and as the first notes of Folsom Prison play out it suddenly dawns on you that what you are listening to here is simply one of the most definitive moments in musical history.
18 tracks follow the opener, 18 tracks about love and loss, imprisonment and escape, poverty and death, and for all their faults in life, the imprisoned at Folsom Prison really are what makes this album what it is. The energy from the crowd which you can literally feel oozing from the record is soaked up by Cash and his band and is relayed perfectly to the listener at home
There are many highlights on this record, too many in fact, ones that stick out for me as I write this are 25 Minutes to Go, a song about a man waiting to hang, the story telling and imagery created by Cash for this song really is quite something. There are also some undoubtedly foot tappy numbers too, Cocaine Blues is a glorious song with some memorable lines (see what I did there), as well as Orange Blossom Special which is also a cracking song which does get repeated quite often on the old radio show.
This album will forever make Johnny Cash a legend and ensured that he was not like the typical 1950's artist who only your Gran fondly remembers. It spawned a follow up live album, At San Quentin, which like Folsom Prison had some landmark moments which will live on long after Cash's death in 2003. In short, glorious, glorious, glorious.