‘Folsom Prison’ captures Cash at his bestWritten by Joel Sensenig | Managing Editor | email@example.com
Men wearing state-issued blue uniforms who spend most of their time in small, concrete cells were the subjects of more than a handful of Cash tunes.
Still, recording a live album before a room full of convicted armed robbers, rapists and murderers didn’t seem a particularly brilliant idea to anyone but Cash himself, who was convince a live prison album would best capture his essence. In the 40 years since its release, the country outlaw’s “At Folsom Prison” album has come to be widely regarded as one of the best albums in history.
On Oct. 14, Sony BMG is releasing “At Folsom Prison (Legacy Edition),” a two-CD, one-DVD box set containing every song from both shows Cash played Jan. 13, 1968 in the cafeteria of that northern California correctional facility (the original and expanded releases consisted of songs only from the first set).
The CDs also feature the opening numbers from Cash buddies Carl Perkins and The Statler Brothers. The DVD contains a documentary film on the historic concert, “Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison,” directed by Bestor Cram. The film provides an extensive look at the prison which resurrected Cash’s career, including interviews with former inmates who were in the cafeteria that day, along with a slew of trivial nuggets about the show – one of the harmonicas Cash threw out into the audience that day was later traded for a bag of M&Ms, for example.
The Legacy Edition of the legendary show is by far the most expansive version and features some nice extras, including previously unissued versions of Cash performing “I’m Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail” and being joined by June Carter for “I Got A Woman,” one of the highlights of the whole release. The second disc consists of the entire second show Cash performed that day. Because the record label thought the first show was so solid, it didn’t use any of the songs from the latter set on the official release of “At Folsom Prison.” With the exception of “Give My Love to Rose,” “I Got Stripes” and “Long-Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man” with Carter, the setlists are identical.
Perhaps most valuable is the inclusion of a 40-page booklet featuring unpublished pictures by esteemed music photographer Jim Marshall. The stark, no-frills pictures tell their own story of the historic nature of that winter day in California — no words or music necessary.
Although the second disc is a nice bonus, it’s not hard to see why the record label went with the first show for the official release. Cash seems a bit tired and worn down by the time the second set rolls around — his stories are less detailed, his jokes more scattered. Still, it seems as if he’s determined to give the second set of inmates as enjoyable of an escape – however brief it might be – as they’ve known since entering the stone and concrete barriers of Folsom.
Of course, all Cash fans should already own one version of this album. Just as surely, their old copy should be well worn and this collection — perfect to purchase as a gift for any music fan – would make a definite upgrade to any serious music collector’s library.