Monday, February 07, 2005

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash- Unchained
Johnny Cash- Solitary Man
Johnny Cash- The Man Comes Around

I know ‘Unchained’ as an album, start to finish- always gets busted out for car trips; got played like once every two weeks when I was still working at the record store. Still really solid- there’s a decent ‘Rusty Cage’ cover (decent because I think the best part of said song is the mathy breakdown, which is effectively cut out) and two of my favorites- ‘I Never Picked Cotton’ and ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’ (which has been used in commercials lately.)
‘American III: Solitary Man’ is almost as good, but not quite- I probably harbor a little bit of bias because ‘Unchained’ was the first one I heard (I always do that.) The covers are a little bit more obvious to me- aside from the Soundgarden cover on ‘Unchained,’ I didn’t recognize any of the rest as anything but Cash songs, even though there were a bunch of covers therein, whereas ‘Solitary’ starts with the obvious Tom Petty cover , then a U2 cover a few songs in, then Nick Cave. Granted, Nick Cave isn’t the most obvious artist or anything, but still. I think covers when I think of this one, whereas ‘Unchained’ feels way more organic and original to me (even though I realize that it’s not.) They playing and vocals are a little bit more frayed then they were on the album prior, but it’s nothing major or drastic.
About the covers: refer back to the prior reviews which state that Rubin is smart. All of the contemporary tunes that Cash plays on all of the American records were selected by Rubin, and well- there’s a little bit of camp value to be found every now and again, to be sure, but other times everything is deadly serious.
There was the presumption for a while that ‘Solitary’ would be the last Cash record- he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. ‘The Man Comes Around’ came out after the news that he wasn’t diagnosed correctly. This record is the one I have listened to the least of the four- it’s just too sad to hear the disintegration happening. Cash is obviously in a weakened state, a shadow of once he once was. Said weakness, though, is what makes ‘Hurt,’ the Nine Inch Nails cover so moving- you hear the song and wonder if he knew he was singing what would effectively become his epitaph.

MIX TAPE: I’ve Been Everywhere


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