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93 of 93 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another fine American Recordings set, 17 Sept. 2003
By 
J. W. Bassett (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unchained (Audio CD)
‘Unchained’ is the second in the series of Johnny Cash’s American Recordings. On the first album, Cash stuck to fairly traditional fare, performing a set of mostly his own material, and a couple of tracks by his contemporaries like Loudon Wainwright III, Kris Kristofferson and Leonard Cohen. Here Cash’s (and we can only assume Rubin’s) choices are far more eclectic. The set list contains works by the likes of Soundgarden, Beck and Tom Petty. Guest spots by artists as diverse as Mick Fleetwood, The Heartbreakers and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea also make this LP more of an assortment than the first offering.
Each of the ‘American’ albums is characterised by Cash’s peerless ability to make each song that he tackles his own. As is the case on each of the American albums, Cash’s own life story and experience add gravity and pathos to lines that seemed almost throwaway when sung by the original artists. This is most poignant, when Cash sings, “Give me some alcohol” on ‘Rowboat’, and later when he brings equal helpings of spirituality and savoir-faire to Soundgarden’s ‘Rusty Cage’.
It isn’t just so-called ‘alternative’ songs that Cash performs on ‘Unchained’ though. He takes Dean Martin’s corny-as-hell ‘Memories Are Made Of This’ and adds a depth that even a singer as talented as Martin couldn’t manage. Later he performs an exquisite version of Tom Petty’s ‘South Accents’. On Jimmie Rodgers’ ‘The One Rose (That’s Left In My Heart)’ and ‘The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea’ (originally performed by The Louvin Brothers but written by June, Helen and Anita Carter) things really snap into place between Cash and The Heartbreakers making these two of the stand out tracks.
Two re-works of Cash’s own songs are also highlights. ‘Meet Me In Heaven’, which was originally written for June Carter Cash takes on greater significance now that both she and Cash have passed away. Cash estimates that it took him forty years to write ‘Mean Eyed Cat’. In the liner notes he remarks that any version heard until now cannot be viewed as the finished article, “finally, after 41 years, I’m satisfied with ‘Mean Eyed Cat’” notes Cash.
At the conclusion of the album lies Hank Snow’s tongue-twisting road-dog song, ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’. As Cash powers into the chorus, you could sense that he wasn’t done racking up the miles. Sadly, he didn’t have as many left as we all would’ve liked.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American II, 26 Feb. 2010
By 
S J Buck (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Unchained (Audio CD)
This is the 2nd of the Johnny Cash American albums. Its no disappointment, even though at first glance there are certainly less well known covers (to me) than on the 3rd in series. Like all these albums its produced by Rick Rubin who somehow went from being a producer responsible for Rap and Metal to launching the last great phase of Johnny Cash's career.

As always the focus is very much on the voice of Johnny Cash, and a set of strong songs, that if mainly not known to me had soon left an indelible mark on me. "Rusty Cage" is perhaps my favourite at the moment. A superb arrangement by Rick Rubin with trademark bass Piano notes on the chorus. Johnny Cash was still quite strong when this was recorded in the mid to late 1990's and there isn't the frailty in his voice that is so apparent in the later albums.

The backing musicians are basically Tom Petty's band and they do a fine job. Highly recommended (as indeed are all of these Johnny Cash American recordings).
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Gold, 9 Sept. 2003
By 
Mr. Warren M. Fisher (East Grinstead, West Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unchained (Audio CD)
Cash continues to stir his heady cocktail of love, death, crime, religion and heartbreak (to name a few), serving up his unique style of music, as much rock, folk, and blues as country. Cash's American Recordings with Rick Rubin are among his finest work, solidifying his unique place in the musical firmament in the autumn of his years.
Funny, bleak, thrilling and heartbreaking - this is classic Cash, and in 'Spiritual' and 'Unchained' alone he creates two uniquely beautiful and moving recordings, that can without embarrassment be described as inspirational.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the 'American Recordings'?, 13 Aug. 2006
By 
Mr. D. S. Stadler (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unchained (Audio CD)
This is my favorite of the first three American Recordings I have thus far. 'Rusty Cage' is among the top three songs Cash ever did (in my opinion), along with 'Folsom Prison Blues' and 'The Mercy Seat' from 'Solitary Man'. 'Sea of Heartbreak' and the title track are only a hair behind, and every song on the album is strong.

The most amazing thing about Cash's career isn't that he lasted virtually 50 years. It is that he went out on the top of his form. In earlier years Cash did some excellent work (his live albums from Folsom and San Quentin prisons were powerful works). But on these final albums Cash has something to say and limited time to say it - and he knows it. His health is going bad, he can't tour any more - so he pours it all out on these records. Like an aging and caged nightingale. Or a 'Bird on a Wire'.

The only artist I could compare to Cash for length of career and creativity would be Frank Sinatra - but unlike Cash Sinatra did not go out at his peak. Far from it.

Cash did. Buy it.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceellent and moving studio album from the Man in Black, 21 Mar. 2001
By 
Simon Lydiard (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unchained (Audio CD)
Johnny Cash re-established his musical credibility with the first of his albums for the independent American label Cash (American Recordings, 1994). In this 1996 follow-up, he builds on the stripped down, virtually solo approach, being joined by a superb set of backing musicians and vocalists (including Tom Petty, who seems to play most of the instruments). Cash himself is on fine form - his voice coarsened by age, experience and illness adds gravity and pathos to an excellent collection of country, gospel and rock songs. Of particular interest is Cash's rendition of Beck's Rowboat, but the standout performance is Spiritual, which the "Man in Black" seems to growl from the very depths of his soul. An album to listen to with the lights out.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Johnny in great form with Tom Petty supporting, 19 Aug. 2003
By 
Peter Durward Harris "Pete the music fan" (Leicester England) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Unchained (Audio CD)
Nashville is cruel to its veteran performers, but they have found a way to fight back. When Johnny's career as a recording artist seemed finished, he found a new producer, Rick Rubin, and together they have gone from strength to strength. As I write this, they have recorded four albums together and the most recent became Johnny's first gold album in 23 years. The recipe for success is simple - go right back to Johnny's roots in the fifties, when his sound was simple and uncluttered, and don't worry about the radio stations that are obsessed with listeners in their twenties and thirties. If the music strikes the right chord, those people will buy it anyway.
This was the second album Johnny and Rick recorded together and it contains many of the elements you expect from them. Tom Petty and his band provided the musical backing - and they certainly did a good job.
There are some stunning covers including Sea of heartbreak (Don Gibson), Rusty cage (Soundgarden), Memories are made of this (Dean Martin), Southern accents (Tom Petty) and I've been everywhere (Hank Snow). Actually, most of the songs are covers and they are all excellent.
There is a new version of Mean eyed cat, a song Johnny wrote and recorded in the fifties. In the liner notes, Johnny says that the original version was unfinished, but was released anyway, so he finally completed the song more than forty years later. Johnny also wrote Country boy and Meet me in heaven.
Johnny has a long and varied recording career behind him, but this is one album that appeals to both country fans and rock fans. It has that indefinable something that cuts across musical preconceptions. Regardless of your own musical preferences, forget your preconceptions about country music and enjoy this excellent album.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much energy, 19 Mar. 2008
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This review is from: Unchained (Audio CD)
This is a brilliant selection of songs by Johnny Cash and for a man in the twilight of his years there is just so much energy and sheer joy of music making coming through on this album. Just play 'Country Boy' to see what I mean and to confirm what a great idea it was to get Tom Petty et al to back the great man, who's voice still sounds so strong.
Don Gibsons 'Sea of Heartbreak' was a favourite of mine when I was at school and its so good to hear it again. The Carter families 'The kneeling drunkards plea' drives along at a great pace and 'Meet me in heaven' is just so moving to those of us who have loved Johnny and June over the years and can imagine them walking those streets of gold. What a shame their last song has been sung.
Excluding Bitter Tears and the prison sessions there aren't many better albums on which to listen to the wonderful timbre of that voice on a very well chosen selection of songs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unchained, American Vol 2: Johnny Cash - Cash takes a rowboat to the middle of the sea of heartbreak for another classic results, 15 Aug. 2011
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Unchained (Audio CD)
Following the success of 1994s American Recordings, I was expecting great things from Cash. And this 1996 release did not disappoint! Always an innovator and a restless soul, he was not content to merely record another carbon copy of his previous success, but to take the ideas further and to build on the foundation laid.

Once again produced by Rick Rubin, and with the same mix of original material, new versions of older material and covers of other artists work, this is a very different sounding album. From the off the tone is more uptempo, with Cash treating us to a series of catchy, foottapping tracks. There is also a backing group now, largely composed of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, who add layers of depth to the music rather than relying of the stark voice and guitar for the emotional punch.

Cash here seems to want to tell us about his youth and adventures. There is a sense of looking back at past glories in the choice of songs and lyrics, but there is also a feeling of looking forward to new pastures. And with the finale, `I've Been Everywhere' (made famous by Hank Snow), Cash gives us a rousing send off, demonstrating he is still full of vigour, amazing us with his verbal dexterity and showing us what use he has made of his lifetime of experience.

Another classic For the Man In Black. His next few records, as he battled illness, the loss of his wife and soon his own passing, were necessarily darker in tone. This is the last time he really seemed to have fun on record. Five stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stirring stuff, 2 Jan. 2009
By 
This review is from: Unchained (Audio CD)
A brilliant collection put together by Cash and producer Rick Rubin.

There are a few different types of songs on the album. From spirituals such as "Spiritual", "Kneeling Drunkards Plea", "Meet me in Heaven". More traditional country songs "Mean Eyed Cat", "Country Boy". Brilliant covers "Sea of Heartbreak" "Rusty Cage", "Memories are made of This".

Of course Cash's unique voice can make almost any song sound like a classic but both the choice and performance of songs make this a genuine classic.

The first of the "American" recordings I've listened to but I'll be getting them all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cash at his best, 24 April 2010
By 
David (NOTTINGHAM, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unchained (Audio CD)
The whole American recordings 1 to 6 are fantastic not a bad song on any, A truly fitting end to a great career and great man. The whole experience is skillfully put together and allows Johns Great voice to be the focal point of all the songs. you just lie back and let the music flow over you. I have all 6 cd's and think these are the pinnacle of a truly fantastic career. Thanks to Rick Rubin who produced them and whose idea these cd's where
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American II: Unchained [VINYL]
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