Johnny Cash – A Concert: Behind Prison Walls
Sound: B- Extras: D Concert: B
Ladies and Gentleman…..
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
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