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Category:    Home > Reviews > Concert > Country > Johnny Cash: Behind Prison Walls (concert)

Johnny Cash – A Concert: Behind Prison Walls


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: D     Concert: B



Ladies and Gentleman…..  Johnny Cash!!!


From his early days as one of the greatest talents form the mighty Sun Records, to being one of the cornerstone artists that made Columbia Records huge in the decades that followed (their decision to drop him was one of music’s all-time acts of disrespect to an artist). Johnny Cash was an American original who never pulled any punches about telling it like it was about what he saw across the country.


It was Country and Western in which he did this.  A fine singer, songwriter, great storyteller and exceptionally talented musician, his influence on any male performer in the Genre and beyond is profound.  You can see it in the showmanship of every Country man from neo-Country stars like Garth Brooks to retro-styled originals like Chris Issac.  His recent passing only makes that more obvious.


A Concert: Behind Prison Walls was an early triumph for music on television a few years before MTV or Country Music Television, featuring Cash and friends performing a concert at an actual prison, which was still unheard of, and especially as a televised event.  Would the prisoners riot and an awful national incident take place?  This was just after Vietnam and the Civil Rights movements, so that gave the event some free hype by just being what it was.


Instead, it turned out to be another triumph for Cash.  He offers some very lively performances of hits like Folsom Prison Blues, Hey Porter, and A Boy Named Sue.  They also bookend music performances by Linda Ronstadt, Roy Clark and Foster Brooks.  Brooks, of course, is a comedian, but does give a surprise vocal performance that is a highlight of the show.


Outside of Cash, though, no one shines like Ronstadt, with great performances of The Eagles’ Desperado and her still-biggest solo hit, You’re No Good.  Though this has been forgotten over the last few decades, Ronstadt was one of the best female vocalists of her time and could go a few rounds with anyone today.  Her good taste in music helped propel her career like few others.  Try comparing that to most vocalists today.


The full screen, color, videotaped image shows its age, but is not bad.  Even more impressive is the sound.  Though there is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track that represents the old TV sound, too well for its own good, the 5.1 remix is a big surprise that goes back to the sound master and delivers decent audio for its time.  It is so good and clean, that I would argue that Jim Owens Entertainment and Eagle Vision made a big mistake NOT having a DTS 5.1 option here.  There are no extras.


It also turns out there are several DVDs on the market starring Cash, which we hope to get to down the line.  In the meantime, you will not be disappointed if you start with A Concert: Behind Prison Walls, especially if you have a good sound system.  This is simply a TV classic waiting to be rediscovered.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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