Category: Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash – Now Here’s Johnny Cash

ARTIST: Johnny Cash                              220px-JohnnyCashNowHere'sJohnnyCash

TITLE:  Now Here’s Johnny Cash

YEAR RELEASED: 1961

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: So Doggone Lonesome (#4 Country), Cry! Cry! Cry (#14 Country)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hey Porter

LINEUP: Johnny Cash, Al Casey, Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant, maybe others

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Sun Records mines its vaults again.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thanks to some foresight by Sam Phillips and the prolific nature of Johnny Cash, Sun Records was still able to release records by Cash well after he left the label.

This collection featured 12 songs, nine of which were not on an album before, and two of them were hits for Cash very early in his career but had never been on a regular Sun album.

This odds-and-ends collection is better than most of these later Sun Records. There’s still three repeats, but the other nine cuts are pretty decent representation of early Cash.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After three albums in 1960, this was the only Cash album released in 1961.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There are some bonus tracks released later – Phillips hadn’t quite mined all of the tracks from his collection – though one is a very rough mix. 

GRADE: B: Downgraded for three repeat tracks, but otherwise pretty solid.

Johnny Cash – Now There Was a Song

ARTIST: Johnny Cash                                  220px-JohnnyCashNowThereWasASong

TITLE: Now There Was a Song

YEAR RELEASED: 1960

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Seasons of My Heart (#10 Country)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Feel Better All Over, Transfusion Blues

LINEUP: Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, Johnny Western, Don Helms, Marshall Grant, Buddy Harman, Gordon Terry, Floyd Cramer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Johnny cuts 12 of his favorite country songs, from Hank Williams to Ernest Tubb, to George Jones, to Bob Wills

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Johnny Cash was a prolific songwriter in the early days, but he still loved to perform his favorite country songs from the era. This record showcases 12 of those, all done with Cash in fine voice and his band backing him like the pros they were.

The selections would be noticeable to country fans from the time, for the most part. There are a couple of standards (“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, “My Shoes Come Walking Back to You”). Cash unearths some nuggets like the George Jones B-side he took to the top 10.

He even recorded a song written by THE Kenny Rogers (“I Feel Better All Over”) (not that anyone knew who the hell Kenny Rogers was). This collection of country songs gives an insight to Cash’s taste, and as you could guess, he’s got great taste.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Transfusion Blues” is actually the infamous “Cocaine Blues”, best known from the Folsom Prison shows later in the decade. Even though there had been many versions of this known by the proper title, Cash and company decided to change it for this record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A: One of the best early Columbia albums for Cash.

Johnny Cash – Ride This Train

ARTIST: Johnny Cash             220px-johnnycashridethistrain

TITLE:  Ride This Train

YEAR RELEASED: 1960

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Going to Memphis

LINEUP: Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, Johnny Western, Shot Jackson, Marshall Grant, Gordon Terry, Floyd Cramer, Buddy Harman

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A concept album about a train trip through rural America, with each song prefaced by an anecdote recited by Cash.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Johnny Cash was one of the first artists to realize that albums and singles were totally different mediums, and that albums could be constructed with a theme and concept. So, many of his 60’s albums didn’t have singles, but revolved around a concept.

This is about a train ride through the US, and each of the eight songs is prefaced with a story by Cash. He tells these in the first person, but it’s obvious these are just tall tales (or at least didn’t happen to Cash himself).

The songs and performances are first rate, but the tales get in the way at times, and one wishes they were separated in the tracks.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There is obviously another performer in “Going to Memphis” but he is uncredited.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few bonus tracks about the West.

GRADE: B-:  Sometimes the anecdotes are endearing, but they get in the way of some good music at times.

 

Johnny Cash – Sings Hank Williams

ARTIST: Johnny Cash        220px-JCSingsHankWilliams

TITLE:  Sings Hank Williams

YEAR RELEASED: 1960

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: No original ones

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Several, thanks to recycling by Sun Records.

LINEUP: Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, Marhsall Grant, session singers

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A Sun Records project, made up of previously released songs and others left ‘in the can’.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: By this time, Sun Records was trying their best to still make themselves a player in the Johnny Cash market, but the company only had so many cuts to work with. So, they tried their best, and released this album capitalizing on his fame.

First, only four songs were written by Hank Williams, despite the title. Second, many of these songs had been released on album already. Third, the material isn’t sequenced well.

The appearance of the brilliant “Mean Eyed Cat” and “Give My Love to Rose” pretty much saves the album from the refuse bin. There are two big hits here, but they were released on earlier, better albums.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The recordings spanned a three year period from 1955 through 1958.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Five extra cuts – and two more written by Williams in there.

GRADE: C-: It’s sloppy work by Sun.

Johnny Cash – Songs of Our Soil

ARTIST: Johnny Cash          220px-JohnnyCashSongsOfOurSoil

TITLE:  Songs of Our Soil

YEAR RELEASED: 1959

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None (!)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Five Feet High and Rising, My Grandfather’s Clock

LINEUP: Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant, Marvin Hughes, Morris Palmer, the Jordanaires. Buddy Harman drums on one.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Cash’s second album is about death and loss. The ‘soil’ in the title is about where you’re buried.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While there wasn’t a theme for the albums Sun put together, his Columbia albums, at least early on, are centered around a theme. This one is death and dying and loss and tragedy. Fun stuff, but he was on his way to becoming the Man in Black.

There aren’t any traditional Cash classics here, except “Five Feet High and Rising”, and I think his version of “Great Speckled Bird” has been in some compilations. A few of the tracks don’t quite measure up to his better work, but many of them are great examples of Cash’s way with a story, whether originally penned (seven of the 12 came from him) or from others.

It didn’t chart (the country album chart didn’t exist, I don’t think), and no singles were released from it, but I’m sure country LP fans bought it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “I Want to Go Home” is a version of “The John B. Sails” which most music mavens know as “Sloop John B”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a couple of tracks recorded around that time.

GRADE: B+: It’s not going to be the first Cash album you grab for, but you should grab it eventually.

Johnny Cash – Greatest!

ARTIST: Johnny Cash 220px-JohnnyCashGreatest

TITLE:  Greatest!

YEAR RELEASED: 1959

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Just About Time (#30 Country), Thanks a Lot (#12 Country), Luther Played the Boogie (#8 Country), Katy Too (#11 Country), Goodbye Little Darlin’ Goodbye (#22 Country), Get Rhythm (#1 Country)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A couple of covers of Hank Williams songs you may know.

LINEUP: Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant, some session people.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Sun Records plunders its vaults and comes up with a decent collection of songs leftover from Cash sessions made at Sun before he left.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Cash’s exit for Columbia left Sun in a predicament. They no longer had one of their most popular artists under contract, yet they still had a lot of old masters that had not been released on album or even as a single.

Part of the deal with Cash’s exit was that Sun could release tracks from their vault for a period of time. So between now and 1964, there was a flood of Cash material hitting the marketplace and radio. Really, that was OK – if anyone had enough good country songs to fill the market it was Cash.

Some great songs, like “Thanks a Lot”, “Get Rhythm” and “Luther Played the Boogie”, were excellent representations of Cash and the sound of the Tennessee Two, this time augmented with backing vocals (like Cash had with his Columbia Records). It’s not that cohesive, since it’s a mish-mash of sessions, and we’re getting to a few cuts that are really b-sides or fillers at best. But it’s still a worthy listen.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was released two months after his Columbia debut, and two months before his second Columbia release.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some bonus and alternate tracks.

GRADE: B+: Many good songs, but now we’re getting to a few of the filler tracks that up to this time Cash LPs had avoided.

Johnny Cash – The Fabulous Johnny Cash

ARTIST: Johnny Cash 220px-JohnnyCashTheFabulousJohnnyCash (1)
TITLE: The Fabulous Johnny Cash
YEAR RELEASED: 1958
CHART ACTION: #19
SINGLES: Don’t Take Your Guns to Town (#32, #1 Country), Frankie’s Man, Johnny (#57, #9 Country)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Still Miss Someone
LINEUP: Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant, Don Helms, the Jordanaires, Morris Palmer, Marvin Hughes. Buddy Harman drummed on three tracks.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First Columbia album has two big hits and several other great tracks, and doesn’t feel like just a collection of sessions.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After spending time at Sun Records, and recording singles that were later compiled into albums, Cash and Columbia records had a focused set of sessions in the summer of 1958 that resulted in this album.

The Tennessee Two was now augmented with a drummer (either Palmer or Harman) and other session players. These additions opened up the sound and the possibilities of Cash’s music. Another big addition was the Jordanaires, the singing group that also backed up Elvis Presley. Having backing vocals also made Cash’s songs pop.

The album on had five Cash originals, with the others from all kinds of country writers. But the two hits and the great “I Still Miss Someone” were all from Cash’s pen. This is a really good representation of the best in country music at the time, and established Cash as a true star.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album Hymns of Johnny Cash was also recorded at the same time as these sessions (for the most part).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some bonus singles and outtakes are available.

GRADE: A: It’s a short album, but man, it sounds great and Cash is on top of his game.

 

Johnny Cash – Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous

ARTIST: Johnny Cash 220px-JohnnyCashSingsTheSongsThatMadeHimFamous
TITLE: Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous
YEAR RELEASED: 1958
CHART ACTION: None (Sun had album distribution issues, I think.)
SINGLES: I Walk the Line (#17, #1 Country), There You Go (#1 Country), Next In Line (#99, #9 Country), Home of the Blues (#88, #3 Country), Ballad of a Teenage Queen (#14, #1 Country), Guess Things Happen That Way (#11, #1 Country), The Ways of a Woman in Love (#24, #2 Country)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Big River
LINEUP: Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Last original Sun album is compiled from the various singles sessions Cash recorded for Sam Phillips. Yet it repeats a track from the first album and still skips “Hey Porter”.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Johnny Cash was on the move to Columbia records, since Sam Phillips was betting his money on Jerry Lee Lewis and paying Cash a substandard royalty rate. But he left behind a whole bunch of songs that Phillips could use as he saw fit, and this was the second album he cobbled together.

It’s better sequenced than the first one, and has a great number of Cash’s best early songs. Phillips used “I Walk the Line” again, which means some Cash fans may have had that song on three recordings if they bought both albums and the single. Yet songs like “Big River” and “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” showed that Cash was a force to be reckoned with, as he had nuance and sympathy in his voice that many other rockabilly artists didn’t.

The Tennessee Two again provide a simple yet effective background. Cash would move to more straight country music over time, but with these songs he shows that he, along with Presley, was a great bridge between country and rock,

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Another reason Cash left Sun was that Phillips didn’t want him to record gospel tracks. In 1959 he recorded his first one for Columbia.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few alternate takes

GRADE: A-: I have to downgrade it for a repeat track, but this is a great album of Sun favorites.

 

Johnny Cash – With His Hot and Blue Guitar

ARTIST: Johnny Cash 220px-JohnnyCashWithHisHotAndBlueGuitar
TITLE: With His Hot and Blue Guitar
YEAR RELEASED: 1957
CHART ACTION: None (!)
SINGLES: Cry Cry Cry (#14 Country), Folsom Prison Blues (#17, #3 Country), So Doggone Lonesome (#4 Country), I Walk the Line (#17, #1 Country)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Wreck of the Old 97
LINEUP: Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut long player by Cash collects his singles and other cuts he recorded for Sun in his early years.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s hard to complain about an original album with the songs listed above, plus some other great country / rockabilly tunes done in the original Cash style with the Tennessee Two. I mean, I can’t complain about the songs.

What I can quibble about, almost 60 years in the future, is the sequencing. They bury the two best known and most popular songs on the second side, and lead off with a couple of the least representative cuts. I don’t know what Sam Phillips was thinking.

At any rate, the Sun recordings have been packaged and re-packaged a lot, even during the early 60’s, but this only misses Hey, Porter from his best early singles. Cash’s voice and presence is remarkable. You already knew he was going to be an all-timer.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was the first album Sun Records released. They were all singles before then.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but these songs are all floating around on other compilations.

GRADE: A-: Sequencing does matter when listening to an album all the way through, but the songs are great.