Top critical review
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on 2 April 2012
I have entitled this review as "Odd" because you cannot default Cash's spiritual commitment, but some of the musical backing is late 70s/early 80s over-produced, but Cash's voice over-rides this problem. Also, some more stripped-down versions of some of the songs exist on disc 2 of Personal File, and a far superior That's Enough can be found on 1959's The Fabulous Johnny Cash, with backing by The Jordonaires. Likewise, I'm Gonna Try To Be That Way can be found on The Johnny Cash show. Likewise Belshazzer and I Was There When It Happened sounded far better, more energetic, in 1955 than 1979/80.
However, that is not to say this set is bad, far from it. What On Earth Will You Do, Angel Band, and Wonderful Time Up There are excellent, soul-stirring gospel. Don't Take Everybody to Be Your Friend is also excellent. I would add that what the 2cd set also highlights is that Cash gospel is a broad church: you have the country, bluegrass gospel of Angel Band, and then you have Afro-American gospel of That's Enough and Don't Take Everybody.
However, another caveat is that some of the gospel on the 2cd set was done far better: E.G. Mavis Staples & The Blind Boys of Alabama really cook on Children Go Where I Send Thee: That's Enough likewise was done by Mavis and Billy Preston on an amazing Joe Henry produced album, I Believe to My Soul: He Touched Me was done far better by Elvis Presley as the title to his 1972 third gospel album, and Jerry Lee Lewis did a brilliant Keep Me From Blowing Away form 1973. I would also add that Linda Ronstadt also covered Keep Me From Blowing Away just as well.
I would also add that Cash's gospel comes across well on other albums: i.e. Hymns By Johnny Cash, Hymns From The Heart, Daddy Sang Bass from 1968's The Holy Land, He Turned The Water Into Wine from San Quintin, I Saw A Man from Pa Osteraker, My Mother's Hymn Book, and that these can be construed as better options.
However, I wonder what will be next for the Bootleg Series Vol 5: maybe outtakes from the Class of 55 sessions ? There must also be some unissued Jack Clement sessions knocking about ?