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4.9 out of 5 stars
At Folsom Prison / At San Quentin (Remastered / Expanded) (2CD)
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 27 March 2006
These two albums, Johnny Cash "At Folsom Prison" and "At San Quentin" are essential components of any music collection and it's great to have the complete albums together in a 2-disc package.
"At Folsom Prison" is the more raw of the two and "At San Quentin" more polished. Both together are two of the best live albums ever created.
In "Folsom", Johnny Cash is completely relaxed and on form, joking with the inmates between and even during songs, singing angry prison songs ("Cocaine Blues" with its line "I can't forget the day I shot that bad b**tch down!"), humorous faux-love songs ("Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart"), old folk songs ("Dark as the Dungeon", "Legend of John Henry's Hammer") plus his own classics ("Folsom Prison Blues", "I Still Miss Someone" and "Jackson" in an absolutely blistering duet with soon-to-be wife June Carter). It's a brilliant album that truly showcases Johnny Cash's talents, his charismatic personality and his connection with this audience of convicted felons.
"At San Quentin" is more polished while at the same time less relaxed than "Folsom". San Quentin itself is a tougher prison with more serious offenders. Johnny Cash and others who were there later said the atmosphere was unusually tense and menacing that day. Guards armed with machine guns were pacing catwalks above the prisoners. Cash had to walk a tightrope of emotions with his audience. Playing the new song "San Quentin", which he plays twice at the request of the crowd ("San Quentin, may you rot and burn in hell..."), sends the prisoners into a frenzy and Cash later noted that all he would have had to do at that point was yell "Break!" and there would have been a riot. But he deftly plays with the mood, bringing it down with several spiritual songs ("He Turned the Water into Wine", "Peace in the Valley"). Standouts on the album are "San Quentin", "Wanted Man" (co-written just days before with Bob Dylan), and of course "A Boy Named Sue", a classic song played here by Cash for the very first time, reading from the lyric sheet and improvising, along with Carl Perkins, the melody and guitar accompaniment.
Just get this set. Two albums that show Johnny Cash at his best, raw and in front of a singularly demanding yet appreciative audience.
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VINE VOICEon 29 February 2004
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. This CD presents 25 of the 37 tracks from those two albums and unless you know where one album ends and the next begins you would not think these concerts were recorded three years apart.
Part of the reason these were great albums was 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," "I Still Miss Someone," and a duet of "Jackson" with June Carter Cash. 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.
What remains constant on both of these albums is Cash's ability to feed off of his captive audience. When he plays to these prisoners you do not doubt for a second that he is one of them, a larger than life outlaw, even though the only time he spent behind bars was in a drunk tank. Cash is clearly on the edge as he rips his way through jailhouse ballads like "Starkville City Jail" and "San Quentin" along with old hits like "I Walk the Line." But it is when Cash sings "A Boy Named Sue," a song written by Shel Silverstein, that he shows his absolutely mastery (the rest of us were just shocked by a hit record with a "bleep" on it).
These have both been legendary albums for decades and overall this is a nice collection of the best of both. Everyone will have an omission to complain about (e.g., no "Ring of Fire"?), but then true fans of the Man in Black and his music will already own both of these albums and the remastered versions with the additional tracks at that. But getting this many tracks from both albums on one CD is still both a treat and a tribute, and if you were going to only pick one classic Johnny Cash album to have in your music library, at least this one keeps you from having to flip a coin to choose between "At Folsom Prison" and "At San Quentin" (FYI: the former is just a shade better).
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 2 October 2007
I had both the Folsom Prison and the San Quentin live albums seperately and both were very good. I therefore hesitated about buying this package. However, I bought this and it is much better. Both CDs have been very well produced. The sound quality is excellent. The hugely irritating bleep on A Boy Named Sue has been removed. Both include never before released tracks and dialogue from Cash and a result the excitement and tension of both concerts can really be felt. The CDs almost make you feel that you are at both concerts. This is Cash at his peak. This package is superb, great value and very highly recommended.
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on 26 September 2007
For starters you get two albums for the price of one. And not only that, you get TWO HISTORICAL records.

Live at Folsom and Live at St Quentin are two live albums like nothing I've listened to before.

Musically, the albums do not have much to get excited about; guitar, bass and drums with very basic country style rythms underpinning Cash's voice.

Having said that, you don't buy this stuff for the music, you buy it for the stories, for each song is more than just a few lyrics thrown togethers, they are tales, morals and poems on their own right. "Cocaine Blues", "Starkville City Jail", "St Quentin", "A Boy Named Sue", there is enough material there to evolve each song into a different movie.

The rapport Cash builds with the prisiones is unmatched on any other live album, he doesn't preach, he doesn't pass judgement, he is simply telling stories which quite likely could be the stories of their lives.

At Folsom sounds more polished, Cash's voices brushes perfection and the album feels tighter than At St Quentin. However, At St Quentin has all the classics and maybe just for that has an edge over At Folsom, even though the execution of classics such as "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Still Miss Someone" sound better on the former.

Both records are a permanent fixture on my MP3 player.
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on 20 June 2008
I ordered this set after seeing it advertised in an email from Amazon. I was not very familiar with Johnny Cash, with the exception of Boy named Sue and Ring of Fire. This double CD really has blown me away. Cash's voice is great but the entertainment comes as much from his banter with the prisoners as from the songs, many of which have jail themes. All in all a great showcase for a natural performer. The sound quality is also excellent demonstrating better stereo effects than many modern albums.
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VINE VOICEon 19 March 2010
In 1968 and then in 1969 Cash played concerts at two legendary tough prisons and had some of the hardest men in America eating out of his hand and showing his heart on his sleeve (excuse the use of cliche).

With an enormous repertoire at his fingertips, there is a great emphasis on crime, punishment and imprisonment. This could have been dark and grim and sometimes it is but there is as much light as there is shade and Cash makes his audience laugh as much as he rouses them. It's a masterclass in audience control as he has these hundreds of hard hard men exactly where he wants them. On the second album his song San Quentin is a searing angry masterpiece which goes down so well he sings it again straight afterwards. These are his people he's playing and singing for, the working class and dispossessed of America and they know it and respond accordingly. If they are his people, he is their voice.

Extra tracks aside, this is an excellent box set. Each 20+ page booklet includes new material written by Cash as well as others and plenty of photographs. Only one caveat: I can't listen to one after the other because it's too much of a good thing. That apart this is a magnificent piece of work.
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on 27 March 2006
This is Johnny Cash in his prime and in his element. If you are an old fan of Johnny Cash, you already have these albums. If you are a new fan, perhaps one of those intrigued by the film "Walk the Line" and inspired to hear more and learn more about the real thing, this CD package would be an excellent introduction.

Johnny Cash "At Folsom Prison" and "At San Quentin" are two of the greatest, and most unusual, live albums ever recorded. How many other artists can you imagine walking into maximum security prisons, plugging in a guitar and being instantly accepted as "one of us" by the inmates? How many artists could garner the respect and rapt attention of such an audience, without bells and whistles, smoke machines, dancing girls etc?

I guarantee you will not be disappointed if you buy this set. A legendary musician, two great live albums, over 2 hours of music at a great price. Just get it.
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on 14 October 2014
For any music fan these albums are essential; superb documents of The Man In Black doing what he did best. It's advisable to listen to these records whilst wearing headphones - do so and you'll feel like you're in the audience (although hopefully not like you're actually a prisoner!), and you'll be able to hear every audible remark, cough, cheer or laugh from the inmates and Johnny himself.

Such is the intimate feel of these records, in fact, that they got me through a particularly miserable year at university living in a house with people I never knew. Putting on At Folsom Prison/At San Quentin felt like being in the company of old friends.
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on 23 February 2011
This pair of discs takes you straight back to 1968/69: as if you were right there within the prison walls. The rapport Cash establishes with the prisoners, and their response to his empathy, sincerity and humanity, is intensely moving. To quote Cash from one of the two informative booklets supplied in the album: "Hear in the background the clanging of the doors, the shrill of the whistle". "...laughter from men who had forgotten how to laugh", "...feel the electricity and hear the single pulsation of two thousand heartbeats in men who have had their hearts torn out, as well as their minds, their nervous systems, and their souls".
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on 28 April 2014
I have both these albums on vinyl but had so many clicks and pops when I tried to "rip" them to a digital format, I decided to just buy the CDs. The fact that the 2 came in one package at a sensible price was a definite bonus. Also there are additional tracks on the CDs missing from the vinyl versions so a double bonus! Like others have said, the background noise and announcements only add to the atmosphere. I'm not big on live performances generally as often the poor sound balancing gives too much emphasis to the audience drowning out the performer's vocals - not so with these 2 historic recordings. A must for any C&W fans.
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