Tuesday, 1 April 2014
REVIEW: JOHNNY CASH-OUT AMONG THE STARS
Cash Rules Everything Around Me.
Hello! Is that Johnny Cash? The Man In Black is back! Posthumously releasing albums like Tupac and still ruling supreme like a reign of fire burning bright from Nashville, Tennessee's 'Music City' to the rest of the world. From San Quentin to Rick Rubin, the man has recorded hundreds of albums and thousands of songs, even some brand new ones in many different languages for audiences in places like Spain and Germany. This takes the late legend from the Country Music Hall of Fame company of everyone from Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton to Shania Twain and Taylor Swift to the Nat King Cole territory of legendary likes. If you thought all these hit records from 'Rings Of Fire' to 'Boys Named Sue' where more than enough than this is a man who recorded 6 'American Recordings' albums with legendary Beastie Boy and Red Hot Chilli Peppers producer Rick Rubin to close out his life and career for some of his deepest, darkest and most decadent songs recorded to viynl from his haunting 'Hurt' cover of Nine Inch Nails to 'Aint No Grave' , his last album released after his death a few years ago that even showed the wild west of 'Django Unchained' a real lone ranger. Now those going through dollars and crates trying to complete the catalagoue and their Cash collection are treated with another posthumous album for their recordings of this real American legend from Kingsland, Arkansas. From the heavens where his soul resides we are sent 'Out Among The Stars', a shining record of the legends 'Legacy Recordings' from lost sessions of the 1980's that are now fortunatly found like the strong but sweet mans gentle and giant spirit. No longer on the shelf, even after death the Man In Black gives one of the highly anticipated and best albums of a year thats already seen releases from young legend Beck and THE American icon Bruce Springsteen and in turn as this record spins he lives on.
Billy Sherrill's production legend backs an album that sounds like vintage Cash but with plenty of 'new' tricks up the mans black sleeves to roll with the new punches in musical puncuation. After all the 'American Recordings' gave this man a great, new, distinct and dynamic sound, some country music fans wanted John to carry on tradition and we aren't just talking about the people whose letters are marked with a Nashville or Tennessee zip code. In a return to sender reply, thankfully for them this is hallmark John. How a great album like this was lying on the cutting room floor, gathering dust and disregard is beyond musical appreciation or sense. From a man that's released so many albums and records-even for foreign markets-its crazy how this became lost in translation. It makes you think what other music from this man is lying in wait? Still, seeing the light of the day now for the record this helps his legend play on like his classics make him live in our hearts and headphones to this day. Also like 2Pac fans craving all the C.D's he recorded by the hundereds of tracks knowing death was coming round the corner, we can't wait to hear what this country star has next in his loot of buried treasures. Heeere's Johnny! From the sublime single 'She Used to Love Me a Lot' and it's brilliant B-side remix with British legend and Liverpool's finest-not called The Beatles-Elvis Costello we can see that this record is no Cash cow. With E.C. and J.C., as the Man In Black, gets down with the man in black specs and another kind of Elvis the rock and roll great shows he's still as fresh as the day he played in front of an ignited crowd of inmates and threw down the dirty glass of water they had to drink from daily, setting their spirits free by standing with them like a chain gang.
Thank God, or more appropiatly his son John Carter that we have some new Cash like a Friday night payday heading for the stretch of road in downtown Nashville that's home to many bars and bands that will soon be covering this record too. Those who have been walking the line between watching Joaquin Phoenix's beautiful biopic to reading Johnny's amazing autobiogrpahy finally have something more to the meaning of this man. As John croons "I saw her through the window today/She was sittin' in the Silver Spoon cafe/I started to keep going/But something made me stop/She used to love me a lot", we see the lyrical testament and sacred songwriting craft that was the rhyme behind the reason of him being the best dead or alive. His muse may have loved him more in the past, but even in this present day his legion of fans will only see a future of nostalgia in his name. It's crazy to think that record execs almost dumped him after this shelved album and the low-seeling 'Baron' follow-up. Still you only have to read another country singer's autobiography in Shania Twain to see how the pop 'Man I Feel Like A Woman' and traditional country 'Whose Bed have Your Boots Been Under' boundary breaking star had barriers to boldly breathe through herself before becoming the biggest selling female artist and country star to the tune of 75 million that should impress them much. Besides when those same executives look for new work, Johnny will still be making cash for companies based on something more than the insensitivity of the dollar but the heartfelt comfort of peoples favourite records and all that means. From the albums beautiful opening album-title track to the sun coming out of a Springs day that this record will accompany this morning, there is so much more meaning to the former Sun Record stars music than just the mainstream majority. From classic covers (from Ed Bruce's 'After All' to Hank Snow's 'I'm Movin On') to duets with his beloved wife June ('Baby Ride Easy' and 'Don't You Think It's Come Our Time') this is musical matrimony. The best country album since Norah Jones and Green Day's Billie Joe-Armstrong collaborated and covered 'Foreverly' to close last years fall. A perfect marriage.
Fellow Highwayman Waylon Jennings broad backing gives 'I'm Movin On' and the first half of this signature set that much more strength in sound from an album that gets as playful as it does powerful. Take the fun 'If I Told You Who It Was' for example where our man convinces us of a liason with a country star for the perfect storytelling song of this genres terrific tradition and some gorgeous gossip for the rags of the followers of the riches. Who could he possibly be talking about? Lorretta? Dolly? By the time you've made up your mind it's already time to 'Call Your Mother' as Cash captures us with each tracks own tale and tug. From behind the wheel of a classic Cadillac as Cash sings more than he can afford, "She gave me my walking papers/and ran off with someone new/Cuz he bought her things/my wages couldn't buy", 'I Drove Her Out of My Mind' pays off as one of this songwriters greatest love lost laments in a country catalogue and genre that is full to the boots of them. Still Nashville's adopted own truly takes his spurs through the walk of country fame with his new hallmark, heart filled classic 'Tennessee'. A true tribute and new fond favourite, from the child choir backing him to the forefront of his loving lyrical testament to the State of the U.S.A's most traditional and historic music. The 'Rock and Roll Shoes' of the former rockabilly star keep clicking all the way down to the final draw of this album, from his singature timbre deep drawl. Ont the closing touch of 'I Came To Believe' you can hear and feel the hand of God that touched the Man in Black and the God of country music to the spiritual and meaningful end of his life. From humbly and honestly admitting "Nothing worked out when I handled it all on my own/And each time I failed it made me feel twice as alone" to devoting himself deeply with lines like "I came to believe that I needed help to get by/In childlike faith I gave in and gave him a try" the man that used to sing about "killing a man in Reno, just to watch him die" makes peace with the Lord as he tells us "Yes, I came to believe in a power much higher than I". A power that gave this man new life in his final days and now with this heaven sent collection from 'Out Among The Stars' we see, hear and feel the higher power that is this late legends legacy. One that will keep turning and turning every time this or a new collection of unreleased gems is spun again. The spirit of this mans soul will never fade to black. Quite simply, he really is still the man. TIM DAVID HARVEY.