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A "lost" album from the Man in Black
on 22 March 2014
Out Among The Stars is an album compiled from tracks recorded during sessions in 1981 and 1984. Produced by Billy Sherrill, who had produced The Baron (Cash's 1981 album) the songs were rejected by Columbia and have remained unreleased until now.
Although Cash's son, John Carter Cash, has been keen to insist this is a proper album, rather than a collection of outtakes, there's no evidence to suggest that a tracklisting was put together at the time - so which songs would have made the grade must be a matter of speculation. Having said that, the tracks do flow well and it does feel like a coherent record.
Some work had to be done though, as certain songs were unfinished. So guitar solos have been added, although these are seamless and in keeping with the original production, which is pretty sparse and uncluttered.
Highlights include the duet with Waylon Jennings on "I'm Movin' On." The brief snippet of studio chatter before the song begins illustrates that this was an off-the-cuff recording. Jennings turned up unannounced to the sessions one day and Cash decided on the spot to record this duet. It's a shame that it fades out just as it seems to get started, but presumably the take broke down shortly afterwards.
There's a couple of nice duets with June Carter Cash, of which "Baby Ride Easy" is the better of the two. Another quality song is "She Used To Love Me A Lot", although not a Cash original it has a theme that is perfectly suited to him - and like many of the songs he covered, Cash makes it his own. Although the Elvis Costello remix of the song, included as a bonus track, doesn't really work and is is an unnecessary addition to the album.
Running for around 40 minutes, this is a pretty strong collection of material that can certainly sit alongside his better albums from the 1980's and 1990's. It has a little bit of everything with a mixture of lyrical themes - some dark and some more light-hearted. Put simply, this sounds like a man who was making the music he wanted to make, although it obviously wasn't what his record label wanted, which was a pity. But with at least one more album of unreleased songs to follow, it seems that we've yet to hear all the Man in Black has to offer. Recommended.