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4.6 out of 5 stars16
4.6 out of 5 stars
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Released in 1965 just after the popular `Orange Blossom Special', comes a very differently toned album Johnny Cash. Orange Blossom Special seemed to be designed as an overt attempt at popularity, and following this Cash decided to do something more personal, more meaningful to him. And this gem of an album resulted.

Following in the template of previous albums such as `Ride This Train', Cash turns story teller once again, to tell tales of the Old West as it really was. Using a set of original songs and a well chosen set of covers, he uses his entrancing voice to weave images of life as it was, and to tell the stories of events that really happened.

Cash was going through a rough time in his life, and, as with many of his albums, there is a pre-occupation with death preset. There are tales of hangings, gunfights, murder. Cash wisely lightens the mood with morbidly fun songs such as Sam Hall or 25 minutes to go, making this an enjoyable album to listen to. Cash seems to have been particularly inspired when he recorded this, and it comes through clearly.

In short, a highly atmospheric album with Cash's voice drawing you into his vision of the old West, with brief leavenings of humour. It's an excellently done piece, and deserves a place in anyone's record collection.

This 2002 re-issue comes with 2 bonus tracks that add to the set. There are some interesting liner notes. The sound has been nicely remastered, and it sounds very fresh on my stereo. This classic album has been treated with respect by Sony, and this release gets 5 stars from me.
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on 3 February 2006
I had these ballads when they were originally released on vinyl LP's and it's good to have them on CD. Wheras JC explored a different storytelling landscape to that, say, of Marty Robbins (I wish JC had covered a few MR songs), this is still a good collection of both traditional and modern songs about life in the early days of America.
JC's voice is strong and fits well with the darkness of many of the songs. Despite his undoubted abilities as a writer of both good tunes and lyrics, it's very good to hear him sing so many songs from other sources and to fit them into the context of what was to later become known as a 'concept' album.
But as for the cover - don't look too closely or else you'll find yourself looking into the ravaged face of a man who at that time was walking a very fine line indeed between life and death; sanity and depression; hope and despair.
But maybe, after all, that's entirely appropriate in the context of the themes that underlie so many of these songs?
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on 4 April 2012
Originally released in 1965 as a double album, 'sings the ballads of the true west' is a real concept album in the true sense of the word..and released a good 2 years before 'concept' albums became fashionable in the late 60's world of rock and roll.. it is packed full of great songs about the american wild west in the late 19th century - the themes cover subject matter such as murder, execution, romance, travel and life in general in those outlaw days.. Cash's instantly recognisable rich baritone voice is in peak form throughout. unlike his earlier album 'ride this train' - where i find the narration at the beginning of each song a slight hindrance that i usually prefer to skip, with 'sings the ballads of the true west' the straight spoken recitation flows well into each song... in fact the whole album flows beautifully and the songs tend to improve with each listen..with Cash's concept albums of the 60's, the plaudits normally go to 'Bitter Tears (1964)' which is indeed excellent, but for me this set is a much stronger one.....

This album contains the original versions of 'the streets of Laredo' and 'Sam hall' ('startlingly theatrical' says the liner notes - i would like to add 'very humerous') - both these brilliant tracks were re-recorded in 2002 for his American recordings 4 album.... there's a song called 'hardin wouldn't run' about john wesley hardin, showing Cash was singing about him a good two years before his good friend dylan was (and why the 'g' bob? it was 'hardin') ..... another song 'mister garfield' about the assassination of the 20th american president, shows that Nick Cave was listening and learning...Also the original version of '25 minutes to go' appears here - resurrected three years later for the Folsom Prison album...

it's obvious that a lot of research into the history of the wild west was carried out in the making of this album. Backed by his usual band including guitarist Luther Perkins and The Carter Family and Statler Brothers on backing vocals, Johnny Cash produced what could possibly rank as his masterpiece....which is all the more impressive when you realise that his life was in turmoil at this another reviewer wrote, best to not look too closely at the cover photo.....but as the song goes, he does look as 'mean as hell' ....
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on 10 September 2010
Some excellent material here and obviously a deep well to source from. 'Old Paint' was written by Woody Guthrie apparently so good pedigree for the material. Seems like they did it all in one take given some of the glitches but still a great album. Buy now!!
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on 26 July 2013
No other artist can take standards & make arrangements that turn them into new songs. This truly is a taste of the West as it once was. His voice is deep & resonates the stories & songs with incredible authenticity. Immerse yourself & be taken back in time by the Greatest!
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on 13 July 2013
I bought this cd after suddenly being reminded of one of the song titles featured here.I used to hear my Dad playing this when I was about 5 years old, forty something years ago.I actually can't remember hearing any of these song from then til now.The songs must have made a big impression on me back then because when I listened more than forty years later,it felt like the songs were a part of me.If you are a fan of Johnny Cash, just buy this and enjoy.
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on 19 February 2015
I really love this CD by Johnny Cash and since it arrived has been played constantly. It is like listening to a story being told about that period in history. Johnny Cash's voice seems deeper somehow and the sleeve notes mention it was recorded during the dark time in his life and the timbre of his voice seem to show this fully. A really great listen and has set me looking to more of his back catalogue.
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on 1 April 2015
Johnny Cash at his deepest, his usual singing voice is slightly higher, a great sound
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on 22 January 2016
Brilliant album from the master first class service too
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on 9 October 2014
It's OK really, but not his best record.
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